COSTA MESA — Expectations weren't that the Newport Harbor boys' basketball team was going to be playing one of the top teams in the CIF Southern Section after dropping both its pool-play games of the Estancia Coast Classic Tournament.
While the Sailors were relegated to the tournament's silver division, they still found themselves squaring off with Foothill — the No. 9-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division I-AA which won both its pool-play games.
It looked like Newport Harbor, which came into the game ranked No. 11 in Division II-A, was outmatched when it found itself down 16 at halftime. The Sailors managed to put a scare into the Knights but nothing more, as Foothill saw it turn to a two-possession game before pulling away late for the 77-61 victory.
"I really like the way we responded to the challenge," said Newport Harbor Coach Bob Torribio, whose team will face Long Beach Wilson in the division consolation game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. "We're still trying to figure out why the heck we're playing a fifth-ranked team in the county in a silver-division game, but I'm real proud of our effort and how our guys responded in the second half."
The answer is there was simply too many 2-0 teams — Foothill, Corona, Clovis West and Sunny Hills — out of pool play. The seedings for division play are determined by overall record, head-to-head results, total points allowed or a coin flip. Foothill just happened to give up the most points (163) out of those four teams in pool play.
The Sailors (7-7) and Knights (13-1) both got big boosts from their guards Nic Sargeant and Justin Davis. Davis recorded a game-high 32 points to accompany seven steals and four rebounds for Foothill, while Sargeant scored a team-high 22 points, grabbed five boards and two steals for Newport.
"That's a really good team," Sargeant said. "Usually we kind of let down in the second half, but I thought we played really hard and we beat them in the third quarter. Overall, it was a really good game for us."
Newport climbed back into contention thanks to strong starts to the third and fourth quarters. It cut its deficit to nine, 48-39, when it opened the third quarter with a 10-3 spurt after consecutive and-one plays from Zach Wade (13 points) and Robbie Rettig with 6:20 left in the third.
Wade converted his and-one layup and then forced a steal at the other end and set up Rettig for an easy layup with 6:20 to go in the third, which cut the deficit to single digits, 48-39.
Foothill pushed its lead 11, 58-47, by the end of the third but quickly found itself in a five-point game, 58-53, after consecutive three-pointers from Sargeant and Brian Robbs (12 points) just 1:07 into the fourth quarter.
The Sailors were unable to bring it any closer than that. They were still within striking distance when Sargeant laid one up and in to cut the deficit to 66-58 with 2:14 to play, but things fell apart from there. Foothill's Josh Reed (10 points) nailed a three on the next trip down the floor, which was followed up by a steal and layup from the Knights' Kyle Lawson (nine points) to give them an insurmountable lead, 71-58, with 1:23 remaining.
Newport also got off to a nice start in the first quarter, scoring the first five points of the game on a Sargeant layup and Wade three-pointer, but turned around and gave up a 10-0 run to Foothill, which got 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocks from Jacob Dean.
The Knights held a 12-point lead, 26-14, by the end of the first quarter, as they forced seven Newport turnovers and committed just two of their own. Foothill pushed its advantage to 16, 45-29, at the half behind 19 points and five steals from Davis.
"The reason we got down so big was our own fault," Torribio said. "We were down 12 in the first quarter because we had seven turnovers; in the second quarter we had one, that's the difference right there. ... We just beat ourselves, I don't think they beat us."
Foothill 77, Newport Harbor 61
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Foothill – 26 – 19 – 13 – 19 – 77
Newport – 14 – 15 – 18 – 14 – 61