MISSION VIEJO -- Even when there isn't much of a surprise as to where the offense comes from, the Orange Coast College men's basketball team still finds a way to win and on Wednesday night, the Pirates pulled out a 60-57 win over perennial powerhouse Saddleback on the Gauchos' home floor.
The trio of Kupaa Harrison, Lloyd Wright and Joshua Davis took care of the majority of the offense, while the rest of the Pirates (18-7, 9-1 in the Orange Empire Conference) held the Gauchos (13-12, 5-4) to 35.4% shooting from the floor and a forgetful 0-for-12 from 3-point range.
Harrison finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and six steals, Wright added 18 points and Davis tossed in 14 points and nine rebounds for the Pirates, who remain one game ahead of second-place Fullerton (19-6, 8-2) with just two games remaining. The Pirates will host the Hornets on Friday night at 7 p.m. inside the Peterson Gym with a chance to claim their first men's basketball conference title since 1979.
OCC's three-headed monster accounted for 52 of the 60 points scored by the Pirates, 20 of the 23 field goals made, 19 of the 29 rebounds, nine of the 10 made free throws, eight of the 12 steals in the game.
Stith and Nicholas Brannon each had 12 points to lead the Gauchos.
Despite being outscored 23-10 from the free-throw line and out-rebounded 47-29, the Pirates simply found a way to beat the Gauchos for the second time this season. In fact, the last time the Pirates went 2-0 against the Gauchos in the same season was back in 2007-08.
From the "broken record" department, the Pirates found themselves in familiar territory, trailing by as many as 13 points (43-30) with 11:41 left in the second half.
Then ... the Pirates came to life and found a way to creep back into the game, yet again. Thanks to a 20-7 run over the next 10 minutes of play, Coast evened the score at 50 with 2:11 left in regulation. In fact, Coast grabbed a 52-50 lead with 41 seconds left on a Wright layup, but a pair of made free throws by Shawn Stith with 25 seconds left evened the score and forced overtime.
While it's true that Saddleback made five free throws in the overtime session, the Gauchos failed to make a single field goal over that span and the Pirates did what they had to do to prevail. Layups by Davis and Wright helped add the offense to some clutch free-throw shooting by the Pirates down the stretch. Finally, with three seconds left, a pair of make free throws by Wright gave Coast a 60-57 lead and the Gauchos could not manage a game-tying opportunity, giving the Pirates a huge road win in a venue where wins are hard to come by.
Coast, winners of nine straight and 16-of-18 overall, is 4-0 in overtime games this year, including 3-0 in conference play. The last time Coast won 16-of-18 in a season ... the 1956-57 season, where they went 23-2 on their way to a 24-4 overall record.
Up next is the next "game of the year" as the Pirates host Fullerton with first place in the OEC on the line. The Hornets topped Cypress on Wednesday to remain a game behind the Pirates for the top spot in the conference.
Fullerton, which reached the state finals a year ago, is led by sophomore guard Jason Richardson, who averages 17.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. The Hornets have won four straight over the Pirates by an average of 26 points per victory.