In leading up to the start of the 2016-17 athletics campaign at Irvine Valley, which starts on Aug. 26 with women's soccer hosting a match, the Laser athletic department will count down the top 10 IVC sports stories from the 2015-16 school year.
The No. 9 story on the list was the women's basketball team powering its way to another strong campaign. The team made the So. Cal. Regional Playoff finals for the second year in a row. Irvine Valley was also second in the Orange Empire Conference, finished with 23 wins and had four players named to all-OEC teams.
Irvine Valley's women's basketball team gave the top-ranked team Southern California a real battle Saturday night in a CCCAA Southern California Regional final.
And with a trip to the state tournament on the line, the fifth-seeded Lasers were right there in the fourth quarter.
But No. 1-seeded Mt. SAC closed strong and held on for a 56-51 win over Irvine Valley to advance.
Irvine Valley was making its second straight appearance in a regional final. It fell to East Los Angeles a year ago.
The Lasers finished this season with a record of 23-8 overall. They were 9-3 in the Orange Empire Conference for second place.
Irvine Valley scored the first nine points of the game, was up, 35-28, at halftime and led by many as seven points late in the third quarter.
And IVC was ahead, 43-39, heading into the fourth quarter.
But Mt. SAC scored the first six points of the final period to take a 45-43 advantage.
Irvine Valley tied it at 45-45 on a jumper by sophomore guard Erika Mercado.
The Mounties then scored five more points in a row, capped by a jumper by Tahniya Sweatt, to go up, 50-45, with 5:06 to play.
Mt. SAC ended the game with a 6-2 run to win.
After each team traded baskets, Mt. SAC's Caira Benton was fouled at midcourt and sank both free throws to give the Mounties a 54-51 lead with 14 seconds left. After another Laser foul, two more free throws gave Mt. SAC the five-point victory.
Sophomore guard Tara Casey led Irvine Valley with a team-high 12 points. Mercado had nine points, sophomore forward Morgan Bryant finished with eight points and five rebounds and freshman forward Kasey Smith had seven points, seven rebounds and two steals. Coleman contributed six points and seven assists.
IVC shocked the Mounties early with the 9-0 start to the game. Bryant made a jumper, Casey made a jumper, Mercado drained a three-pointer and Smit made a basket.
Mt. SAC, however, righted the ship and only trailed, 15-13, at the end of the quarter. IVC built its seven point lead at the half, but the Lasers scored just eight points each in the third and fourth quarters.
"We gave it everything we had," Irvine Valley coach Julie Hanks said. "I was really proud of our players and the way they kept fighting. We had a really great season."
Irvine Valley upset No. 4 Long Beach City, 45-39, to make the regional final.
Irvine Valley held Long Beach City to a season low for points in a game.
The Vikings also shot just 25.9 percent (14 of 54) from the field as a team and 9.1 percent (1 of 11) from three-point range.
The Lasers also out-rebounded Long Beach City, 40-32.
"It was a great all-around team effort," Hanks said. "The girls played so tough. They were ready."
Coleman led Irvine Valley with 13 points in the contest.
Four Irvine Valley women's basketball players were also chosen to all-Orange Empire Conference teams for their effort in helping the Lasers to second place in the OEC.
Casey and Coleman were each picked first team and Smit and Bryant were each selected to the second team.
For Casey and Coleman, it was their second straight year being named all-conference.
Coleman averaged 8.7 points, 3.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game through the regular season and 6.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.9 steals per game in conference.
Casey averaged 10.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 steals a game and made a team-high 58 three-pointers. She averaged 11.9 points, 5.4 points, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game in conference play.
Bryant averaged 7.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game overall and 8.8 points 5.9 rebounds in conference and Smit averaged 9.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals overall and 10.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals in conference play.