In a game with Orange Empire Conference title implications, the Hornets lost on the road against Orange Coast College 83-74 in overtime on Friday, February 9.
With the Pirates victory clinching the OEC title for the 2017-18 season, the Hornets are locked into second place in the conference standings with one game left to play before the CCCAA state playoffs.
“I’m proud of my guys’ effort,” head coach Perry Webster stated. “I wish we would have played a little smarter, a little better, but it is what it is.”
The OEC match up began with the Hornets taking advantage of OCC’s offensive mistakes. Fullerton was able to force turnovers and score off them, propelling them to an early 12-4 lead in the game’s early minutes.
Despite the deficit, OCC found its stride midway through the half and eventually took the lead as the half neared its end.
In the final minute of the first half, a 3-pointer from Fullerton’s sophomore guard Dezmond Rowen followed by a free throw made by OCC’s sophomore guard Robert Nixon kept the teams tied at 28-28 to finish the first half.
“Our job was to capitalize off of their mistakes as well as they were going to capitalize off of ours, so that’s what we did,” said sophomore Jason Richardson, the team’s scoring leader who finished with 26 points.
Coming back from the break, Orange Coast kept its first half momentum rolling against Fullerton. The Pirates maintained the lead for the majority of the second half, eventually distancing themselves by nine points.
As Fullerton stuck around, a late game comeback led by Richardson’s 17 second half points rallied his team to force overtime with the game’s score tied at 65 a piece.
Playing in its first overtime game all season, Fullerton came out flat and wasn’t able to ride its late game momentum from regulation time. OCC capitalized on its second chance scoring opportunities, something Fullerton failed to do.
“There were second chance opportunities on both sides,” Webster said. “They got theirs and got eight second chance points late on offensive rebounds. Our offensive rebounds we got, we didn’t put in.”
The conference season for the Hornets wraps up on Tuesday, February 13, at home against Santiago Canyon College.
“We [have] got to put this game behind us and work hard in practice, listen to what coach has to tell us and we’ll be able to win and succeed on Tuesday,” freshman forward Vaj Rice said.
With the playoffs on the horizon, Fullerton is also focused on finishing its season strong.
“We feel like we still can make a run in the playoffs,” Webster said. “And for us it’s just about coming out and playing well Tuesday, regrouping and getting ourselves ready to go on a high note moving forward into the playoffs.”