The Estancia High boys’ basketball team was missing its head coach for the opening game of its Estancia Coast Classic tournament on Wednesday night.
Assistant coach Chris Sorce said that fifth-year head coach Xavier Castellano was unable to coach his alma mater because Castellano had emergency gall bladder surgery on Christmas Eve. Two nights later, Sorce was in charge as the Eagles took on Los Amigos.
Castellano hopes to be back coaching in the tournament by Friday, junior center and co-captain Jake Covey said. With Castellano’s persistent voice missing from the sidelines, that posed a problem.
“I think we all had to step up and get on each other,” Covey said. “We don’t have that normal voice that we’re used to hearing on the sideline. He usually calls out a lot of plays, and we echo it. Coach Sorce isn’t super-loud, so we had to kind of focus and communicate with each other well tonight.”
A hot start also helped the Eagles.
They made six three-pointers in the first quarter alone, on their way to a 78-51 win over the Lobos in the pool-play game at Estancia.
Estancia (10-7) has two games remaining in its four-team pool, starting with Jurupa Hills at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Brandon Pearson, a junior, led a well-balanced attack for Estancia against Los Amigos (2-13). He scored 13 points, including a trio of three-pointers.
Pearson and Cameron Khoury each made two from downtown in the first quarter, while senior Mason Richards and junior guard and co-captain Marvin Harry added one each. The Eagles took a commanding 23-11 lead.
“Our offense is basically based off of threes,” Harry said. “Once one person starts hitting, we all start hitting as a unit and contribute.”
Harry had 11 points, while Covey scored 10, Khoury had nine points and Richards scored eight. Senior Nathan Guyot scored six points, including a buzzer-beater to end the third quarter that pushed the hosts’ lead to 64-40.
Sorce said he was happy that he was able to get all 14 players into the game. Senior Anthony Hall came off the bench and hit consecutive three-pointers in the second quarter. Junior Jaycen Cash led the team with eight rebounds.
“[Castellano] was actually here [Wednesday] morning, and I told him, ‘Get out of here, you’re nuts,’” Sorce said. “But he bleeds Estancia Eagle red. I’m just trying to follow the plans that he lays out. The kids played hard, they did what we asked them to do and they had a good effort tonight. It was nice to see.
“I thought we took good shots the entire evening, and the first quarter set the tempo for the rest of the game. We said that we were going to pick them up full-court, we said that we were going to push the ball and attack, and we did those things.”
Senior forward Steven Ruelas scored a game-high 21 points and added nine rebounds for Los Amigos. Senior point guard Darin Lee scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half.
The Lobos play Jurupa Valley Rubidoux in their next pool-play game Thursday at noon.
Estancia Coast Classic
Estancia 78, Los Amigos 51
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Los Amigos 11 – 17 – 12 – 11 — 51
Estancia 23 – 19 – 22 – 14 — 78
LA – Ruelas 21, Lee 16, Doan 6, Gonzalez 4, Nguyen 2, Valencia 2.
3-pt. goals – Ruelas 3.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
E – Pearson 13, Harry 11, Covey 10, Khoury 9, Richards 8, Guyot 6, Hall 6, Bishop 5, Ja. Cash 4, Ju. Cash 2, de Brum 2, Graham 2.
3-pt. goals – Pearson 3, Khoury 3, Richards 2, Hall 2, Harry 2.
Fouled out – None.