SANTA ANA — Nearly three minutes into the second half on Friday, the Costa Mesa High boys' basketball team was reveling in a nine-point lead and a chance to not only solidify a spot in the upper half of the Orange Coast League standings, but remain one game out of first place.
But what followed was enough to not only chip away at all those positives, but put the Mustangs in an uphill fight for one of the league's three guaranteed CIF Southern Section playoff berths.
Trailing, 35-26, with 5:19 remaining in the third quarter, host Calvary Chapel exploded into a 32-6 run that spanned the next 10:47 of action. By the time it was over, the Eagles (10-9, 2-2 in league) led, 58-41, to render the remaining 2:47 a drawn-out expanse of garbage time.
The resulting 63-50 loss dropped Costa Mesa (7-13, 2-2) into a third-place tie with Calvary with six league games left. It also may have shaken the confidence of a Mesa unit that started four juniors against the Eagles.
It was the Mustangs' lone senior starter, Andrew Wright, who put the visitors in prime position early to extend what had been a four-game winning streak against Calvary Chapel. Wright, who came in averaging 5.3 points per game, had 10 in the first two quarters, sinking four of six field-goal tries to help his team connect on 11 of 24 from the field to claim a 28-22 edge at intermission.
Wright drained his third three-pointer with 5:59 left in the third quarter and junior Kyle Hefner followed with a bucket 40 seconds later to create a 35-26 advantage.
But Calvary Chapel, which made 10 of its 17 turnovers in the first half, closed the third quarter on a 16-0 spurt to take a 42-35 lead into the final eight minutes.
"They did a great job in that third quarter of really making a push," Costa Mesa Coach Dan Krikorian said of the Eagles. "They made some big shots that really turned the momentum around, and we weren't able to answer for a long stretch. You can't do that on the road in league."
After junior Daniel Azurin made a three-pointer to open the fourth-period scoring for the Mustangs, Calvary Chapel rattled off 10 straight points to add to the eventual 32-6 onslaught.
Azurin's three ball halted a span of 5:55 without a field goal for the Mustangs, who then went another 4:56 without another, until Azurin connected again from beyond the arc to cut the Calvary lead to 58-44.
A three-pointer by Hefner pulled Mesa within 60-50 with 1:31 left, but the Mustangs did not score again.
Azurin matched Wright for team-high scoring honors, while Hefner added 12 points for the Mustangs.
Junior Sean Comer had nine points and Mesa managed just three combined points from its reserves.
The Mustangs were without 6-foot-4 senior Wyatt Ferris (sprained ankle) and missed his 4.9 points and four rebounds per game, Krikorian said.
Ferris might have helped defend the paint in the second half, as Calvary repeatedly drove for layups after settling for outside shots and missing from close range against swarming Mesa defenders in the opening half.
Starters Philip Schick (10 rebounds), Ryan Almquist, Zack Webb and Colin Kearon all finished with 12 points for the winners, who shot 69.6% from the field after halftime (16 of 23) to finish at 53.2% for the game (25 for 47).
Noah JeyaRajah led Mesa with seven rebounds, while Hefner finished with four rebounds, three assists, two three-pointers and one blocked shot.
"[Wright] came out and really lit a fire for us in the first half," Krikorian said. "We have a good group of guys and a lot of young guys just playing big minutes right now. Even in tough losses like this, there is some good in it."
Orange Coast League