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Pacifica Christian Orange County boys’ basketball steps up to top Corona del Mar at Beach Bash

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Pacifica Christian Orange County’s Houston Mallette scrambles to get his hands on a loose ball before Corona del Mar’s Matt DeCrona, left, does in a pool-play game of the CdM Beach Bash on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Still not quite one-third into their high school boys’ basketball season, both teams are clearly not where they will eventually be. But Pacifica Christian Orange County and host Corona del Mar also showed a considerable amount of what they are in Thursday night’s CdM Beach Bash pool-play matchup.

Pacifica Christian, despite being without two starters, showed a little bit more to claim a 64-54 victory to finish 2-0 in Pool A and advance to a semifinal game Friday against Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos at 7 p.m. at Vanguard University. The other semifinal is between Edison and powerhouse Mater Dei at 7:30 p.m. at CdM.

The Tritons, ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division 2A poll, used defensive intensity, relentless rebounding and enough shot-making to improve to 8-1 and produce their seventh straight win.

The Sea Kings (5-2) battled back in both halves to remain competitive, though their winning streak was halted at five.

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CdM will meet Santa Barbara Friday at 6 p.m. at home in an adjusted matchup to avoid a clash with Sunset League rival Los Alamitos, which finished second in its pool.

Junior Houston Mallette had 12 of his team-leading 21 points after halftime to help the visitors pull away and hold on in the fiercely contested game.

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Pacifica Christian Orange County’s Charles Erving takes a shot over Corona del Mar’s Efe Gucoglu in a pool-play game of the CdM Beach Bash on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Mallette had seven rebounds and hit all six of his free-throw attempts for the winners, who received 19 points and eight rebounds from senior guard Charles Erving.

The Tritons played without St. Mary’s College commit Judah Brown (averaging 15 points per game) and Timmy Bahadoor, but they didn’t appear to be lacking in any department.

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“That kind of game and intensity is what we’re looking for [this early in the season], Pacifica Christian coach Jeff Berokoff said. “The kids stepped up and that was a really good win for us.”

CdM coach Ryan Schachter credited the Tritons’ defense as the primary factor.

“[The Tritons] played hard and gave us the most pressure we’ve faced this year,” Schachter said. “We really struggled to get into an offense and they made it really hard for us to have any type of flow and rhythm on the offensive end.”

The Tritons’ defense was particularly stifling early in the third quarter, when CdM missed its first eight shots to mount a stint of just more than seven minutes without a field goal. The visitors’ shut-down defense allowed them to turn a 29-25 halftime lead into a 44-32 advantage heading in the final quarter.

CdM, with senior guard Jack Stone producing 12 of his 21 team-high points in the fourth quarter, pulled to within 59-52 with 1:06 left. But the Tritons hit 11 of their 12 fourth-quarter free-throw attempts to hold on.

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Corona del Mar’s Jack Stone, left, is fouled by Pacifica Christian Orange County’s Charles Erving in a pool-play game of the CdM Beach Bash on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Senior Elijah Paschal chipped in 13 points for the winners, while senior Jack McKenna (12 points) and freshman Efe Gucoglu combined for 21 points off the bench to provide a spark for CdM.

“CdM plays really hard and executes its offense and is really hard to guard,” Berokoff said. “And they do a great job scouting, so I will take our effort tonight. They missed some shots [19 for 51 from the field], but our intensity was there. We got our hands in there, had some good energy and made plays with some good attitude. That kind of created a cushion for us and we were able to keep them at bay.”

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The Tritons were CIF Southern Section Division 4AA finalists last season and return St. Mary’s College commit Judah Brown and Houston Mallette.

Corona del Mar Beach Bash

Pool play

Pacific Christian Orange County 64, Corona del Mar 54

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Pacifica Christian O.C. 14 – 15 – 15 – 20 — 64

Corona del Mar 7 – 18 – 7 – 22 — 54

PCOC – Mallette 21, Erving 19, E. Paschal 13, Jiwani 5, Sims 4, Sharer 2.

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3-pt. goals – Mallette 3, E. Paschal 2, Erving 1, Jiwani 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

CdM – Stone 21, McKenna 12, Gucoglu 9, DeCrona 6, Buckholz 4, Hamilton 2.

3-pt. goals – McKenna 4, Stone 2, Gucoglu 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

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