SANTA ANA - While the Dons never trailed to visiting Orange Coast College, they were forced to rely on some late heroics to claim their first Orange Empire Conference win of the season. Blaysen Varnadoe provided those heroics when she hit a buzzer-beater from the top of the key to give the Dons (12-6, 1-1) an 84-82 win over the Pirates (10-8, 1-1).
The game's final play saw Rachel Cain receiving a pass from Taylor Ivicevic at halfcourt before driving down the right side of the court to the baseline. As she cut to the basket, she was met by a pair of Coast defenders and lost the ball, which bounced right to Varnadoe who buried the game-winning shot from just inside the free-throw line. A short video of the final play can be seen at the bottom of this article.
The Dons found themselves in that position late in the game after Coast erased a 10-point SAC lead in the fourth quarter. With the Dons leading 59-49 going into the final frame, Chyann Pendergrass hit what would be the first of her four three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
After Pendergrass hit another three-pointer less than two minutes into the fourth, Varnadoe answered with a layup just seconds later. The teams would continue to exchange blows like that through the quarter, with the Pirates scoring and the Dons answering.
The Dons would eventually build their lead back up to double digits on Jen Ventura's three-pointer with 5:18 left in the game before Varnadoe made one free throw to put the Dons up by eleven with 4:50 remaining.
From there, Coast began chipping away at the lead before tying the game at 80-80 on a Pendergrass three-pointer with 58 seconds left in the game. Lauren Fruto put the Dons back on top with a jumper with 29 seconds left in the game before Coast forced the final tie at 82-82 on a Sami Little jumper with 11 seconds left in the game. That was followed by Varnadoe's game-winner to end the game.
The Dons 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter was established by a hot start as they outscored the Pirates 23-13 in the first quarter. The teams played fairly evenly from there with the Dons holding a one-point edge in the second quarter before the Pirates outscored the Dons by one point in the third quarter.
Varnadoe opened the game with a layup in the first minute before Coast's Michelle Wu hit a jumper to tie the game at 2-2. But the Dons would then go on a 16-0 run over the next five minutes to jump out to an 18-2 lead with 3:40 left in the first quarter.
The Dons would match their 16-point lead in the second quarter on back-to-back three-pointers by Varnadoe and Ivicevic before taking a 45-34 lead into the half. In the third quarter, Coast would cut the Dons lead to single digits late before the final quarter was set up with the Dons leading 59-49.
Varnadoe led the way with a game-high 34 points and 14 rebounds with just Ivicevic finishing as the only other Don in double digits with 12 points. However, it was evident that the outcome was truly a team effort as all but one of the Dons that played in the game scored.
Pendergrass finished with 25 points for Coast, including five three-pointers, while Little added 18 points and Jenna Rodriguez scored 17 points.
Video of the final play: