The Irvine Valley women's basketball team is part of the final four in Southern California and elite eight in the state.
The Lasers, seeded third, pulled away in the second half to defeat No. 6 Bakersfield, 71-53, Wednesday night in the third round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs at Irvine Valley.
Irvine Valley, which improved its record to 27-3 overall, moves on to a regional final at No. 2 East Los Angeles on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
The winner of that game will advance to the CCCAA State Championships. The other regional final in Southern California on Saturday features No. 1 Mt. San Antonio against No. 5 Palomar.
The State Championships are March 13 and 15 at Cerritos College.
Irvine Valley has made one trip to the state championship event before and that came during the 1998-99 season.
The 2014-15 Lasers moved a step closer thanks to standout performances Wednesday night from freshmen guards Tara Casey, Jordan Coleman and Erika Mercado, sophomore forward Conerie Brennan and sophomore center Breanna Turner.
Casey paced Irvine Valley against Bakersfield with 23 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four steals. She went 9 of 10 from the free throw line.
IVC also got 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists from Coleman and 14 points and six rebounds from Turner despite playing just 19 minutes with foul trouble.
Mercado finished with 10 points and Brennan contributed seven points, 10 rebounds and three steals.
The Lasers used a 9-2 run early on to get going.
The Lasers took a 18-7 lead on a three-pointer by Coleman.
And then a 10-0 run pushed the Irvine Valley advantage to 30-15 after two free throws by Casey with 6:29 left in the half.
Bakersfield close the half by out-scoring Irvine Valley, 8-2.
But IVC was still up, 32-23, at halftime.
Bakersfield scored the first six points of the second half, including getting two free throws from Claesey Tarver with 17:42 to play, to get within 32-30.
And the Renegades stayed close at 46-43 after a layup by Rosebrooke Hunt with 11:06 to play.
But Bakersfield went the next 5:22 without scoring.
A basket by Coleman and then a three-pointer by Casey pushed Irvine Valley's lead to 51-43 with 10:07 left.
And after a three-pointer by Mercado with 9:21 to play, Irvine Valley was rolling. It went up, 54-43.
The Lasers made 7 of 9 free throws to ice the game in the final five minutes. One of those free throws came on a nifty three-point play by Coleman with 4:37 left.
Irvine Valley took its largest lead of the game at 68-47 on a free throw by Brennan with 3:30 to go.
Irvine Valley shot 45.8 percent from the field as a team, including 54.5 percent in the second half when it pulled away, and helped hold Bakersfield to 31.8 percent shooting for the game.
The Lasers also continued their sharing of the ball with 19 assists on 22 made baskets.
Bakersfield, which won the Western State Conference South, finished its year with a record of 23-5.
The Renegades were paced by Nakia Page with 18 points and seven rebounds. Tarver had 12 points and Alex Green finished with 10 points.