COSTA MESA -- It was a valiant effort for the shorthanded Orange Coast College women's basketball team as the six-player Pirates led for most of the second half before falling late to visiting Riverside City College, 79-76, on Wednesday night inside the Peterson Gym.
Raelynn Denson led the Pirates (0-13, 0-3 in Orange Empire Conference) with 21 points, while Jalisa Simons added 20 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists and six steals. Monet Oncu added 19 points and eight rebounds, while Nefertiti Van Den Heever chipped in a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
For the Tigers (6-8, 2-1), Adriana Garcia came up huge in the second half with 21 points, including five made 3-pointers. Dayna Dewitt added 18 points, while Trinity Vasquez tossed in 16 points.
After trailing 18-15 through one quarter of play, OCC tightened up the defense and outscored RCC 19-11 to grab a 34-29 lead at the break.
With strong play on both sides of the floor, Coast hung in there and carried a 51-47 lead into the final quarter of play, but the Tiger offense came to life in a big way. A 24-11 run by the Tigers to open the fourth put RCC up, 71-62 with 3:49 remaining.
But OCC refused to give up. Denson and Simons each made a pair of free throws to trim the deficit to 71-66, but Riverside responded with made layups by Vasquez and Keyniya Breckenridge, pushing the lead back up to nine with 2:29 left.
Eight straight points by Simons capped of an 11-2 run and with 43 seconds left, Coast was down by only four, 77-73. OCC stopped the Tigers on their next two possessions and with nine seconds left, Oncu drained a 3-pointer to bring OCC to within a point.
Coast quickly fouled RCC's Dyani Brewer, who calmly drained both shots, putting Riverside up, 79-76, but the Pirates had one final shot to tie the game in the final seconds.
After a Pirate timeout, Oncu took a pass from Denson and had a great look at the basket just before the buzzer sounded, but the shot hit the front of the rim, nearly sending the game into overtime.
Brewer, Garcia and Dewitt each had eight points in the fourth, highlighting RCC's 32-point period. Simons, Denson and Oncu scored all of OCC's 25 points in the fourth to keep the hosts in the game.
Coast will return to action on Friday at Copper Mountain College, beginning at 7 p.m. OCC's next home game will be on Wednesday against Saddleback, also at 7 p.m.