CORONA DEL MAR — Corona del Mar and Newport Harbor's girls' basketball teams came into Friday night's Battle of the Bay rivalry game with a key similarity.
Both squads are relying heavily on a pair of freshmen this year, but the Sea Kings separated themselves from the Sailors with their length and height advantage. Corona del Mar's freshmen center and power forward duo — each standing over six-feet — of Krista Anderson and Natalie Bruening presented the mismatch and exploited it en route to a 30-point, 44-14, Sea Kings win over its rival at home.
"That's our game plan going into every game," Corona del Mar Coach Mark Decker said of his team's size advantage. "We got [Anderson and Bruening] the ball in good spots and if we can get the ball inside to them it opens it up for everybody else, and that was kind of the result tonight."
Bruening finished with 10 points, four blocks and five rebounds, but admitted to having some nerves in her first Battle of the Bay game. Those quickly disappeared when Corona del Mar opened the game on a 14-0 run.
It took 10 possessions for the Sailors (4-11) to get off their first shot, as they turned the ball over on their first nine possessions. By the time Newport got on the board, it was down 14-3 after a three-point shot from freshman McKenna Izzi with 10 seconds left in the first quarter.
"It's the same stuff we've been trying to work on since day one — just trying to have confidence, knowing when to penetrate through and when to actually pass," Newport Harbor Coach Justin Long said of the early struggles. "It seemed like we did the opposite, at that current time it was always the wrong decision."
While Bruening and Anderson have only been on the same high school team for 10 games, their chemistry is far more advanced. They seamlessly worked the give-and-go at times, fed each other with passes for easy scores in the paint and cleaned up each other's messes for easy put-backs throughout the game.
"We've been playing together for a really long time, since third grade, so we really know how to work with each other," Bruening said. "That's helped in high school."
Corona del Mar's size advantage didn't only mean good looks at the basket from Bruening and Anderson, who finished with seven points and six rebounds, but a wealth of turnovers. The Sea Kings (5-5) forced 24 turnovers and committed 15 of their own, as their length turned Newport's seemingly safe passes into points at the other end.
The Sea Kings' first three baskets — a three-pointer from Kate Thompson (five points, three steals) and jumper and layup from Keaton Gaughan — came off turnovers.
Maria King finished with eight points, four rebounds and three steals for Corona del Mar. Newport Harbor got gutsy performances from Jordan Perry (seven rebounds, three points) and freshman Jasmyn Winters, who pulled down six rebounds as a guard.
Newport Harbor got few, if any, easy scoring opportunities on the other end of the floor with Bruening and Anderson clogging the lane. It matched its first quarter output of three points in the second and third, as it endured a running clock in the fourth when Corona del Mar took a 30-point advantage on a layup from Katie Posert with 6:47 left in the game.
"We have two freshmen who are probably our top scorers, so it's growing pains," Long said. "There are a couple of games where it looks like our future looks bright and then there's reality checks."
While Decker is also heavily relying on two freshmen for success, he was much more upbeat about what the future holds for his program.
"[Size] is our advantage," he said, "and we're looking forward to having that advantage for four years."
Corona del Mar 44, Newport Harbor 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
CdM 14 – 13 – 12 – 5 – 44
NH 3 – 3 – 3 – 5 – 14
CdM – Bruening 10, King 8, Anderson 7, Thompson 5, Gaughan 7, Scott 3, Tam 2, Posert 2.
3-pt. goals – King 2, Thompson 1, Gaughan 1, Scott 1.
NH – Kremer 4, Perry 3, Izzi 3, Haas 2, Raimondi 2.
3-pt. goals – Izzi 1.