The Corona del Mar High boys’ basketball team spent six days in Hawaii before the new year began. Nine days after the Sea Kings returned home from playing in a tournament and enjoying themselves, they faced their first test in the Pacific Coast League.
Their trip to Honolulu was not long enough. The Sea Kings looked exhausted late at University on Tuesday, yet they only trailed by one with 31 seconds to go.
What haunted them next was something that did for most of the night. The Sea Kings turned the ball over again while being pressured.
University’s Alex Bray intercepted a pass near midcourt. The senior raced the other way, until Ben Coffman fouled Bray, putting him at the free-throw line with 27 seconds left. Coffman, CdM’s point guard fouled out, and Bray was on his way to converting two free throws.
Bray made five of six free throws in the final minute, sealing the Trojans’ 82-78 win. University opened league play by taking down defending champion CdM.
Bray finished with 27 points, spoiling CdM senior Kevin Kobrine’s spectacular 37-point and 27-rebound performance. Kobrine carried the Sea Kings throughout, flying through the lane for layups and an alley-oop dunk, and grabbing almost every CdM rebound. He went coast-to-coast a couple of times, finishing near the rim.
Kobrine was unstoppable, making 15 of 22 shots. After missing his first shot in the first quarter, Kobrine made 12 straight baskets. The streak ended when he missed a shot with 4:31 left in the third quarter, but Kobrine grabbed the offensive rebound and scored to give CdM a 55-49 lead.
But the 6-foot-5 Kobrine isn’t the player CdM counts on to handle the ball whenever it faces a full-court press or trap. As a result, the Trojans took advantage of the Sea Kings’ sloppy dribbling and passing.
The Sea Kings turned the ball over 24 times. With the game on the line, Bray knew when No. 24 would take place.
“Their whole game plan was to get the ball back to their point guard [Coffman], even when we were pressing,” Bray said. “I just denied [Coffman] the entire time up the court, and then when I saw that they kept trying to give it to him, I was like, ‘All right. We got to get this steal here.’ I saw that [Jake Hamilton] was going to hand it off and I just went for it.”
The rest was history for Bray and the Trojans (11-4, 1-0 in league), ranked No. 11 in the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA poll.
University knocked off a program that had won 10 of its past 11 league games. The only team to beat CdM during the 11-game stretch was Northwood last season.
At times we couldn’t handle [the press], but I think it came down to free throws.
Corona del Mar coach Ryan Schachter
The league this season appears like it will be a three-team race between Northwood (14-4, 1-0), ranked No. 14 in Division 2AA, University and CdM (10-5, 0-1), No. 16 in Division 2AA. This was the kind of start the Trojans, who shared third place last season, wanted.
“We have CdM and Northwood right off the bat, so it was really important to at least get one of the two, and we got one,” said University coach Mike Dinneen, whose team plays at Northwood on Friday, while CdM plays host to Beckman next. “When we push the ball, we’re really good. When we get away from pushing the ball and we get a little deeper into the shot clock, we’re not that effective, but Alex made some big plays right down the stretch.”
Bray, who struggled in the second half with his shot, making only two of 11 attempts and none in the fourth quarter, still attacked with the game on the line. The 6-5 Bray averages 27.7 points per game, and he knows there are other ways to get points.
Bray got to the free-throw line three times in the final 44 seconds, converting five of six attempts. He came up huge, especially after only making one of four free throws in the first 26 minutes.
Bray’s first successful pair of throws gave University a 78-77 lead. The Sea Kings had taken a one-point lead after consecutive layups by John Humphreys during a 39-second span.
Humphreys turned it on in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 of his 27 points. But the sophomore and the Sea Kings struggled from the free-throw line. As a team, CdM made 13 of 25 free throws.
“At times we couldn’t handle [the press], but I think it came down to free throws,” said CdM coach Ryan Schachter, adding that missing shots in the paint and allowing offensive rebounds also “killed” his team.
Kevin Yahampath, Bray and Andrea Roy burned CdM with second-chance opportunities. Yahampath nailed five three-pointers, and Bray and Andrea Roy each had three from behind the arc.
“No. 13 is good,” said Schachter, referring to Yahampath, who had 22 points on eight-for-16 shooting. “[Roy] came in [off the bench] and he was the difference. He knocked three [three-pointers] down [and finished with 11 points]. That’s a guy we that have to help off of and bank on him missing because we really have to help a lot out on Bray and their point guard, Yahampath.”
University 82, Corona del Mar 78
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Corona del Mar 18 – 23 – 19 – 18 — 78
University 16 – 23 – 25 – 18— 82
CdM – Kobrine 37, Humphreys 27, Coffman 4, Hamilton 3, Garza 2, Stone 2 Thabit 2, Schimmelpfennig 1.
3-pt. goals – Hamilton 1.
Fouled out – Coffman.
Technicals – None.
U – Bray 27, Yahampath 22, Roy 11, Muniz 8, Liu 6, Stenta 5, Duncan 3.