In the desert, in triple-digit heat, and on asphalt, Nic Sargeant has the urge to play basketball. He misses the sport that much.
Sargeant is spending spring break in La Quinta, where he and a half dozen of his closest friends rented out a house with a pool. A volleyball net is set up in the back, but if it were up to Sargeant, there would also be a portable basketball goal.
Sargeant last suited up for the Newport Harbor High boys' basketball team on Feb. 21. Almost two months have passed since the Sailors' season ended in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2AA playoffs.
There is one more game left in Sargeant, one more game to represent his school on the basketball court. And that's why he's coming home early, leaving all the fun and heat behind in the desert, just to compete again.
Sargeant is playing in the 49th edition of the Orange County North-South All-Star Game at Concordia University on Saturday at 7 p.m. Every player will get at least 8 minutes of action, 4 for every half. If 8 minutes is all Sargeant is limited to, fans will see Sargeant make the most of his time.
Sargeant gave it his all every time he stepped in the gym. He willed the Sailors to their best Sunset League finish in six seasons. Placing third, with Sargeant as the lone returning starter on the team, was no easy task in the brutal league.
None of it came easy, yet Sargeant, a 5-foot-11 guard, accepted the daily challenge. His senior season proved to be his best and the one in which Sargeant earned the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year award in boys' basketball.
During his three seasons as a starter, Sargeant matured and the team grew competitive. He listened and assumed a leadership role. Every season Newport Harbor improved, from fifth place, to fourth, and then third.
The Sailors qualified for the postseason for the second straight time this past season. The consecutive playoff appearances marked the Sailors' first since the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons, their first two back in the Sunset League.
Those two seasons were also the last time Newport Harbor didn't finish with a losing record. Then Sargeant, in the past two seasons, led the Sailors each time to a 14-14 overall record.
Coach Bob Torribio wasn't kidding when he said the Sailors relied on Sargeant to make plays. And he delivered, leading the team in points (17.5), rebounds (seven), assists (3.6), three-pointers (1.8) and steals (1.7) per game.
"It was easy to play at Newport because of all the support from coaches and players," said Sargeant, who's also a standout libero on the Newport Harbor boys' volleyball team. "The program has a really good future [with Torribio]."
Torribio is the one who called Sargeant's number when the team needed a big shot. One Sargeant will never forget is the three-pointer he knocked down from just inside midcourt as time expired to lift the host Sailors to a 56-55 win against Marina. The three proved to be the difference in Newport Harbor finishing third in league at 5-5 and not sharing it with Marina.
Sargeant and the Sailors made the playoffs, Marina stayed home. The postseason run lasted just one round at No. 2-seeded Foothill, where the Sailors lost, 82-55. Sargeant ended up with a career-best 29 points and seven three-point plays, six from behind the arc.
While the outcome wasn't in his team's favor, Sargeant fought to the end.
"You got to love his heart. You got to love his tenacity. You got to love his competitiveness," Torribio said afterward. "He never wants to give up. He wants the ball in his hands. He wants to make plays. He's going to dive on the floor. He's going to take charges. He's going to buy into whatever game plan we have."
One more game plan is there for Sargeant to execute on Saturday. Many of the top seniors in the county will take the court, and Sargeant, a two-time Dream Team and first-team All-Sunset League selection, will surely belong.
Sargeant plans to work up more of a sweat than he did earlier this week in the desert with friends.
Below are the rest of the players on this year's Dream Team:
The senior shooting guard lit up the scoreboard for the Eagles, averaging 19.7 points per game to lead the area in scoring for the second straight season. Mendoza's scoring average ranked No. 6 in Orange County and his 100 three-pointers No. 2 in the county. He earned first-team All-Orange Coast League honors. In the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 3A playoffs, he finished with 29 points and five three-pointers to lift Estancia, an at-large team, to a 55-49 upset at No. 11-seeded Indio. Mendoza is a two-time Dream Team selection.
Bo St. Geme
Corona del Mar
The junior point guard missed the Sea Kings' first nine game of the season because he starred at wide receiver during CdM's long and historic football season. St. Geme made an immediate impact on the court, leading the Sea Kings to a share of the Pacific Coast League title, their first first-place finish in three seasons. On a balanced offense, he averaged 10.2 points per game, 3.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.4 three-pointers per game, while making 84% of his free throws. St. Geme garnered first-team All-Pacific Coast League laurels.
Corona del Mar
The senior guard emerged as an all-around asset for the Sea Kings with his ability to handle the ball, shoot from the outside, drive and defend. Flamson handled the point guard duties at the start of the season, until Bo St. Geme joined the team and Jeff Johnston returned from injuries. In his first season as a starter, Flamson averaged 8.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game and made the first-team All-Pacific Coast League. He helped CdM claim the Battle of the Bay rivalry against Newport Harbor for the sixth straight time.
The senior point guard ran the floor for the Mustangs, helping them record 19 overall wins to tie the program's single-season record. Comer, a first-team All-Orange Coast League pick, averaged 14 points per game. He keyed Costa Mesa's runner-up finish, the program's first since the 2008-09 season, and the Mustangs' fourth straight CIF Southern Section playoff appearance. Comer also could score, putting up 26 points, to go with seven rebounds and four assists in a league win against Calvary Chapel, and 20 points, six assists and three steals in a nonleague win against Cypress.
The senior shooting guard delivered late in contests for the Mustangs. Hefner made sure Costa Mesa took the Battle for the Bell rivalry against Estancia for the third consecutive season, averaging 26.5 points and four three-pointers during the two-game series. At Godinez, he knocked down three three-pointers in the last couple of minutes of the fourth quarter to force overtime, where Costa Mesa prevailed. The Mustangs finished one game ahead of third-place Godinez. Hefner averaged 14 points per game and received first-team All-Orange Coast League honors. Hefner is a two-time Dream Team selection.
Corona del Mar
The junior forward gave the Sea Kings valuable minutes whether he started or came off the bench. Without Fults, CdM doesn't beat Northwood, 43-42, to split the Pacific Coast League title in the league finale. His layup on a backdoor lob play with 5 seconds left, and steal on the ensuing inbound secured Coach Ryan Schachter's fifth league crown in eight seasons. Fults, a second-team All-Pacific Coast League pick, averaged 6.9 points, four rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. His best performance (10 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and three steals) came at Irvine.