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Daily Pilot

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Sailors' Sargeant has hot hand

Junior guard doing his best to energize Newport Harbor boys' basketball team.

By David Carrillo Peñaloza

11:12 PM PST, January 24, 2013

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Nic Sargeant's father wanted him to go to Corona del Mar High. Some of it had to do with the school being Jim Sargeant's alma mater.

Another reason for Nic going to CdM was some of the kids he played basketball with in eighth grade were going to CdM.

"He thought that … I would have better chemistry with them," Nic said.

The young Sargeant decided on the school on his side of the Back Bay, Newport Harbor. When he enrolled at the neighborhood school as a freshman, he learned a valuable lesson.

He needed to change his ways.

It wasn't his basketball coach who told him. It was Dan Glenn, who ran the Newport Harbor boys' volleyball program for a quarter of a century.

"I did not really have a very good attitude," said Sargeant, who as a ninth-grader was on the junior varsity team, but not for long. "I just didn't take practice seriously enough and Glenn's a real serious guy. He's like, 'Hey, we're going to move you down to the freshman team if you don't take it seriously enough' and he did.

"I thought that was a pretty good move because it kind of set me straight. It [made] me [understand] to not talk [back] to my coaches and [I need to] treat them with respect."

Sargeant, in his junior year now, has matured. The kid who ignored his coaches no longer does, in volleyball or on the basketball court.

For Bob Torribio, the school's basketball coach, he says it's a bonus when one of his starters is also one of his hardest working players on the team.

One of the first words Sargeant uses to describe himself is "scrappy." At 5 feet, 10 inches and 150 pounds, he goes all out. He can also shoot.

"If I get hot, I stay pretty hot," Sargeant said.

The guard was on fire last week in two Sunset League contests, as he averaged 24.5 points and 3.5 three-pointers per game. His best game was a 26-point performance against Los Alamitos, two days after leading the team to its best result in league.

Sargeant scored 23 points and lifted the Sailors to their first league win of the season, a 72-49 blowout at Marina. They started fast against the Vikings, jumping out to a 27-point lead at halftime, and never looked back.

Finishing games has been an issue for Newport Harbor (10-11, 1-4 in league), which has been in every league game, except for one. In the team's four league setbacks, three have been tight, with the Sailors losing by a single-digit margin.

"We're just not getting that last little [play]. We're making one little mistake and it's just costing us the game," Sargeant said. "Sometimes we're getting up in the first [quarter] a lot, then we'll lose that [lead] by halftime. Then we'll come out of halftime a little slow. That's usually what's kind of affecting us mostly."

Through the tough losses in league, Sargeant still believes Newport Harbor can beat any team in league.

Unlike in the past, the Sailors are competing with talented teams. Sargeant, who's averaging a team-best 15.8 points per game, has played a key role, as have seniors Kevin Rakestraw, Zach Wade, Brian Robbs and Robbie Rettig.

Newport Harbor has played well in nonleague play against the likes of Foothill, Corona del Mar and Villa Park, programs ranked No. 9 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1-AA poll, No. 3 in Division 2-AA and No. 6 in Division 3-AA, respectively, and Fresno Clovis West, ranked No. 8 in the CIF Central Section by the Fresno Bee.

In league play, the Sailors have hung with league favorite Fountain Valley, which is 5-0 in league, Edison and defending league champion Los Alamitos, both of which are 3-2 in league and share second place. In those games, Newport Harbor has lost by a combined 15 points.

Last season, in the Sailors' first meeting against those same teams, they lost by a combined 58 points. Last season is one Sargeant says the Sailors don't talk about because it was a bad season, all the losing.

The program already has three more wins than it recorded all of last season. Newport Harbor could've had a couple of more victories this season, if not for dropping a couple of nail biters.

The Sailors' most heartbreaking loss was the league opener. They were at home, only to fall to Edison, 67-65, on a buzzer-beater. Sargeant expected the game to go into overtime, after he knocked down a three to tie the game with five seconds left, giving him 20 points.

With 1.9 seconds, Edison, on an inbound play from half court, ran a backdoor lob and it worked to perfection.

Sargeant and the Sailors will see Edison on Friday at 7 p.m. The teams start the second part of league. Torribio says his Sailors are in a must-win situation at Edison, as they are the rest of the way in league.

"I think we'll get a few upsets, surprise some people," said Sargeant, believing the Sailors are going to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

"If we pull out two or three wins, then we're going to play someone [in the postseason] who maybe we'll be a little better than or equal to. We'll probably go on the road, but nobody's going to want to play us."

*

Nic Sargeant

Born: May 13, 1995

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 5-foot-10

Weight: 150 pounds

Sport: Boys' basketball

Year: Junior

Coach: Bob Torribio

Favorite food: Burger

Favorite movie: "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story"

Favorite athletic moment: "Beating Los Al last year … and handing [the Griffins] their only loss in [Sunset League play]."

Week in review: Sargeant averaged 24.5 points and 3.5 three-pointers per game in two Sunset League games, including a 72-49 blowout win at Marina, the Sailors' first league victory.

david.carrillo@latimes.com

Twitter: @DCPenaloza