Corona del Mar High sophomores Natalia Bruening and Krista Anderson both already had two fouls early in the second quarter of Tuesday's night's Battle of the Bay girls' basketball game.
At 6-foot-3 and 6-2 respectively, Bruening and Anderson give the Sea Kings a huge size advantage. That's not true, though, if they're not on the court. The Sea Kings got a bit frustrated with some of the foul calls in the first half Tuesday, which ended with CdM up by just five points.
"We just came from the Inland Empire, where basically a tackle is not a foul," CdM Coach Mark Decker said. "We had to adjust. They called it a little bit tighter than normal [tonight], but we didn't adjust in the first half. We were reaching, and we weren't playing good, solid defense."
After halftime was a different story. The Sea Kings looked like a different team.
They quickly pulled away for a 44-23 victory at Newport Harbor High, CdM's third straight Battle of the Bay triumph.
The tone was set early in the second half, which opened with nine straight points by the Sea Kings (11-4). Bruening, who finished the game with 17 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks, had five points in the run.
"We really came together and started fighting for each other," Bruening said. "That helped a lot. We knew that we were going to win it, we just had to carry it out."
Corona del Mar turned it into a blowout by outscoring the host Sailors, 18-3, in the third quarter. That output also included four points by junior forward Maria King, who had 10 points on the night and made all six of her free throws.
"I thought we were really tight in the first half," Decker said. "We missed a lot of easy shots that we normally make, and I think we over-thought it a little bit. At halftime, we relaxed a little bit and came back out with energy, and really got after it defensively."
Senior guard Chanel Wosoughkia added seven points and a game-high four steals for the winners, while Anderson chipped in four points, seven rebounds and three blocks. She and Bruening, the two post players who each were Newport-Mesa Dream Team selections last year as freshmen, were able to get going in the Sea Kings' high-low offense.
"We just started playing the defense we should have played from the beginning," said Wosoughkia, one of three seniors for CdM along with fellow guards Kate Thompson and Keaton Gaughan. "I just think defensively we put it out there, so on offense we had more fastbreaks and better lay-ups, and better entries into the post.
"It feels good as a senior to finish it off right, and finish Battle of the Bay for the third time in a row. We played the game that we should have played, and I think we beat them by a good amount of points."
Senior point guard Bela Raimondi had nine points, including the game's only three-pointer make, to lead the Sailors (7-6), while junior Sammie Yeager had seven. Newport Harbor endured a scoreless night from senior guard Jennifer Lopez, who played through an ankle injury suffered last Thursday. Lopez came into the game leading the Sailors in scoring at 12 points per game, but struggled with her shot.
"It definitely played a role in our offensive scoring [struggles]," first-year Newport Harbor Coach Shelly VanDusen said of Lopez's injury, though the senior did chip in eight rebounds.
Freshman forward Lisa Hamilton also had eight rebounds and junior center Kendra Munguia contributed a season-high six blocks for Newport Harbor, which already has nearly doubled its four-win total from last season. The Sailors play at Huntington Beach on Thursday night in their Sunset League opener.
"We're playing a little bit more like we're experienced," VanDusen said. "We have a bunch of seniors out on the court, and they're starting to show it, which is good. Honestly, we're playing harder in practice, so it's making a big difference in games ... [We're more] disciplined, for sure."
CdM also opens league later this week. The Sea Kings play host to Irvine at 5:30 p.m. Friday in their Pacific Coast League opener. The Sea Kings have struggled in the league, finishing in last place each of the last three years and going just 2-28 combined. But Bruening said there is hope for this year.
"I think the playing field has leveled out," Bruening said. "A lot of the teams have graduated a lot of seniors, and our team is basically the same as last year. We only lost one senior, and we're really clicking as a team and working together. We're able to rely on each other to play good offense and defense, and it's helping a lot. I think we have a really good shot this year in league."
Battle of the Bay