By Barry Faulkner
11:16 PM PST, December 21, 2013
CYPRESS — When it comes to getting in the opponents' stuff, Newport Harbor High prides itself on being the team that gets to gettin'.
But in the championship game of the Oxford Academy tournament against Western on Saturday, it was the Sailors who wound up gotten.
The Pioneers (8-1) frustrated the Tars all night with smothering man-to-man defense and broke down the Sailors' stout defense just enough to come away with a 57-51 boys' basketball win at Oxford Academy.
"They are a heck of a defensive team and they gave us fits," Newport Harbor Coach Bob Torribio said of Western. "We haven't faced a defensive team like that all year. They are all up in our stuff. We had a hard time getting into our stuff there a little bit. When we attacked, we got what we were looking for. But whenever we tried to slow the ball down, they made us pay."
Newport Harbor (7-4), which came in on a five-game winning streak, battled the more talented Pioneers down to the final minutes. The designated home team was chasing throughout and trailed at halftime, 30-22.
But the Sailors turned up their defense and rebounding after intermission and eventually pulled even when senior Nic Sargeant made two free throws 11 seconds into the final quarter to knot the score at 37-37.
But that's when Western scored its next six field goals on layups, driving and dishing, driving and finishing, or merely pumping the ball inside to a pair of potent scorers.
Senior Justin Bryan, the tallest player on the floor at 6-foot-5, scored nine of his 17 points in the final quarter, including five during a 9-2 run that followed Sargeant's equalizing foul shots.
After Caleb O'Neil banked in a layup with 5:05 left to end the aforementioned Pioneers' run, Bryan struck again with a post-up layin.
Chase Davis answered with a three-pointer to pull the Tars within 48-44 with 4:17 remaining, but a double-lane violation gave Western the ball after the first of what was supposed to be two free throws and Bryan gashed the Sailors once again with a driving layup to put his team back in control.
The Sailors missed seven of their 21 free-throw attempts, including three in the final 3:49, to virtually let the Pioneers off the hook for missing seven of their 17, including four of five in the final 46 seconds.
Newport Harbor had 19 turnovers, while forcing 16 and finished 16 of 40 from the field (40%).
Western made 22 of 52 field-goal attempts (42.3%).
Sargeant, who was relentlessly shadowed all night, scored 11 of his team-high 14 in the first half, including a three-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer to pull the Sailors within 18-15.
Sargeant, the Sailors' all-tournament representative, had five of his team-best eight rebounds after intermission to help the Sailors post a 17-15 rebounding edge in the final two quarters after being bested, 17-10, on the glass in the opening half. Sargeant also had four assists and three steals and continues to spearhead his team, according to Torribio.
"He has been playing great the last couple weeks," Torribio said of the 5-10 guard. "He has provided senior leadership by coming to play every game and showing these younger guys what it takes to play varsity basketball."
Junior Ben Bockrath had all 10 of his points in the second half, including a pair of three-pointers. He added five rebounds.
Junior Chase Davis had eight of his 10 points after intermission and finished three of four from the field and the foul line for the Tars.
Sophomore Caleb O'Neil had seven points, five boards and provided strong interior defense for Newport, as did junior Garrett Davis, who had five rebounds, four points and one blocked shot.
"I'm happy with all our guys," Torribio said. "That was a heck of a high school basketball game."
Ausjai Fusick made nine layups on his way to a game-high 20 points and Jason Walker, the MVP of the tournament, had 13 points for the winners.
Oxford Academy tournament
Western 57, Newport Harbor 51
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Western 18 12 7 20 – 57
Newport – 15 7 13 16 – 51
WHS – Fusick 20, Bryan 17, Walker 13, Alanis 4, Batac 2, Monroy 1.
3-pt. goals – Walker 2.
Fouled out – Batac.
Technicals – None.
NH – Sargeant 14, Bockrath 10, C. Davis 10, O'Neil 7, G. Davis 4, Faris 4, Stanley 2.
3-pt. goals – Sargeant 2, Bockrath 2, C. Davis 1.
Fouled out – O'Neil.
Technicals – None.