Going down to the wire in a CCCAA SoCal Regionals playoff game, the No. 15-seeded College of the Canyons women’s basketball team hosted No. 18 seed Mira Costa at College of the Canyons on Wednesday.
Holding Mira Costa to 24.3 percent shooting from the field in the first half, Canyons led for the majority of the game, but fell 70-69 due to a strong second-half push by the Spartans.
“They started playing a little hard, getting more rebounds than we did, they started to hit shots and we didn’t respond to that very well,” said Canyons head coach Greg Herrick. “We got stressed and took shots and didn’t make them. Defensively, we just collapsed and once that happened it started to get in their heads. That’s just the way the game goes.”
Getting out on the break, Canyons (17-12 overall) dictated the score of the game, pushing the ball up fast and often with sophomore point guard Alexis Orellana and freshman guard McKenzie Stoehr finding each other throughout the first quarter.
Stoehr scored 11 of her team-high 18 points in the first half, while Orellana filled the stat sheet by grabbing four rebounds, dishing out four assists and stealing the ball four times to go along with eight points.
After one quarter of play, Canyons held a slim 21-16 lead.
In the second frame, Mira Costa (17-8) had a hard time finding the basket due to Canyons’ staunch defending and managed to score just nine points on 16.7 percent shooting.
Sophomore guard Kaitlin Eells came off the bench and provided some perimeter shooting hitting two 3-pointers to finish the half with 10 points.
Finishing the first half on a 20-9 run, the Cougars looked to have the game in hand ahead 41-25.
Coming out of the half with some urgency, the Spartans quickly cut into the lead down to 10 points after surging to a 15-9 run.
A Krystal Amato outlet pass with 16 seconds left in the quarter pushed the lead back up 11 points.
With 10 minutes remaining in the game, things took a turn for the worse for the Cougars.
Sensing a momentum shift, Mira Costa cut harder, crashed the boards with tenacity and scored at will, cutting the lead down to eight points a minute into the quarter.
A Stoehr 3-pointer pushed the lead to 61-52 a minute later.
Getting offensive rebound after offensive rebound, Mira Costa kept chipping away at the lead, cutting it to 68-63 with under two minutes remaining in the game.
Up two with 21.3 seconds left, Mira Costa drove the ball up, but thanks to Eells quick thinking the ball was tied up and awarded to Canyons, since they had the possession.
With the ball at half court, Mira Costa stole the ball and scored a layup, tying the game at 68-68.
Orellana drove the ball the length of the court and was fouled with 9.3 seconds remaining, and headed to the foul line. She missed the front end and made the second to give Canyons the one-point lead at 69-68.
Bringing the ball up, Mira Costa’s Victoria Wilson was fouled off the ball, sending her to the line for the potential game-winning free throws.
Knocking down both free throws, Wilson gave Mira Costa its first lead since two minutes into the first half.
Canyons got a shot off with 5.3 seconds left, but the shot missed giving Mira Costa the win.
Canyons finish the season winning 17-of-29 games on the year, finishing in second place in Western State-South Conference play going 4-2.