CORONA DEL MAR — Two of the best basketball players in Tuesday's game between Corona del Mar High and Woodbridge sat for much of the fourth quarter.
Sixteen seconds into the fourth, Max Stone, CdM's No. 1 scorer, left the game, but it was Coach Ryan Schachter's decision to pull the senior.
With 5:12 left to play, Woodbridge's Jason Gregson walked off the court. His coach, John Halagan, wasn't the reason why. Gregson, the team's second leading scorer, picked up his fifth foul and fouled out.
It turned out the Sea Kings didn't need Stone, while Woodbridge could've used Gregson down the stretch.
In the most physical game of the season for CdM, the Sea Kings outlasted the Warriors and won a crucial Pacific Coast League home game, 59-52. They closed out the first half of league play in second place by knocking off defending league champion Woodbridge.
"We couldn't get two games behind Northwood," said Schachter, whose team improved to 4-1 in league and stayed one game behind the league-leading Timberwolves. "It was an absolute must win for us."
It was also a must-win situation for Woodbridge (8-14, 2-3 in league), which is now three games back of first place, thanks to CdM's Blake Grable and the Sea Kings' defense.
The senior scored all of his 17 points in the second half, nine coming in the fourth quarter. He made five of six shots in the final two quarters and CdM won its second straight league game since losing at home to Northwood last week.
Halagan said Grable was the difference for CdM, which is 14-8 overall and ranked No. 6 in the CIF Southern Section Division 3-AA poll His team zeroed in on slowing down Stone, who went into the contest averaging around 22 points per game in league. Stone finished with nine points.
The result for Halagan was almost as ugly in the manner the officials called the game. They called it tight.
Fifteen times Halagan's team was whistled for fouls in the first half. He couldn't believe it, only believing CdM got most of the calls before his team went into halftime ahead, 29-28.
Schachter laughed, knowing his team was called for 10 fouls in the first half.
"We were down," said Schachter, whose team was able to turn a 10-point deficit in the second quarter into its first lead with Tyler Lopp coming off the bench to spark a 13-2 run with his energy and five points.
Also helping CdM was it going to the charity stripe a lot in the second quarter and converting 11 of 15 free throws.
By halftime, three starters for the Warriors had two fouls, including Gregson, an all-league member last season. Gregson sat the second quarter because of the fouls he committed in the first quarter.
Gregson started the third quarter, and 1 1/2 minutes in, he was called for his third foul. It was a dagger, as he fouled Grable while in the act of shooting a three-pointer. Grable knocked down the three and converted the four-point play at the free-throw line and the Sea Kings took a 32-29 lead.
Midway through the third, Gregson tried to guard Grable, who was handling the ball behind the three-point line. He got a little too close and he earned his fourth foul and a seat on the bench.
Halagan was furious. His junior only played 9 1/2 minutes of the first 24 minutes. The Warriors still went into the final quarter ahead, 43-40, after Odis Craig hit one of his four threes in the game.
Craig, who led Woodbridge with 12 points, was perfect from behind the arc. That is all that went right for the visitors, even seeing Schachter take Stone out early in the fourth didn't help their cause.
Grable took over, knocking down an off-balance jumper near the paint. He then blocked a shot, his third of the game, and Blake Flamson, who had 10 points, converted a basket 36 seconds later.