It was host Corona del Mar High that entered Friday's crucial Pacific Coast League boys' basketball clash with Northwood alone in first place. But it was the Timberwolves' ability to wind up alone near the rim that led to the visitors' 47-38 victory that leaves three teams sharing space atop the league standings halfway through the 10-game campaign..
Of Northwood's 21 field goals, only two came outside of six feet and the majority of them were mere layins with little or no defensive presence to deal with. The win helped the visitors, ranked No. 15 in CIF Southern Section Division 3AA, improve to 13-8, 4-1 in league.
"We just gave up uncontested layups," said CdM Coach Ryan Schachter, whose squad (15-5, 4-1 and ranked No. 4 in Division 3AA) led, 34-29, though three quarters. "[The Timberwolves] had guys wide open, standing alone at the rim. That wasn't our game plan, it was just communication breakdowns. And in the fourth quarter, defensively, we just fell apart. We had guys running in the wrong place, guys thinking the needed to be somewhere that they didn't. That just gave [the visitors] confidence.
A much smaller CdM unit took a somewhat different approach offensively, hoisting 18 three-point attempts and hitting only four. The Sea Kings, who overcame a 4-2 deficit to hold the lead for the rest of the first three quarters, were just one for 12 from the field in the final eight minutes, including zero for eight from threedom. The shooting drought helped the Timberwolves cruise past them for the win that created a first-place tie with CdM, Northwood and Woodbridge.
"It's a five-game race now," said Northwood Coach Tim O'Brien, who acknowledged that his game plan was to pound the ball inside on offense, but he had even more praise for his team's defense.
"We played good defense," O'Brien said. "Any time you hold a high school team under 40 points, which is always our goal every game, but a hard one to hit, you have a good chance to win. So, giving up only 21 in the first half [after which Northwood trailed by seven], we thought we were OK on the defensive end.
"Then, once we got it going on offense, it made it a little bit easier," said O'Brien, the one-time coach at Estancia High and Orange Coast College. "We just made the plays at the end."
Northwood, led by 6-foot-6 sophomore Jake Linsky's 18 points, all but two of which came within six feet, including six layins, produced three straight layups in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter to claim a 35-34 advantage.
After CdM answered with a pair of Blake Flamson free throws, senior Matt Prokop turned a layup into a three-point play by being fouled to give Northwood a 38-36 advantage with 5:14 remaining.
Senior guard Jeff Johnston countered with a six-foot runner to knot the score 27 seconds later, but Linsky, playing just his fifth varsity game after gaining clearance for his transfer from Woodbridge, made a layup to trigger a 9-0 run to close out the scoring with 1:46 left.
CdM, which had one-third of its 15 field goals outside of six feet, finished shooting 31.9% from the field in 47 attempts. It shot 22.2% from three-point range.
The Sea Kings also surrendered a 35-17 rebounding advantage to the taller, more aggressive Timberwolves, who committed 16 of the game's 28 turnovers.
Kevin Fults, a 6-2 junior, led CdM with 11 points, while junior guard Bo St. Geme and senior guard Blake Flamson had eight points each. St. Geme and sophomore reserve guard Sam Kobrine each had two three-pointers.
Northwood failed to convert any of its seven three-point attempts, but its inside game allowed it to shoot 47.7% from the field (21 for 44), including eight for 11 in the final period and 12 for 20 after halftime.
"We had to pound it inside, because we had the [height] advantage on [the Sea Kings], O'Brien said. "We got away from it in the first half, but we were looking inside more in the second half. That's how we got the easier hoops, and [the Sea Kings] just couldn't hit anything down the stretch."
Pacific Coast League
Northwood 47, Corona del Mar 38
SCORE BY QUARTERS
NW 12-7-10-18 — 47
CdM 14-7-13-4 — 38
NW – Linsky 18, Pierce 10, Ludwick 8, Prokop 7, Harishankar 2, Miles 2.
3-pt. goals – None.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
CdM – Fults 11, St. Geme 8, Flamson 8, Kobrine 6, Johnston 5.
3-pt goals – St. Geme 2, Kobrine 2.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.