In leading up to the official start of the 2019-20 athletics campaign at Irvine Valley, which starts on Aug. 27 with the IVC men's soccer team hosting Rio Hondo and the Laser women's soccer team playing at San Diego Mesa, the Irvine Valley athletic department will count down the top 10 sports stories from the 2018-19 school year.
The No. 5 story on the list is about the Irvine Valley women's basketball team continuing to shine. The Lasers won an Orange Empire Conference title, went 23-6 overall and 12-2 in the OEC and were one win away from making another CCCAA state championship event appearance.
The Irvine Valley women's basketball team celebrated a special 2018-19 season.
Irvine Valley won its second straight Orange Empire Conference title and reached the regional playoff final.
The Lasers ended with a record of 23-6 overall and 12-2 in conference.
Julie Hanks was named the Orange Empire Conference coach of the year and sophomore guard Lexi Vail was chosen as the OEC player of the year. Vail also went on to earn all-region and all-state awards,.
Vail was named the most valuable player of the team. Sophomore forward Ryane Bradbury was given the most improved award and sophomore forward Natasha Dillon received the coaches character award.
Vail was named the conference most valuable player and also selected first team all-state by the California Community College Women's Basketball Coaches Association.
On the year, she averaged 12.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game. She was a two-year starter for the Lasers, helping lead the squad to its second-ever state tournament appearance during the 2017-18 season.
Bradbury had a breakout year for IVC this past season. She started 28 of 29 games and averaged 7.1 points and 5.9 rebounds a game. Bradbury recently signed with NAIA Simpson University in Redding.
Dillon was also a two-year player for the Lasers and an important bench player and leader for IVC.
Irvine Valley freshman guard Megan Herrera signed with Ottawa University in Arizona.
Herrera played in all 29 games and started 23 of them.
She averaged 10.7 points per game, which ranked fourth on the team. Herrera also averaged 4.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game.
And Bradbury signed with Simpson University, which is a private liberal arts and NAIA school in Redding.
IVC's best game of the year happened in its final game of the regular season, knocking off OEC rival Cypress to win the conference title in late February.
The Lasers beat Cypress, 89-64, at home.
The two teams were tied with records of 11-2 heading into the regular season finale.
The Lasers made it look easy early, jumping out to a quick 18-4 lead.
IVC went up, 30-9, with 26 seconds left in the opening quarter on a free throw by freshman center Zoe Stachowski.
And the Lasers were up, 30-12, at the end of the period after going 5 of 10 from three-point range and making 7 of 9 free throws.
Freshman guard Anai Washington had 12 points and five rebounds and Herrera added 10 points in the first quarter alone.
But Cypress didn't go away. IVC scored the first two points of the second quarter to go up, 32-12, but the Chargers came roaring back.
They went on a 10-0 run and pulled within 32-22 on a layup by Tawni Atenciao with 3:13 left in the first half.
The beginning of the third quarter saw Cypress cut back into Irvine Valley's lead. Sara Weber made a three-pointer to get Cypress within 40-36.
And Cypress got to within 50-48 on two free throws by Teresa Torres with 3:13 left in the quarter.
But that was as close as the Chargers would get in the game.
Irvine Valley had a 64-48 lead heading into the fourth quarter and it only grew from there. The Lasers scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to go up, 70-48, with 6:45 to go in the game.
And they led by as many as 30 points at 85-55 after a three-pointer by Herrera with 1:45 remaining.
IVC out-scored Cypress, 50-32, in the second half and ended up shooting 50.0 percent (18 of 36) from the field in the final 20 minutes.
Herrera, Washington and Vail all had huge nights.
Herrera ended with 29 points, four assists and four steals in 37 minutes.
Washington had 20 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and five steals in 37 minutes.
And Vail finished with 18 points, six rebounds and 10 assists in 39 minutes.
Murakami-Hanashiro came through with an important 12 points and Stachowski had eight rebounds for the Lasers in the win.