BUENA PARK — As it will nearly all season, the Newport Harbor High boys' basketball team towered over its opponent Friday night. But while the presence of 7-foot senior Kevin Rakestraw continues to elevate the Sailors' game, their 70-50 triumph over host Buena Park in the semifinals of the Coyote Classic, showed they also have a level of competence well below the rim.
The Sailors not only stayed with the frenetic pace prompted by the smaller, feisty Coyotes (2-2), they showed they could flourish in a pressurized environment that produced a combined 56 turnovers in 32 minutes.
"That's a tough [Buena Park] team and we knew tonight was going to be a battle," said Newport Harbor Coach Bob Torribio, whose team forced 22 of the Coyotes' 31 turnovers by halftime. "Obviously they had no one to guard [Rakestraw, who produced 15 points by netting seven of eight field-goal attempts] inside. But when you're physical and you play hard, you can overcome a lot of limitations, height-wise."
While 6-5 senior Brian Robbs added 17 points and seven rebounds and Rakestraw chipped in seven boards and six blocked shots, the Sailors' guards also proved too much for Buena Park to overcome.
Senior point guard Robbie Rettig had 13 points, while junior Nic Sargeant contributed 11 points and seven assists to help the winners, who are 4-0 for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
The victory earned Newport Harbor a berth in Saturday's title game against Villa Park at 5 p.m. It also bumped its victory margin to an average of 18.5 points this season and continued to bolster a growing confidence.
"We thought we'd be good," said Torribio, in his first season as head coach after guiding the program on various occasions with the interim tag. "We had five seniors back who played a lot of minutes for us last year, so, on paper, we thought we'd be pretty good. I think we're showing that right now with our effort."
Effort trumped execution for both teams, particularly early. Buena Park had 14 of the 23 combined turnovers in the opening quarter, as the Sailors seized a 12-7 advantage.
The Tars scored the final five points of the first quarter, then opened the second period on an 8-0 run to establish command. Three three-pointers by Robbs and another by Sargeant in the remainder of the second period helped the Sailors take a 38-22 halftime lead.
Buena Park, which finished 22 of 69 from the field (31.9%) never got closer than 12.
The Sailors made 27 of 49 field-goal tries (55.1%), mixing 22 layups and follow shots with their five three-pointers.
"With us, it's the attack mentality that we've tried to establish from day one," Torribio said. "We've got guys that can put the ball on the floor. We've got a big guy that can run. We've got another big fella that complements him real well and rebounds. I like our effort a lot right now."
Torribio also liked the effort displayed by the Coyotes.
"They were fullcourt in our face," Torribio said of the hosts. "Every [Sailor] that touched the ball had a guy up on him. [The Coyotes] did a great job of playing help-side defense . If we did look to go by someone they did a great job rotating. Our shooters had a hand in their face all night. [Buena Park] did a good job."
Newport Harbor 70, Buena Park 50
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Newport 12 – 26 – 16 – 16 – 70
Buena Park 7 – 15 – 16 – 12 – 50
NH – Robbs 17, Rakestraw 15, Rettig 13, Sargeant 11, Wade 9, Davis 3, Bockrath 2.
3-pt. goals – Robbs 2, Sargeant 2.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
BP – De La Fuente 11, Brown 11, Quezeda 9, Timms 7, E. Vazquez 4, Scott 3, Cardona 3, Lewis 2.
3-pt. goals – Brown 1, Cardona 1, Scott 1.
Fouled out – Brown, Scott.
Technicals – None.