NEWPORT BEACH — Each time Melanie de Arakal scored Monday night, she made a belt motion around her waist. It's the touchdown move that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers made famous.
De Arakal, a Corona del Mar High girls' basketball senior, is actually a Saints fan, though she did have Rodgers on her fantasy team this year. But what she does like is the insurance commercial, featuring Rodgers, where ordinary people "steal" his move.
"It's a really awkward commercial where some guy goes, 'Hey Rodgers, discount double-check!'" de Arakal said. "So that was the joke. My family was like, 'Every time you score, we're going to discount double-check' ... I think that won the game for us — the power of the discount double-check."
By the end of the night, de Arakal had most of the sizable group of CdM supporters doing the move at Newport Harbor High. De Arakal and the rest of CdM's six seniors made big plays down the stretch, insuring that the Sea Kings would win the Battle of the Bay game for the first time in five years.
Corona del Mar took back the belt, scoring a 30-27 victory in the Sailors' gym.
Those fans stormed the court after the victory and the seniors, a group also including Maddy Camarillo, Samantha Coffman, Amy Hoogenboom, Jordan Meyers and Karléh Wilson, were obviously thrilled after winning their first varsity crosstown rivalry game.
"It's our year," Coffman said. "[That's our] team motto. Plus we're all really close, so I think that helped. We all wanted it for each other."
The victory was not secure for CdM (8-7) until the final sequence. Newport Harbor (6-9) had the ball with 22 seconds left, coming out of a timeout down a single point.
CdM's de Arakal and sophomore Keaton Gaughan double-teamed a Sailors guard near the far sideline. The Newport Harbor player tried to throw it back toward the middle of the court, but Coffman was there to pick off the pass. She fed the ball to Wilson, who ran down and scored the game's final points at the buzzer.
Wilson led all players with 12 points. She also played solid defense on Newport Harbor senior post player Kasey Thompson, despite giving up seven inches to the 6-foot-2 Thompson.
Thompson was in foul trouble after picking up her fourth early in the fourth quarter. She still finished with eight points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots, but Wilson made her work.
"I've been playing her since sophomore year, so I kind of knew what to expect," Wilson said. "[You] play her right side. I'm used to playing taller people. I just really wanted this game and tried my best not to let her score."
Corona del Mar opened the fourth quarter on a 6-1 run. Meyers nailed a three-pointer, then Wilson's offensive rebound and basket put CdM up, 27-20, with 4:15 left in the game.
The game was getting away from the young Sailors. Coach Justin Long called timeout. Long said he lost three key players in the off-season when Mandy Legault moved north to Atascadero, Lexi Kunkle transferred out of the district and post player Kelly Lesueur moved back to Arizona. The Sailors' top fall-league player, 6-foot junior Cora Tsamados, suffered a knee injury two weeks before the season began.
"We wanted to slow the pace," Long said. "If we could keep it a one-possession game we always have a chance. The firepower that we have is very limited at this point, until these girls get more experience and feel more comfortable. With that being said, we did a good job for three-and-a-half quarters at keeping it a one-possession game."
Newport Harbor, which has just two varsity returners in senior co-captains Thompson and Taylor Bower, did keep chipping away. Post player Halle McClain scored a short jumper, then a basket by Thompson cut the lead to four points with less than two minutes left.
On the Sailors' next trip down, Wilson nearly knocked the ball away, but Thompson dove to regain possession before finding Sailors junior guard Kirsten Rohan in the corner. Rohan banked in a three-pointer, cutting the Sea Kings' lead to 28-27 with less than a minute left.
CdM missed a shot on the other end, but Newport Harbor couldn't take advantage as it committed a turnover on an inbounds play.
The Sailors were forced to foul, but Corona del Mar kept the door open by missing the front end of a one-and-one with 25 seconds left.
That set up the wild final sequence.