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Anchors down: Newport Harbor girls’ basketball arrives with first CIF title

Newport Harbor's Cydney Jover (23) goes up for a layup against Rancho Christian
Newport Harbor’s Cydney Jover (23) goes up for a layup against Rancho Christian in the CIF Southern Section Division 4A girls’ basketball championship game at Newport Harbor High on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.
(Courtesy of Willie Reichenstein)

The final seconds ticked off the clock, and the Newport Harbor High School girls’ basketball team was mobbed by a swarm of supporters.

The Sailors made history in defeating Temecula Rancho Christian 58-45 on Wednesday night in the CIF Southern Section Division 4A championship game at home.

Hanging in the rafters of the Newport Harbor High School gym are 64 banners recognizing the CIF Southern Section, regional and state titles won by the school. When the next one is raised in honor of the Sailors’ feat on their home floor, it will be the first one for boys’ or girls’ basketball.

“At the beginning of the season, we knew we had this potential,” junior point guard Cydney Jover said. “This was our goal from the beginning of the season, and we accomplished it. We’re not surprised. This was our goal. We did it.”

Jover paced the Sailors with 17 points, four assists and four steals. Junior guard Chase Dionio added 15 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals, and senior guard Daelyn Renee had eight points.

Newport Harbor's Chase Dionio (22) in the CIF Southern Section Division 4A girls' basketball championship game.
Newport Harbor’s Chase Dionio (22) drives to the basket in the CIF Southern Section Division 4A girls’ basketball championship game against Rancho Christian at Newport Harbor High on Wednesday.
(Courtesy of Willie Reichenstein)

Jillian Angell has been the head coach of the Sailors for six seasons. What is different about Newport Harbor (18-2) this year is the backcourt depth behind Jover. The Sailors got a combined 43 points out of their guards in the final.

Angell said it was a big help for the post players to be able to play in the paint with multiple ball-handlers on the floor this season.

Jover and Dionio had played together in middle school at Ensign, but Dionio said she moved away due to her parents’ work for some time. Their connection was evident when one of them would force a turnover, with the other breaking out in transition for a layup on the fastbreak.

“When I came back, it was like magic,” Dionio said. “It felt back to normal. I felt like I was back home.”

Newport Harbor also made its presence felt in the post, the predominant strength for the program over the past several seasons. Junior forward Emma Fults scored seven points and pulled down 17 rebounds. Senior forward Willa Rath added six points and seven rebounds, and junior forward Emma Coatsworth chipped in with three points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots. Junior guard Kate Bland also provided three points and a block.

Newport Harbor's Emma Coatsworth defends the paint against Rancho Christian.
Newport Harbor’s Emma Coatsworth defends the paint against Rancho Christian in the CIF Southern Section Division 4A girls’ basketball championship game at Newport Harbor High on Wednesday.
(Courtesy of Willie Reichenstein)

“I feel like I’m dreaming,” Fults said when asked when she felt winning the title was going to become a reality.

Rath fouled out of the game with four minutes to go. She was livid going to the bench, but less than a minute of game time had elapsed before she was cheering and smiling on the bench.

“Then she’s right back supporting the team every way that she can, and that’s why she was our captain this year,” Angell said. “That’s why she has been a four-year varsity starter. She has the passion, but she also has the mental intelligence to do what she needs and be where she needs.”

Shaylynn DeYager had 11 points and 14 rebounds for Rancho Christian (8-2). Tia Barefield added 14 points, and Irene Jirassevijinda had 10 points, seven rebounds and four steals.

The Newport Harbor girls' basketball team poses with the championship trophy.
The Newport Harbor girls’ basketball team poses with the championship trophy after beating Rancho Christian in the CIF Southern Section Division 4A final at Newport Harbor High on Wednesday.
(Courtesy of Willie Reichenstein)

Angell wore a blue shirt with white anchors all throughout it for the biggest game in program history. It was the first playoff appearance in 10 seasons for the Sailors. Angell said it was the second CIF finals appearance for the program, with the other coming in the 1993-94 season.

“I don’t even remember if I was head coach yet when I got this,” Angell said of the shirt. “I’m like, ‘Newport Harbor, I can’t pass up a sailor shirt.’ I just saw it in a store, and I bought it, and I save it definitely for the big games.”

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