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High School Boys’ Basketball Preview: Pacifica Christian Orange County aiming high

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Pacifica Christian Orange County’s Houston Mallette, left, drives into Santa Margarita’s Selah Robins for a basket in a season opener on Nov. 20.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

It has been a quick rise for the Pacifica Christian Orange County High boys’ basketball team, almost as quick as 6-foot-7 senior forward Judah Brown rising for a slam dunk on the fast break.

The Tritons play in just their fourth varsity season in 2019-20. In two of the previous three, they made a CIF title game, including last year’s 52-49 loss to San Joaquin League rival Fairmont Prep in the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA final.

Pacifica Christian moved up three divisions to Division 2A this season and has the talent to hang with nearly every team in Orange County. It starts with Brown, a St. Mary’s College commit who averaged 16.4 points and 10 rebounds a game last season. Junior point guard Houston Mallette is another key returner for the Tritons.

The team returns senior forward Josh Sims and added senior guard Charles Erving, a transfer from Segerstrom who shared the Golden West League MVP award last season.

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“We have a lot of games coming up against really good teams, but I believe in this group,” said Brown, whose team opened the season on Nov. 20 with a 63-53 win at Santa Margarita, a Division 4AA finalist last season, and two days later, the Tritons lost 83-77 at home to Temecula Rancho Christian, which at the time was ranked No. 19 in the nation by MaxPreps.com.

“We have a special group and a special coaching staff [with coach Jeff Berokoff in charge].”

Judah Brown scores 19 points and Charles Erving adds 17 points, and the Tritons earn a 63-53 road victory over the Eagles on Wednesday.

The Surf League of the Sunset Conference also offers intrigue. Last season, Newport Harbor, Corona del Mar, Edison and Los Alamitos all finished tied for first place with a 2-2 record.

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Newport Harbor set a school record with 26 wins last season, but it lost key players like Sam Barela and Dayne Chalmers to graduation. Senior forward Robbie Spooner and junior guard Levi Darrow are the two returning starters for coach Bob Torribio.

Edison graduated guards Kaden Headington and Aiden Garnett but returns several key juniors, including Jackie Kwok, Brad Luna, Connor Collins and Luke Serven. Coach Rich Boyce said that defense will be a strength of the Chargers.

CdM returns a key player in senior guard Jack Stone, a Carnegie Mellon commit who averaged 14 points per game last season. But junior Adam Garza transferred to Capistrano Valley Christian and coach Ryan Schachter said that senior football players Ethan Garbers and John Humphreys elected not to return for the basketball team. Garbers is headed to play football at Washington and Humphreys at Stanford.

Marina is the defending Wave League champion but lost big pieces in Dream Team Player of the Year Jakob Alamudun (Lehigh) and Dean Keeler (UC Irvine) to graduation. Senior guard Ethan Barnella is a key returner for the Vikings, who coach Nick Racklin said should cede the league title to Laguna Beach.

The Breakers have 6-foot-7 junior Nolan Naess returning for what is coach Bret Fleming’s 25th season in charge.

Junior guard Jerimiah Davis is a key returner for Fountain Valley, and third-year coach D’Cean Bryant said he expects his team to be strong defensively and competitive. Huntington Beach has a first-year coach in Tino Zaragoza, who played at Vanguard. Zaragoza said that senior forward Michael Hennessy and senior guard Richard Imagawa are key returners for the Oilers.

Defending Orange Coast League champion Costa Mesa and Estancia will look to vie in the league, though Eagles coach Xavier Castellano said he considers Santa Ana the favorite. The Mustangs lost nine seniors to graduation and are very young. Estancia’s key returners include senior guards Marvin Harry and Brandon Pearson, senior forward Arthur Bishop and senior center Jake Covey.

Five-time defending Golden West League champion Ocean View, led by first-year coach Brendan Holmes, is young and will lean on junior forward Slater Miller as a key player.

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Brendan Holmes, a former Marina standout, leads the Seahawks to an 82-30 win over the Jaguars on Tuesday in the first round of the Jim Harris Classic.

Sage Hill, a Division 5AA finalist last season, lost senior center Johnny King (Pomona-Pitzer) to graduation. Senior forward and four-year starter Ryan Hosseinzadeh and junior guard Cooper Green will lead coach Billy Conlon’s Lightning. Sage Hill won its first league crown last season.

Los Amigos looks to contend in the Garden Grove League with a young team. Senior guard Charlie Doan, junior guard Marco Vasquez, junior forward Chris Gonzalez and sophomore forward Ata Khalil are among the key returners.

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