Newport Harbor High needed a lot of grit and more than a little luck to claim its first Sunset League boys' basketball league title since the 1979-80 season.
The Sailors got plenty of both to pull out a dramatic 48-47 victory over visiting Los Alamitos on Thursday night.
The Sailors shared the league championship with Edison at 8-2. They held off Los Alamitos' frantic second-half rally. Griffins star Jacob Eyman had a chance to tie it or give Los Alamitos the lead at the free-throw line with 2.7 seconds to play, but the senior missed both free throws.
Sam Barela's 10-foot jumper with 15 seconds to go was the difference after Los Alamitos rallied from a 10-point deficit to go ahead on William Henriksen's fifth three-pointer of the game with 22 seconds to play.
The 6-foot-8 Eyman, who just pulled out of a commitment to play at UTEP, had to sit through Newport Harbor timeouts before each of his free-throw attempts after Jake Bashore fouled him at the hoop.
Bashore grabbed the rebound on the second miss, was fouled as he dished the ball to Barela. Bashore missed the front end of a one-and-one situation with a second to go. The buzzer went off before anyone could grab the rebound, and the Sailors' student section flooded onto the floor to celebrate with the team.
The league title marked Newport Harbor's first since the 2001-02 season, when it won it in the Sea View League. The Sailors, who rejoined the Sunset League in 2006-07, had been waiting for a Sunset League championship for quite some time.
"It was crazy," Bashore said. "Everyone came out tonight, they wanted to support us. It's the greatest feeling. First place. ... We've been hoping all season for this. Our goal is always to get about 20 wins, and we did that, and [we're] one of the best teams in school history now. We'll see if we can perform in the playoffs."
Newport Harbor (21-6 overall) lost both meetings to Edison, so the Chargers earned the league's No. 1 entry into the postseason and the Sailors are the No. 2 entry. The league title was an unexpected achievement made possible when the Chargers dropped successive games on Jan. 31 to Los Alamitos and Tuesday at Fountain Valley.
Edison claimed its share of the championship for the second straight season with a 59-45 victory at Huntington Beach on Thursday. The Oilers went winless in league.
Robbie Spooner scored 13 points off the bench to lead the Sailors, Barela had 11 and Zack Swies added 10. Swies hit back-to-back three-pointers after third-place Los Alamitos (10-17, 6-4 in league) closed within two points early in the second half, but the Griffins' defensive game was far sharper than their attack.
Newport Harbor, which on Sunday will learn of its first-round opponent in the CIF Southern Section Division 2A playoffs, limited the Griffins to 20% shooting in the first half and 27% for the game. Dayne Chalmers grabbed nine rebounds and Bashore and Barela seven apiece to offset their size advantage inside.
The Sailors didn't shoot a whole lot better, just 34%, while making just six of 18 free throws, none of their four attempts in the fourth quarter.
"We were a little rushed [in our shot selection near the end]," Sailors coach Bob Torribio said. "But you know what, when we play so hard down there defensively, we're [going to] have some lapses offensively. We'll take the defensive effort and offensive mistakes every time."
Newport Harbor used a 9-0 run in the second quarter to open the first of two 10-point advantages. The Sailors led by nine, at 46-37, when Spooner hit the last of his three three-pointers with 3:47 to go. Then Los Alamitos, which like Edison is headed to the Division 1 playoffs, got hot as the Sailors went cold.
David Olcomendy scored on a drive through the lane and then hit a three-pointer, and Zach Ruiz scored on a layup after a steal with 2:26 remaining. Henriksen gave Los Alamitos the lead some two minutes later, setting the scene for Barela's game-winner and Eyman's missed free throws.
Torribio wasn't thinking so much about the league title when it was over.
"We're just enjoying the win over Los Al right now," he said. "We'll think about all that stuff tomorrow."
Newport Harbor 48, Los Alamitos 47
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Los Alamitos 8 – 10 – 17 – 12 — 47
Newport Harbor 12 – 13 – 15 – 8 — 48
LA – Henriksen 19, Olcomendy 8, Ruiz 7, Kent 6, Trinidad 4, Eyman 3.
3-pt. goals – Henriksen 5, Olcomendy 2, Kent 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
NH – Spooner 13, Barela 11, Swies 10, Harvey 7, Siegel 4, Chalmers 3.
3-pt. goals – Spooner 3, Swies 2, Barela 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.