Pirates capture state championship with 78-71 win over Butte
LEMOORE -- The Orange Coast College women's basketball team just didn't pass the "eye test" to most of the so-called experts in the California Community College world, but the Pirates used that lack of statewide respect and generated a season for the ages, capped off by a 78-71 win over Butte College in the championship final of the California Community College Athletic Association Women's Basketball State Championships on Sunday at West Hills College Lemoore.
Just four years removed from starting the task of rebuilding this once-proud school program and kicking things off with a 2-14 season, head coach Sammy Doucette reached the summit in record time, capturing the school's second-ever women's basketball state title (2002-03) and the 97th state championship in OCC's proud athletic history.
"If I say I can't believe I'm here, it sounds like I don't believe in my team ... which I do," Doucette said. "But to go from 2-14 to this ... wow. You can't touch this feeling. I love this team."
A season that saw the Pirates finish an incredible 32-1, including an Orange Empire Conference championship and now, a state championship, this journey began with goals on a white board months before the start of the season. The underestimation began there and it was actually self-inflicted.
Among those goals on the board included the following ...
- Orange Empire Conference champs (done)
- Beat rivals Irvine Valley, Cypress and Golden West (OCC went a combined 7-0 against that trio)
- Reach the State Elite Eight
The Elite Eight?!?!?! The Pirates exceeded even their OWN goals during this magical season.
As for Sunday's championship game, State Tournament MVP Meghan McIntyre capped off a season for the ages by scoring a game-best 32 points to go along with eight rebounds and five assists. Annie Trinh and Gabby Samiy each had 14 points, while Karina Cabrera added 11 points and six assists. Steady Savannah Seiler battled a bigger and deeper Butte front court and worked in seven points and six rebounds in a hard-fought battle down low.
For the Roadrunners (28-3) -- the North's No. 1 seed and a team making their first-ever trip to the state championship round -- they were led by Meghan Weinrich, who had 21 points, nine rebounds, six assists and five steals. Sanaya Shrader added 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Sarah Tait contributed 15 points.
Early on, the Pirates were spreading the offense around and the squad was hitting their shots, scoring 24 first-quarter points with McIntyre (11 points) and Samiy (seven points) leading the way. Early 3-pointers by McIntyre, Samiy and Kabrera gave Coast a lead right from the opening whistle, forcing the Roadrunners to play catch-up right from the get-go.
The first-quarter lead grew to as many as nine before Butte found some offensive success of its own and trimmed the deficit down to four after the opening 10 minutes of play.
"Our game plan was to make 20 (Weinrich) beat us from the outside and contest the shooters that they have," Doucette said. "We wanted them to work hard and get tired because I felt our team was in better shape. Basically we wanted to take away what we know they do well. We watched a lot of film in a short amout of time ... credit goes to my coaching staff for losing sleep to prepare for this tournament."
Both teams rode waves of momentum throughout the rest of the contest. Butte would get to within 2-3 points, only to see the Pirates return serve with big baskets. Twice in the second quarter, Butte got to within a point, only to see Trinh respond with a pair of 3-pointers to give Coast some temporary breathing room.
The Roadrunners refused to go away and trimmed the deficit down to a single point after the first half.
A Shrader layup in the opening of the third quarter gave the Roadrunners their first lead of the game at 40-39 and a Weinrich layup two minutes later made it 42-39 as the Pirates struggled to find baskets in the early stages of the second half.
A basket by Seiler stopped the drought and four straight points by McIntyre gave OCC a 45-42 lead, pushing the momentum back in favor of Southern California's top seed.
Butte trailed only by two and had the Roadrunner crowd all fired up before Coast went to work. A Trinh layup, a Cabrera trey and two made McIntyre free throws capped of a crucial 7-0 run, putting the Pirates up 55-46 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
But Weinrich showed why she was one of the top players in the State of California, ending the third with a couple of made baskets to keep the Roadrunners close at 55-50 with just 10 minutes remaining in the championship.
Coast came out strong in the fourth, using a 6-0 run to push the lead up to 11 at 61-50. Just a minute later, the lead grew to a dozen as a McIntyre trey pushed the lead up to 64-52 with 7:37 remaining in the game.
With Coast up 68-61 after a Butte run, McIntyre was fouled on a 3-point attempt and on the way down, she rolled her ankle, bringing tears to her eyes. After missing the first free throw and still showing emotion, Doucette made a "State Coach of the Year" decision by calling timeout to settle her squad down. It worked because McIntyre regrouped and promptly nailed the two remaining free throws to keep OCC in a somewhat comfortable advantage.
"This win is absolutely huge," McIntyre said. "I'm so glad we were able to set goals at the beginning of the year and accomplish them ... and more. I've had the best experience of my life playing with this team and all of the coaches. It was truly a family environment unlike anywhere else. We have such a talented and resilient group that is humble at the same time. That is what got us this far."
Trailing by nine with 4:20 remaining (70-61), the Roadrunners needed one final push to keep their state championship hopes alive and they found one, ripping off seven points over a two-minute span to cut OCC's lead to 70-68. Four Tait free throws and a clutch 3-pointer by Madalynn Bassett brought the Butte crowd to its feet.
With every comeback Butte threw towards the Pirates, OCC's sophomore-heavy squad answered with made free throws or big stops on defense. Even with Seiler and Samiy out of the game with five fouls each, reserves Ashlee Dorantes and Jade Quinonez held down the fort and showed composure during the biggest moments of the biggest game of the year.
Leading 74-71 with under 20 seconds remaining, McIntyre slowed the game down, waited for her moment and did what the best players in the state do ... she came though with the clutch basket with a running layup, putting Coast up 76-71. A missed 3-pointer by Butte in the final 10 seconds all but sealed the deal for Coast, with McIntyre finishing up her incredible season with two more made free throws, finishing the night 14-of-16 from the charity stripe.
"This team is literally a dream," Doucette said. "We were led by a selfless, hardworking, talented point guard. The team knew she was special from Day 1 and they rallied around her. She also rallied around them. Trust, love, selflessness, disciplined fun. Literally, that's us. We never counted ourselves out. Never. I'm so proud and blessed to have coached this team."
STATS FROM THE PIRATES
32-1 record (most wins and best win percentage in school history)
20 consecutive wins (longest win streak in school history)
20-0 record (longest win streak to start a season)
Orange Coast led the state in 3-point attempts (1,058) and made 3-pointers (339). Their 32% 3-point average was 11th-best in the state.
McIntyre led the state in assists (236), while finishing 4th in the state in points (662) and 12th in the state in rebounds (311).
Orange Empire Conference Co-Player of the Year: Meghan McIntyre
First-Team, All-State: Meghan McIntyre
OEC Coach of the Year: Sammy Doucette
First-Team, All-OEC: Gabby Samiy, Karina Cabrera
Second-Team, All-OEC: Annie Trinh, Savannah Seiler