GARDEN GROVE — One after the other, the Corona del Mar High girls' basketball team lost its two tallest and most productive players to fouls.
Natalia Bruening and Krista Anderson didn't spend much time together on the court on Saturday. They both picked up their second fouls in the first quarter, then one each in the second and third quarters.
One more foul by Bruening, a 6-foot-3 center, and Anderson, a 6-2 forward, and their evening was over, and most likely their team's season. They didn't make it to the end of the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs at Pacifica. Anderson fouled out with about 3 minutes left in the fourth quarter and Bruening checked out almost 2 minutes later.
From the bench, Anderson, who made all of her eight shots, watched her teammates, the ones who usually don't grab the headlines, put away Pacifica. Bruening joined her, and without Bruening and Anderson, the sixth-seeded Sea Kings showed they had more than enough to beat No. 11 Pacifica, 48-38, and advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in Coach Mark Decker's eight seasons at the school.
The school's first quarterfinal appearance in 14 seasons will take place at CdM (20-8) on Wednesday against third-seeded San Juan Hills (22-3). San Juan Hills advanced by routing Covina Charter Oak, 73-39.
"They definitely made it more difficult on us," said a smiling Decker, referring to the referees' calls on Bruening and Anderson. "It just shows … there are some other really, really good players on our team. I'm really proud, because tonight Maria [King], Kelly [Tam], Keaton [Gaughan] and Kate [Thompson], they always kind of take a [backseat to Bruening and Anderson], and they stepped up big time."
All the players Decker named contributed to CdM avenging an earlier loss to Pacifica (16-12), an at-large entry from the Empire League. Before CdM opened up Pacific Coast League play, it met Pacifica in the championship game of the Ocean View-Los Amigos tournament on Dec. 14.
The smaller Mariners controlled the tempo back then in a 68-58 win. In the second meeting, the pace slowed down, even in their own gym, as CdM handled the Mariners' pressure much better in the final three quarters.
The teams went into halftime tied, 17-17, and they were even after the third quarter. Going into the final quarter, the teams were locked at 28-28.
Tam broke the tie for CdM with a bank shot, sparking a 10-2 run. Tam then came up with one of her three steals, leading to an Anderson basket in the paint. Anderson added another one on a putback.
The Mariners bailed out CdM at the 5:03 mark. With the 30-second shot clock almost expiring, they fouled Gaughan while she attempted a three-pointer. Gaughan converted the first two free-throw attempts, and 40 seconds later, Tam banked in another shot, giving her six points.
The Sea Kings took a 38-30 lead, but then they lost Anderson. With 3:16 to go, she picked up her fifth foul and she walked off, finishing with 16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
The rest of the way, the closest the Mariners got to CdM was six points. While they went on a dry spell, going 5 1/2 minutes without a field goal, the Sea Kings made their shots. King swished a shot from the left baseline and then she produced a nice left-handed layup.
King recorded six of her 11 points in the fourth quarter. She hit two of three free throws. The Sea Kings, despite seeing Bruening foul out with 1:19 to go, iced the game at the charity stripe. They went eight of 10 in the fourth quarter.
Gaughan made four of five free throws in the fourth to give her seven points and Thompson knocked down two of two.
"Our girls wanted a little bit of payback," said Decker, whose Sea Kings held Pacifica's Heaven Masuno to 13 points, 15 less than in the first meeting. "This showed how much we've improved. They beat us earlier, and to beat them without Krista and Natalia on the floor most of the game, it just shows our growth."
CIF Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs
Corona del Mar 48, Pacifica 38