Let the battles for supremacy in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach begin.
This is a major week in high school boys' basketball with the Battle for the Bell and Battle of the Bay rivalries taking place. Costa Mesa plays host to Estancia in the Battle for the Bell on Wednesday at 7 p.m., and Corona del Mar travels to Newport Harbor for the Battle of the Bay on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Three of the four teams are playing well, as Costa Mesa (12-5), CdM (12-4) and Newport Harbor (10-7) are above .500. The Mustangs and Eagles will play twice this season, both times in Orange Coast League action, while the Sea Kings and Sailors meet only once in nonleague.
The Mustangs are in their first season under Coach Mike Molina and they're off to their second 12-5 start in three seasons. Costa Mesa began 12-5 in 2011-12 and went on to win 19 games, the most in the history of the program, and win their first CIF Southern Section playoff game since the 2004-05 season.
Agustin Heredia is back in charge of Estancia. He took a one-year leave of absence for personal reasons. The Eagles (5-11), with guard Josh Mendoza leading the way, are two victories away from tying last season's win total.
The Battle for the Bell also marks the start of league. Heredia's Eagles will try to bring the bell trophy back to Estancia. Costa Mesa guard Kyle Hefner helped Costa Mesa claim the rivalry in each of the past two seasons, including sweeping the series last season for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
Corona del Mar owns the Back Bay rivalry since the 2006-07 season. The Sea Kings and Sailors resumed the annual game last season after not playing it for two seasons and CdM prevailed for the fifth straight time.
Nic Sargeant is Newport Harbor's go-to player, averaging 17.3 points per game. Coach Bob Torribio's Sailors have won three of four games, including a 49-46 triumph against Huntington Beach in a Sunset League opener on Friday. The result marked the first time Newport Harbor opened league with a victory in four seasons.
The Sea Kings' top two scorers are Robby Bracho and Sam Kobrine, who average 8.6 and 8.5 points per game, respectively. They are a deep team again, despite losing two-year starting center Kevin Manchester to a possible season-ending elbow injury.
•The first leg of the Battle for the Bell in boys' soccer starts on Wednesday at Jim Scott Stadium at 4:45 p.m.
Costa Mesa, which won the bell last season for the second time in three seasons, is the home side. Estancia (7-3-2) comes in as the hotter team this season as it's ranked No. 9 in the CIF Southern Section Division 5 poll. The Mustangs, who are 0-6-2, have suffered five one-goal setbacks.
"I honestly believe we are better than our record indicates," said Amos Hernandez, who's in his second season as Costa Mesa's coach. "We just haven't found a way to consistently score."
The only other local boys' soccer team ranked is Corona del Mar (7-3-2, 1-0-0 in Pacific Coast League), which is No. 8 in Division 3.
•The Sage Hill School boys' basketball team is off to its best start in three seasons.
The Lightning went into the week at 11-4, 3-0 in Academy League play. Before the New Year, Sage Hill competed in Hawaii at the World Youth Basketball Tournament and placed second in the high division.
Tyler Hague and Jack Williamson earned all-tournament honors after averaging 14 points and 11.5 points per game, respectively.
•The CIF Southern Section released its new boys' basketball rankings for the New Year.
Corona del Mar is No. 4 in Division 3AA and Costa Mesa is No. 12 in Division 4AA. The Sea Kings, a semifinalist last season, dropped one spot from the Dec. 16 preseason poll, while the Mustangs, who lost in the first round last season, cracked the top 15.