SANTA ANA — For the second straight season, the Newport Harbor High boys' basketball team faced one of the top two seeds early in the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
Last season in Division 2A, the Sailors played host to No. 1 Westlake in the second round and lost by nine points.
They opened the Division 2AA playoffs at No. 2 Foothill on Friday and they did not do as well, losing 82-55.
"We got to talk to our guys about having a better regular season," said Newport Harbor Coach Bob Torribio, whose team finished 14-14 overall for the second season in a row. "We got to take care of some business early on so we don't have to play these tough teams early on [in the postseason] because it's tough."
The Sailors' third-place finish in the Sunset League, their best in six seasons, earned them a trip to a hostile gym. Then they had to deal with the size and speed of Foothill, the Century League runner-up.
The only player who could keep up with the Knights (21-6) was Nic Sargeant. The senior guard poured in a career-best 29 points, to go with seven three-point plays, six from behind the arc.
Sargeant's performance impressed Foothill Coach Rusty Van Cleave.
"[I] really respect how hard he competes and [how he] finds a way to … finish shots playing that hard," said Van Cleave, who used a number of players to defend Sargeant.
Sargeant kept attacking whomever the Knights sent his way, but by halftime, Foothill was in control and on its way to the second round to meet Riverside La Sierra (23-3) at home on Tuesday.
Foothill built a 42-22 lead, thanks to Eric Patton scoring 16 first-half points on five of seven shooting and six of six from the free-throw line. Newport Harbor failed to contain the 6-foot-6 junior forward, who was consistent through the first two quarters, scoring eight in each.
The only time Patton wasn't productive was when he had to leave the game in the second quarter after he got blood on his No. 44 jersey. He changed into a No. 32 and never missed a beat when he returned to the floor.
Patton closed out the first half in style by converting a layup on a backdoor lob play. The home crowd erupted after the inbound pass found Patton.
Patton's offensive night was done 55 seconds into the second half. He knocked down two free-throw attempts, making him perfect from the charity stripe.
Foothill didn't need Patton, one of its most experienced players, the rest of the way. In the third quarter, the Knights blew the game open, outscoring the Sailors, 23-10. Reed Nakakihara nailed three three-pointers in less than a 3-minute span. The guard finished with 16 points and four threes.
Riley O'Hern recorded the Knights' two other threes, both coming in opening quarter, before totaling 12 points.
With the game out of reach, the Sailors began jacking up threes. Sargeant made three in the second half, and guards Chase Davis and Adrian Balcazar had two apiece.
"It's tough when you're preparing all week for a No. 2 seed, at their place, and the rest of [our school] is off [during ski week], doing whatever it is those kids do, and we're in the gym trying to compete," said Torribio, who will lose his star in Sargeant to graduation, but expects to see four starters, Davis, a junior guard, sophomore forward Caleb O'Neil, junior forward Garrett Davis and junior guard Joey Faris, return next season.
"For our younger guys, now we know how important that game in December is, that game in early January is, how important every league game is. We want to get to the playoffs and we don't want to play the No. 2 seed in the first round."
CIF Southern Section Division 2AA playoffs