COSTA MESA — When the Costa Mesa High girls' basketball team met Newport Harbor in a November tournament, Mustangs senior Molly Settles missed the game to attend an event with the school's Business Academy.
But in the nonleague rematch on Wednesday at Newport Harbor, Settles, a 5-foot-8 wing, was definitely there to handle the business of basketball.
Settles, who had scored 70 combined points in 10 previous games this season, had 22 of her career-high 31 points by halftime to fuel the visitors' 54-30 triumph.
The 24-point margin was close to the 36-19 drubbing the Mustangs (8-3) handed the Sailors on Nov. 27 in the Corona del Mar Tip-Off Classic.
But the Newport Harbor scouting report that understandably may not included focusing on Settles, was quickly rendered useless.
Settles made her first five field-goal tries on her way to 12 points in the opening quarter, during which she single-handedly outscored the Tars by three.
All Settles did in the second quarter was make five of six shots from the field, once again bettering the hosts by three points all by herself.
"She was incredible, absolutely incredible tonight," Costa Mesa Coach Nichole Maddox said. "You can tell when players are just feeling it and from the very beginning, I just knew she was going to have a good game."
Settles drove to the basket for layups, but she also connected seven times before halftime from between 12 and 18 feet. She finished 14 of 22 from the field (63.6%), considerably better than the 37% accuracy she had displayed coming in (30 for 82).
Settles added eight rebounds, two steals and two assists, while earning praise from Maddox for her defense.
"I made every shot in warmup, so I was like, OK," Settles said. "But what mostly made me have a good game was just the all-around feel of my teammates. We came in and everyone was excited to play. Not one person was feeling down or anything, so that got me more pumped up. I was just having fun."
Mesa's full-court defensive pressure proved less than fun for the hosts (4-10), who committed 27 turnovers to see their losing streak extend to three.
The Sailors made just seven of 31 shots from the field in the first half (22.6%) and finished 22.4% for the game (13 of 58).
Costa Mesa shot a blistering 56.3% in the first half before settling for a 47.2% clip (25 for 53) for the game.
The Mustangs had 18 turnovers, but posted a 45-41 rebounding advantage.
Junior Alexa Loredo contributed nine rebounds, five assists and four points for the Mustangs, who have won four straight and are off to their best start in at least nine seasons.
Mesa sophomore Aubriona Mathis chipped in seven rebounds and six points off the bench, while junior Jacqueline Guerrero had five rebounds and four points.
"Everyone was involved in the game," Maddox said. "Even the players who came off the bench contributed.
"I think we're getting better all the way around as a team. We're learning more of the game together and I also think the [players] are developing confidence in themselves, because we're starting off pretty well and now they understand that they can win games."
Newport Harbor was led by junior guard Bela Raimondi, who had 12 points and five rebounds.
Sophomore Jordan Perry had 10 rebounds off the bench for the Tars.
Costa Mesa returns to action on Dec. 26 when it plays host to El Toro in the Costa Mesa Winter Classic.
Newport Harbor visits rival Corona del Mar in the Battle of the Bay clash on Friday at 6 p.m.
Costa Mesa 54, Newport Harbor 30
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Costa Mesa 19 – 19 – 7 – 9 — 54
Newport 9 – 7 – 10 – 4 — 30
CM – Settles 31, Mathis 6, Loredo 4, Guerrero 4, Obong 3, Kisino 3, Velador 2, Ford 1.
3-pt goals – Kisino 1.
NH – Raimondi 12, Winters 4, Izzi 4, Lopez 3, Haas 2, McClain 2, Perry 2, Kremer 1.
3-pt. goals – Raimondi 1, Lopez 1.