Four years had passed since Coach Ryan Schachter last brought his Corona del Mar High boys' basketball team to the other side of the Back Bay. The court at Newport Harbor High looked in better shape than in his previous trip.
It really doesn't matter where the Sea Kings play the Sailors in the Battle of the Bay rivalry game. They always beat Newport Harbor when Schachter is guiding the Sea Kings.
Corona del Mar made it six straight victories against the Sailors, blowing them out, 76-50, in a nonleague game on Saturday night. The margin of victory is CdM's biggest against Newport Harbor during Schachter's eight seasons at the helm of the Sea Kings.
The Sea Kings (14-4), ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA poll, came out slow, and it might have been because they played for the second time in as many evenings. Once the first quarter ended, with CdM up by one, the Sea Kings turned it on defensively.
They forced eight turnovers and didn't allow Newport Harbor to convert a field goal in the second quarter. The Sailors missed each of their 13 shots. The only shots they made in the quarter came at the free-throw line, where the Sailors went seven of eight.
Jeff Johnston matched Newport Harbor's second-quarter point total. The senior guard didn't face the Sailors last season because of back problems.
Johnston sure looked good when he blew past defenders for three layups, helping CdM build its first double-digit lead. Johnston converted a three-point play at the free-throw line and CdM went into halftime ahead, 33-20.
The Sea Kings' lead grew in the third quarter, by as many as 25 points. Robby Bracho caught fire, draining two of his three three-pointers, giving him 14 points. Sam Kobrine came off the bench and produced six of his 13 points in the third quarter.
Newport Harbor (11-9) managed to hit shots in the third quarter, just not enough to stay within striking distance. Nic Sargeant finished with a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds for the Sailors.
Bo St. Geme and Tyler Lopp made Sargeant work on offense. Sargeant only knocked down four of 12 shots. St. Geme is a strong on-ball defender and Lopp is a hound on defense.
Sargeant wound up recording more than half of his points at the charity stripe, where he converted all 10 of his attempts.
"He may have got one good look all night," Schachter said of Sargeant.
That good look might have been the one after the Sailors won the opening tip.
Five seconds in, Sargeant attacked the basket to put the Sailors up. They went up as many as five points early on, until Blake Flamson led CdM's charge. The senior guard went to work, scoring seven points in the opening quarter and he finished with 13 points.
Flamson added six points in a second half in which CdM shot 53.3% from the field and 100% from the free-throw line.
"We got a lot of guys that can put the ball in the basket," said Schachter, who led CdM to its second victory against a Sunset League team in 12 days.
The Sea Kings are on a five-game winning streak. Their best stretch of the season began when they knocked off Huntington Beach, 62-51, in the Sunset League-Pacific Coast League Challenge. The Sailors also participated in the challenge, easily topping University, 88-65.
On Friday night, CdM had a tough time at University in a Pacific Coast League contest. The Sea Kings held on for a 65-60 win, to improve to 3-0 in league.
"That might have been part of the letdown from [Friday]," Schachter said of his players looking ahead to the Battle of the Bay. "Our boys came to play [against Newport Harbor]."
Bob Torribio, Newport Harbor's coach, expected a difficult matchup with CdM, a team the Sailors last defeated during the 2005-06 season.