GLENDORA -- Apparently, this story is just too good to end now.
The Orange Coast College men's basketball team -- a team that went 8-19 last season -- is moving on the big dance after shocking third-seeded Citrus, 80-77, on Saturday night in the third round of the Southern California Regional playoffs, played at Citrus College.
With the win, the sixth-seeded Pirates (22-7) -- champions of the Orange Empire Conference and winners of 13 straight games -- advance to the Elite Eight of the California Community College Athletic Association Men's Basketball State Championships next weekend at Ventura College. It is the first trip back to the State Tournament since the Pirates won the whole thing back in 1979!
If the seedings stay the same, the Pirates will be the No. 3 seed out of the south and will take on the north's No. 2 team -- Fresno City College -- in the opening round on Friday (time TBA).
Lloyd Wright led the Pirates with 23 points. Joshua Davis added 21 points and 15 rebounds and Kupaa Harrison tossed in 16 points. Coast needed others to step up against a team like the Owls (27-5) and freshman Colin Pipkin did just that. He came off the bench and in 16 minutes, he scored 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting and a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.
For the Owls, Jeremy Smith led the way with 25 pints. Miles Crawford added 14 points, while Psalm Maduakor added 10.
Citrus, which entered the game as the state's top 3-point shooting team (12 made 3's-per-game), was held to just 6-of-17 from downtown as the Pirates' defense cooled off the Owls as a whole from the floor (19-of-49). Coast on the other hand, made the Citrus College Gym feel like Peterson Gym North, shooting over 50 percent from the floor (29-of-56), using strong post play to dominate most of the game.
That recipe was working well for the Pirates in the first half as they grabbed a 44-35 lead at the half. Coast held the Owls to just two made 3-pointers in the first half, while shooting 18-of-31 from the floor (58.1%). Harrison and Davis each had 11 points, while Pipkin added 10.
It was a ragged game that "featured" a combined 47 fouls (OCC 27, Citrus 20) and 61 free-throw attempts (Citrus 33-37, OCC 19-24). Both teams struggled to find any type of rhythm or flow due to the constant stoppages by the officials. In the second half alone, there were 31 combined fouls which led to 39 free-throws for both teams.
Citrus made its move about eight minutes into the second half. With Coast holding its biggest lead of the game (60-44), Davis pulled down a big rebound, but an outlet pass didn't connect, giving the ball back to the Owls, who promptly drained a 3-pointer by Maduakor. After another turnover, the Owls quickly drained another trey -- this one by Smith -- to trim the deficit to 10 in less than 30 seconds of play.
From there, the Pirates tried to keep their distance from the Owls, but numerous early fouls put Citrus to the line, where the Owls chipped into the deficit. From their biggest deficit, Citrus went on a 16-4 run to get back to within four at 64-60, with 7:11 remaining in the game.
Wright came back and drained a big 3-pointer to make it 67-60, but Citrus refused to go away. Smith, the state's ninth-highest scorer entering Saturday's game (21.6 ppg) began to take over and he single-handedly kept the Owls within striking distance.
On the other side of the ball, Citrus turned up its interior defense and the lay-ups garnered by the Pirates early on were not as easy to come by down the stretch. Finally, with 1:10 left in the game, a Maduakor 3-pointer got the Owls to within a point at 78-77, sending the Citrus side of the stands into a frenzy.
After an OCC turnover, the Owls had one final possession to grab the lead and steal the victory away from the Pirates. A drive by Citrus guard Kyle Gray missed its mark and after a frenzied scramble for the rebound, the ball bounced out of bounds, giving OCC the ball back with 3.4 seconds remaining. Wright was fouled and the sophomore standout calmly nailed both free throws to put Coast up, 80-77.
One final 3-point attempt by the Owls came up short and it was party time on the OCC side of the gym, where the Coast players run up to and celebrated with the strong supporting cast that made the trek up the freeway to see the game.