Marina boys’ basketball retires jerseys of Cherokee Parks, Rich Branning
Long after the final whistle was blown Friday night, former Marina High boys’ basketball point guard Rich Branning stood near the free throw line in the Vikings’ gym.
Branning, who went on to lead Notre Dame to four wins at dynastic UCLA in the late 1970s, gave some pointers to current Marina senior point guard Barak Simon.
It was a cool moment in a night full of them. At halftime of the Oil vs. Water rivalry game against Huntington Beach, Marina retired the jerseys of two its former greats, Branning (class of ’76) and Cherokee Parks (class of ’91).
The Vikings brought back former longtime coach Steve Popovich to introduce the players, and there were video tributes from the legendary college coaches of each player, Notre Dame’s Digger Phelps for Branning and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.
Parks, a hotly contested center recruit in high school, went on to play nine seasons in the NBA and currently works for the league in player development. He has maintained his local roots. He said before the game, he went to a get-together at a friend’s house in the Huntington Harbour that he used to go to when he was 12 years old.
“It was absolutely amazing to be here, and it was good to get the W [win],” Parks said. “W’s first, W’s first. But I really appreciate [Marina coach Nick] Racklin putting this together.”
Marina made sure the night indeed ended in the win column, holding on for a 71-65 win over Huntington Beach in the Sunset Conference crossover game.
Senior guard Bodhi Armstrong scored a team-high 19 points for Marina (15-9), which snapped a four-game losing streak. Senior guard Nate Puskas and sophomore guard Mark Yeager added 15 points each.
Armstrong was aggressive early, scoring eight points in the first quarter to help the Vikings build their lead over Huntington Beach (11-12).
“He’s our senior vocal leader — he plays that role,” Racklin said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever had a player where when he makes a three, the entire team’s energy goes through the roof. They feed off him making shots. They feed off his energy.”
The Vikings led 30-22 at halftime, then used back-to-back three-pointers from Yeager, eventually taking a 16-point lead as Sam Schoeff scored in the lane.
Marina led 52-37 after three quarters, but Racklin knew it wasn’t over.
“No matter if we’re really good and they’re not, or they’re really good and we’re not, or we’re even, this particular game is never a blowout,” he said. “It’s always close, always a battle.”
Huntington Beach freshman Oliver Nakra nearly brought the Oilers all the way back. He scored 12 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of makes from deep.
Senior guard Tyler Mangold also scored all 10 of his points in the final frame for Huntington Beach, which rallied to within four points before a deep three-pointer by Marina’s Simon with 3:40 left in the game.
The Oilers again cut the lead to four in the closing minute, but Marina, which made all 10 of its fourth-quarter free throws, held on for the win.
“We’ve been in those situations so many times,” Armstrong said. “We’re so used to it. Our team’s not scared of the moment; we always live up to it.”
Huntington Beach, which is winless halfway through Wave League play but does own an impressive overtime victory against Fountain Valley, should get reinforcements soon in the form of senior starters Luke Kumaric and Aaron Heller. Kumaric is a four-year varsity player.
“Luke has got a heart thing he’s getting checked out, and Aaron had a high ankle sprain,” coach Tino Zaragoza said. “We’re hoping to get them back by the Edison game [on Wednesday]. That’s the goal.
“I told our guys, we’re not dead yet. When we get our two guys back, we’re as good as anyone. We’ve just got to keep battling.”
After hosting Edison, the Oilers resume Wave League play at first-place Newport Harbor on Friday night.
Marina is on the road for its next two games, first at Laguna Beach on Wednesday before coming back to Surf League competition at Edison on Friday.
Oil vs. Water game
Marina 71, Huntington Beach 65
SCORE BY QUARTERS
H. Beach 13 – 9 – 15 – 28 — 65
Marina 17 – 13 – 22 – 19 — 71
HB — O. Nakra 23, Labistre 16, Mangold 10, Okor 9, Via 5, Steiner 2.
3-pt. goals — O. Nakra 4, Mangold 2, Labistre 1, Via 1.
Fouled out — None.
Technicals — None.
M — Armstrong 19, Puskas 15, Yeager 15, Simon 10, Palacio 5, Schoeff 3, O'Rourke 2, Pratali 2.
3-pt. goals — Yeager 3, Armstrong 2, Simon 1.
Fouled out — None.
Technicals — None.
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