As the door slammed to the Mira Costa High locker room, basketball Coach Glenn Marx shrugged and smiled.
"I want them to be a little disappointed," he said of his players.
Minutes earlier, the Mustangs had the door to first place in the Ocean League slammed in their faces as Morningside pulled away in the second half for a 63-41 victory Friday night at Mira Costa.
Chalk up another victim to the Morningside Meltdown.
Mira Costa had an eight-game winning streak, a share of first place and a 27-25 lead early in the third quarter against the South Bay's top-rated team. The possibility of an upset looked promising.
Then, over a five-minute stretch, the bottom dropped out of the Mustangs' plans.
Morningside turned up the defensive pressure, and by the end of the third quarter enjoyed a 44-33 lead on its way to a fifth league win without a loss. Mira Costa fell to 4-1.
"Once we get into our flow, it's hard to stop us," Co-Coach Ron Randle said. "We wanted to get that extra defensive effort. We turned it up a notch and that changed the game. The meltdown works."
Morningside's philosophy is simple. The Monarchs, utilizing a deep bench, harass opponents with full-court defensive pressure until they crack.
Friday night, that moment occurred three minutes into the third
quarter, which, to Mira Costa's credit, is later than it usually takes the Monarchs.
"You can never relax," lamented Marx, whose team had 24 turnovers.
Leading 34-30, Morningside held the Mustangs without a point for more than four minutes of the third quarter while reeling off a 10-0 run.
"That did it," Marx admitted. "But given the quality of Morningside and the nature of the game, I thought we played quite well. We were competitive for a good chunk of the game. (Morningside) is going to make a lot of teams in the CIF look bad.
"We have a lot of games between now and the next time we play them (Feb. 6 at Morningside). We learned some things. Next time I think we'll know we can play with them."
For a half, at least.
Randle said Morningside concentrated on stopping Chris Hobbs, Mira Costa's sharpshooting guard, in the second half.
"We wanted to deny Hobbs the ball and force him to go to his right," he said.
The plan apparently worked. The left-handed Hobbs, who scored 11 points in the first half, was shut out in the third quarter and scored his only points of the second half on a three-point shot late in the game after Morningside had built a 57-38 lead.
Marx was disappointed that none of Mira Costa's other players could pick up the scoring slack. Hobbs, with 14, was the only Mustang in double figures.
The game seemed to get away from Mira Costa (10-4 overall) after forward Mike Ashenfelter suffered through one of life's embarrassing moments early in the third quarter.
With the Mustangs trailing by four, 32-28, the 6-foot-8 Ashenfelter broke away for an uncontested basket after a Morningside turnover. But as he planted his feet for a dunk, he slipped on his back, turning the ball over.
It was the beginning of the end for Mira Costa.
As usual, Morningside (14-3 overall) received well-balanced scoring, with three players in double figures.
Swingman Tyrone Paul led the way with 19 points, including 14 in the second half, followed by freshman Stacis Boseman with 11 and guard Martel Bland with 10. Bland also had 10 assists and four steals. Center Jeff Crowe (6-7) and forward Arthur Savage (6-6) dominated the boards with 10 and eight rebounds, respectively.
The 6-3 Boseman, without question the most talented ninth-grader in the area, kept the Monarchs ahead in the second quarter when he scored nine of their 11 points, including a twisting drive to the basket and a three-point shot.
"He's a special freshman," said Co-Coach Carl Franklin.
Palos Verdes' basketball team defeated Inglewood on Friday night to complete a 3-0 week in the
Bay League. The Sea Kings, who also defeated Torrance and Leuzinger, are tied for third with Leuzinger at 3-2.
It was a marked improvement from the first week of league play, when Palos Verdes suffered lopsided losses to Hawthorne and Santa Monica.
The Sea Kings will play host to second-place Beverly Hills (4-1) at 7:30 Wednesday night in a key game.
Hawthorne (5-0), meanwhile, stayed atop the Bay standings with a 69-58 victory over Beverly Hills on Friday. The game, orginally scheduled to be played at Beverly Hills, was switched to Hawthorne because of a leak in the roof of Beverly Hills' gym.
Rolling Hills (1-4) snapped a four-game losing streak, the longest of Coach Cliff Warren's career, with an 89-84 overtime win over Santa Monica.
Who says El Segundo can't compete in the Camino Real League in basketball?
The Eagles contend they don't belong in the same league with the Camino Real's traditional Catholic powers, but Friday night they showed no signs of being in over their heads. They knocked St. Anthony out of undisputed first place with a 79-76 upset in Long Beach.
Forward Tate Seefried led El Segundo with 24 points, including two free throws with 14 seconds left. Guards Craig Friesen and Scott Panfil added 20 and 18, respectively.
It was the first league defeat for St. Anthony, which had beaten St. Monica, St. Bernard and Serra in its first three games.
Pacific League basketball teams were 0-4 against their rivals from the Southern League in conference games Friday.
Carson fell to Crenshaw, 82-80, San Pedro lost to Gardena, 57-56, Narbonne was beaten handily by Dorsey, 66-50, and Banning lost to Washington, 78-69, despite a career-high 36 points from junior forward Jabari Anderson.
It was the third straight loss for Narbonne (11-6 overall, 0-3 in conference play), which has cooled off since its impressive victory over Leuzinger in the final of the Torrance Holiday Tournament.