COSTA MESA -- It's a story that's no longer a surprise, yet, one can't help but shake their heads at the results turned in by the Orange Coast College men's basketball team. With another full 40 minutes of blood, sweat and tears, the Pirates pulled out another nail-biter with a 73-70 win over visiting Irvine Valley College on Friday night inside the Peterson Gym.
With the win, the Pirates (15-7, 6-1 in the Orange Empire Conference), the state's ninth-ranked team, maintain their one-game advantage in the standings over Fullerton (16-6, 5-2), which blew out Santa Ana, 87-57, on Friday night.
In addition to staying atop the OEC standings, the Pirates also managed to extract some revenge on the Lasers, who gave OCC its only conference loss of the season back on Jan. 3, 63-62, coming back from a double-digit deficit in the final few minutes to claim the victory.
OCC's three-headed monster of Lloyd Wright, Joshua Davis and Kupaa Harrison did their thing against the Lasers (13-11, 2-5), as the trio combined for 52 of Coast's 73 points. Wright led the way with 20 points and three blocks, Davis added 17 points and eight rebounds and Harrison tossed in 15 points to go along with four assists.
Robert Nixon came off the bench and provided strong support with seven points and three rebounds in 24 minutes for the Pirates, who won the game in spite of a frustrating 20-of-41 from the free-throw line (48.8%).
Daniel Hernandez led the Lasers with 19 points, while Jake Linksy added 12 points and nine rebounds.
IVC led for most of the first half and carried a 39-33 lead into the second half and led 41-35 before an 8-0 run by the Pirates put the hosts in front, 43-41. Davis took over during that span and scored six of his team's eight points over that span.
From there, both teams battled back and forth with the lead changing hands on several occasions. With Coast up, 63-61 with just under 5 minutes remaining, Wright drained a big 3-pointer to put the Pirates up, 66-61.
Coast didn't relinquish the lead the rest of the game, but it sure wasn't a walk in the park over the final few seconds. A layup by Hernandez pulled the Lasers to within one possession at 73-70 with eight seconds left. IVC quickly fouled the Pirates and after two missed attempts from the charity stripe, IVC had the ball back with a chance to send the game into overtime.
A long inbound pass found its way to Linsky and the forward had a nice look at a 3-point attempt, but the shot rang off of the back rim and Harrison pulled down the rebound to end the threat and give the Pirates their sixth win in a row and their 13th win over their last 15 contests.
Coast will return to action on Wednesday at Cypress College (7 p.m.) before returning to the Peterson Gym on Friday night against Santiago Canyon (7 p.m.).