CORONA DEL MAR — Around this time of the season, Coach Ryan Schachter calls up players to join the Corona del Mar High boys' basketball team. They have names most fans haven't heard of all season, names the PA announcer has never uttered during a varsity game.
Rarely do these players from the lower-level programs get to play around this time of the season, in the CIF Southern Section playoffs. That changed Wednesday in the Sea Kings' Division 3-AA first-round game.
Four youngsters entered with six minutes left to play against Rancho Alamitos. The game was so out of reach that Schachter allowed them to finish it.
They probably could've started the game and CdM would've still beat Rancho Alamitos. The third-seeded Sea Kings took care of business at home with an 84-41 rout, their most lopsided postseason victory during Schachter's seven seasons at the school.
The team Schachter boasts is also the deepest during his time in charge. Every player saw time on the court, 17 in all. Thirteen scored.
"We got the most talented one through 14 [players] that we've had," Schachter said. "If they play hard and they share the ball, this is a very good team. We have a lot of weapons."
Whether the Sea Kings have enough to make a run at a section title as they did in Schachter's first season is still up in the air. They have been stopped in the quarterfinals in each of the past three seasons.
Schachter said he's not worried about breaking through the quarterfinals just yet. Up next is a tough second-round game at Glendale Hoover on Friday. Hoover (14-13) will be the second at-large entry CdM (19-9) will face, but CdM expects a challenge.
Rancho Alamitos (7-19) fell apart at CdM from the start. The Vaqueros turned the ball over more times than they produced points in the opening quarter.
The turnovers led to easy baskets in transition for CdM, which made 17 of 29 shots in the first half. Even Max Stone, an outside threat, attacked the lane.
"I think he was a little nervous," Schachter said of Stone, who began the game missing his first three three-point attempts. "He was pushing his shot early, trying to guide it. Once he got to the rim a few times, he hit one, one ugly one, and they all started falling after that."
Stone began the second quarter with a putback basket. He then sparked a 13-0 run in the second quarter, drilling consecutive three-pointers in a 45-second span.
The senior scored eight points in the second quarter and another eight in the third quarter, giving him a game-high 20 points. Drew Olson helped Stone get going in the third, first on a give-and-go play resulting in a layup and then he found a wide-open Stone behind the arc twice resulting in threes.
Through the first 20 minutes of the game, Stone recorded almost as many points as Rancho Alamitos. Stone, like the rest of the starters, which included Blake Grable (nine points) and Bo St. Geme (eight), sat for much of the fourth quarter.
They gave way to players like Nick Hanna, a senior who gets limited minutes, and varsity newcomers like Robby Bracho and Sam Kobrine. In the fourth, Hanna scored eight of his 11 points and Bracho all of his 10 points. Kobrine, a freshman, hit a jumper.
"They're good enough to be on varsity," Schachter said of Bracho and Kobrine, adding that they led CdM's junior varsity and freshmen teams to undefeated Pacific Coast League titles, respectively.
The only CdM program not to claim a league title is the varsity one. The Sea Kings finished second in league for the second straight season.
Nevertheless, they earned a No. 3 seed in the playoffs, a little bit of a surprise to Schachter. He figured his team wouldn't after it lost at Northwood last week, eliminating CdM from sharing first.
"I thought we might go four to five, but I'll take a No. 3 seed," Schachter said with a smile, knowing the seed is the highest CdM has received in its seven postseason appearances under him.
"Hoover's going to be tough. [The Tornadoes] got a lot of guards. They shoot the three ball really well. They share the ball. They're really good just in terms of attacking the rim. They're small, but they play really hard."