This might be the season the Costa Mesa High boys’ basketball team wins its first outright league title.
With Laguna Beach and Godinez leaving the Orange Coast League, the league will have a new champion.
The Mustangs look like they will be that team. They stated their case Wednesday, despite not having one of their top players.
Nico Dasca missed his second straight game, and Costa Mesa still opened league play with an impressive 83-33 win over visiting Orange.
The Mustangs didn’t really need Dasca, whom coach Mike Ofer said was out with a back injury. Osman Hefner (28 points), Tre Villalpando (24), Gio Quero (15) and Ethan Elliott (10) provided the scoring for Costa Mesa, and they teamed up to slow down Orange’s 6-foot-9 Zack Porter.
Porter’s size never created problems for Costa Mesa, which improved to 5-5 overall. Porter, who finished with 11 points, struggled against the smaller and quicker Mustangs, who forced seven first-quarter turnovers and built a 24-6 lead.
Orange’s debut in the league got off a tough start. The Mustangs closed out the opening quarter on a 14-0 run.
“We went in a little nervous because … Nico was out,” Ofer said. “We had to make a decision that we’d rather rest him now, so we didn’t know what we were going to get tonight. But we talked in there about playing together, playing help defense together, offense together, rebounding together, and we really showed it. We came out with fire.
“I’m very proud of my guys. It’s the best we’ve played all year. Hopefully we can maintain that [level of play] because each league game is going to bring a different challenge.”
Ofer said Dasca’s injury has been an ongoing issue. If Dasca is unavailable for a long period, the Mustangs could possibly run into some trouble in the league.
Costa Mesa has its eyes set on winning league, something it has only done twice in the program’s history. And each time the Mustangs shared first, in the Golden West League in 2005-06 and in the Pacific Coast League in 2000-01.
Being the favorite is a different role for Costa Mesa.
“I think we do feel like we got a little bit of a target on our back,” said Ofer, whose team placed second in the league last season, his first at the helm. “I know Orange [will be tough] with [its] big kid [in Porter], and, you know, Estancia always is a tough game because it’s a rivalry. You never know what you’re going to get in our league.”
That hasn’t always been the case.
The league, in its 13th season, has only seen the Breakers and Grizzlies finish on top, Laguna Beach 10 times and Godinez twice. They’re gone now, Laguna Beach went to the Wave League and Godinez to the Golden West League.
With the additions of Orange and Santa Ana, the Orange Coast League won’t be as top heavy. Last season, the Panthers split fourth in the Golden West League and the Dons came in last.
But even if Laguna Beach and Godinez had stayed in the Orange Coast League, Ofer believes his Mustangs would be contending for first this season. They’re that talented.
Hefner and Dasca are scorers, and Villalpando can also score in bunches.
Villalpando showed that against Orange (2-9). The senior guard finished 12-for-15 shooting, all of his 24 points coming on layups.
Hefner, another senior guard, made 10 of 23 shots, including three three-pointers, and added 11 rebounds and four steals.
Quero, filling in for Dasca, started and the guard made a difference right away, scoring seven points in the first quarter. The sophomore also had three three-point plays.
“We had to have a lot of people step up because Nico was out,” Villalpando said. “We’ve been preparing for this for a while.”
As for when the Mustangs expect Dasca to return to the lineup, Villalpando said he hopes by Friday against Calvary Chapel, and Hefner said in a couple of weeks.
“I believe he has a pinched nerve in his back,” Hefner said of Dasca. “He’s been in a lot of pain. He tried warming up earlier today. He was actually planning on playing, but, you know, when he was warming up, it just wasn’t really looking so good.”
Orange Coast League
Costa Mesa 83, Orange 33
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Orange 6 – 8 – 10 – 9 — 33
Costa Mesa 24 – 17 – 35 – 7 — 83
O – Sojo 13, Porter 11, Jacobs 3, Tapia 3, Tran 2, Silva 1.
3-pt. goals – Sojo 3, Tapia 1, Jacobs 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
CM – Hefner 28, Villalpando 24, Quero 15, Elliott 10, Williamson 2, Palmblade 2, Cobbs 2.
3-pt. goals – Hefner 3, Quero 2.
Fouled out – None.