The game plan Wednesday night for the Estancia High girls' basketball team against taller Corona del Mar was to play a more up-tempo game.
But the individual game plan for Estancia senior forward Michelle Simmons was to take her sweet time.
"We've worked hard on her shooting," Estancia Co-Coach Judd Fryslie said. "She's a good shooter in practice, and if she slows down and takes her time in a game, she's a good shooter there too. "
Simmons sure looked composed on a huge three-pointer late in the game, one that gave Estancia the lead back. From there, the Eagles made defensive plays to win, 56-50, in the CdM Tip-Off Tournament pool play game at CdM.
Estancia wins the four-team pool and advances to the tournament semifinals, where the Eagles will play El Modena at 7:30 p.m. Thursday back at CdM. The host Sea Kings will play Segerstrom in a fifth-place semifinal at 6 p.m. Thursday at CdM.
The Eagles (2-0) got a big offensive performance from Simmons, who scored 10 points. Her second three-pointer, with 1:25 left in the game, gave Estancia a 51-50 lead.
"I've been practicing," said Simmons, who missed the tournament-opening victory over Newport Harbor with a knee injury. "This game, I had to focus in on my rhythm and everything, and just get the shot in."
A jumper for CdM rimmed out with about a minute left, and Estancia sophomore guard Maya Van Den Heever (12 points) made a jumper from the left elbow on the other end to make the lead three points with 32 seconds left. CdM worked to set up a tying three-pointer, but never got a shot off. Instead, Estancia junior Eliza Jason stole the ball on the baseline.
The Eagles' Slade Garnett, a junior transfer from Texas, made one of two free throws with 12 seconds left. Then, after Garnett got her game-high seventh steal, she made two more free throws with a second to go.
"The addition of Slade Garnett is huge, offensively and defensively," Estancia Co-Coach Xavier Castellano said.
Senior guard Celia Duran, last year's Newport-Mesa Player of the Year, led the Eagles with 15 points. That tied her for game-high honors with CdM sophomores Natalia Bruening and Krista Anderson. Senior guard Keaton Gaughan had seven of her nine points in the fourth quarter for the Sea Kings.
Bruening, who is 6-foot-3, and the 6-1 Anderson did do their work inside, each corralling 12 rebounds. But the Sea Kings committed 27 turnovers; Estancia had 19.
Ten of CdM's turnovers came in the first quarter, which ended with Estancia up, 17-9.
"We knew coming in that we'd have to control the tempo, we'd have to hit three-pointers," Castellano said. "More importantly, on defense, we had to pressure that ball … The girls are really happy, you know. It's a district [opponent]."
Estancia's lead grew to as many as 12 points early in the second half, on a deep three-pointer from Duran. But CdM came all the way back, taking its first lead of the game at 48-46 on Gaughan's layup with 5:50 left in the game.
Gaughan kept leaking out in transition. Another layup by her gave CdM a 50-48 edge with 2:05 left, but Simmons' three pointer came soon after that.
"They did a better job than we did," CdM Coach Mark Decker said. "They did what they wanted to do, and we didn't … [Simmons' three came] in transition off a turnover. We had 27 turnovers, and you turn it over more than 17 times against a good team, you're not going to win. For us to even be close, we were lucky, to be honest.
"When you turn it over 27 times and play [defense] the way we didn't contest the three? Not a very good night."
Simmons made the Sea Kings pay.