The Newport Harbor High boys' basketball season began much the same way as last season.
Brian Robbs is well aware of how the Sailors won early, reached the Coyote Classic title game at Buena Park High. The trip to the championship game in their first tournament this past week ended the same way as last season's finale: a loss.
The difference this season is the Sailors have continued to win after their first setback.
The difference this season, Robbs said, is the Sailors believe they can win every time they step on the court.
The difference this season, Robbs said, is the Sailors back their coach, Bob Torribio.
Not everyone on the team was on the same page with the coach Torribio took over for last season as the interim coach.
Torribio is in charge now at Newport Harbor. Larry Hirst is gone. The interim tag Torribio held three times in the previous four seasons with Hirst taking leave of absences for personal reasons, his health and to spend time with family, is gone as well.
Robbs and the rest of the team know that Torribio is the leader for the long haul. The Sailors can rely on Torribio and they can depend on Robbs as well.
Robbs' game has grown. The 6-foot-5 forward has emerged in his senior season. He's averaging around 11 points and seven rebounds per game.
Robbs almost led Newport Harbor (6-2) to its second tournament title game in as many weeks. The Sailors lost to Warren of Downey, 75-45, on Friday and now they have a chance to finish third at the Cantwell-Sacred Heart tournament in Montebello.
If the Sailors can win Saturday's game in the tournament, they will have as many victories as they did all of last season. Their seventh win last season came on Feb. 3.
The Sailors have turned things around in a hurry. A lot of it is because of Robbs' play.
"He's come along very strong," said Torribio, adding that Robbs is making 57% of his shots, 50% of his three-pointers and 73% of his free throws. "Hirst did a great job of allowing Robbs to develop at his own pace. This is his third year [on varsity]. He's done a great job of maturing. He had his ups and downs."
With the constant losing in the past, there were more downs for Robbs.
The Costa Mesa teenager said he transferred to Newport Harbor because of academics. Robbs got a quick lesson on what it's like to be on a losing team. It wasn't fun.
The Sailors went 3-17 in Sunset League play the last two seasons, failing to make the CIF Southern Section playoffs each time. Since Robbs has been at Newport Harbor, the only time the program has made the postseason was in Robbs' first year at the school, but he wasn't on varsity.
The goal for the Sailors, Torribio said, is to return to the playoffs. League opens next month and Robbs has loftier expectations for the team, which is ranked 11th in the Division 2-A poll.
"Win our league," Robbs said. "That's our plan. We know we're a great team and that we can make a run for it this year."
Torribio said he's glad Robbs is positive about the Sailors' chances of bringing home a league title. It has been 11 seasons since they last won a league crown.
During Hirst's 16 seasons at the helm, Newport Harbor won one league championship, coming in the Sea View League. Since they moved to the Sunset League six seasons ago, the Sailors' best finish was in 2007-08, when they placed second, one game behind Los Alamitos.