That neither girls' basketball team is picking up where it left off last season is better news for Newport Harbor High than it is for Estancia. But it was the Eagles who enjoyed the ultimate satisfaction from a 42-28 victory over the Sailors in the first round of pool play at the Corona del Mar Tip-Off Tournament on Tuesday at CdM High.
It was the season opener for the Eagles, who are coming off a 20-8 campaign that included an Orange Coast League title and the program's first trip to the CIF Southern Section Division 3A quarterfinals since 1999.
And like most teams in their season debuts, Estancia showed both good and bad. It bolted to a 7-0 lead, then went almost one quarter without scoring, before another 8-0 run helped create a 16-10 halftime advantage.
And while the Eagles' energetic defensive pressure, created by a man-to-man scheme that was less typical last season, forced 25 turnovers and elevated the tempo, their inability to shoot well (15 for 51 from the field for 29.4%) helped keep the Sailors (1-1) within striking distance most of the way.
Newport Harbor, under first-year coach Shelly VanDusen and coming off a 4-22 season in which it lost its last 15 games, had seven turnovers in the first 3:20 and had as many or more turnovers than minutes played until early in the third period. The Tars, who opened their season with a 40-31 win over Laguna Beach last week, also missed more than a handful of layups.
But the Tars settled down enough to score the final eight points of the first quarter to take an 8-7 lead, and showed the kind of competitiveness and athleticism that will figure to pay off down the road.
Three Eagles scored 11 points, including senior guard Celia Duran, the Newport-Mesa Player of the Year last season, when she also earned All-CIF recognition. Sophomore guard Maya Van Den Heever also had 11 points, as did junior guard Slade Garnett. Duran, Van Den Heever and senior forward Lehua Alama-Jordan all had four rebounds to lead the smaller Eagles, who were bested in that department, 40-27.
Senior Jennifer Lopez had 12 points, seven rebounds and four steals to lead the way for the perennial Sunset League doormat (0-20 in league the last two seasons), which VanDusen wants to give more of a fighting chance.
Newport Harbor made 12 of 42 field-goal tries (28.6%).
"We're completely focused on fundamentals," said VanDusen, who coached the Sailors' junior varsity last season and the frosh-soph the year before. "We're focused on building this program back up again. We're ready to work and these girls have improved so much already."
In addition to Lopez, senior forward Jennifer Raya chipped in eight points and six rebounds, while senior Bela Raimondi had six points and four rebounds and junior guard Sammie Yeager collected a game-high 10 rebounds off the bench.
"That's how we play when we don't shoot well," Estancia Co-Coach Judd Fryslie said. "We were rushing every shot."
Co-Coach Xavy Castellano said the "helter-skelter" tempo led to some rushed shots, but he was happy with Estancia's defense.
"Our pressure was good," Castellano said. "And I thought Slade Garnett's defense on their best player was great."
Fryslie also singled out the defensive play of senior guard Stephanie Garcia.
Estancia was without senior starting center Michelle Simmons (knee), as well as key junior reserve Giana Guyot (hamstring), Castellano said. "But we should get Simmons back for Wednesday. Wednesday is going to be tough, because we play CdM [at 7:30 p.m.], which is a lot bigger and taller than us."
Estancia, which committed just four fouls, only one in the first half, opened the second half with a 9-3 run and also scored the first seven points of the fourth period to cap a 9-0 surge.
Duran had three assists, two steals and one blocked shot, while Van Den Heever had two assists, two blocks and one steal.
CdM Tip-Off Tournament