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Huntington Beach’s rally falls short against Diamond Ranch

Sports Editor

The Huntington Beach High boys’ basketball team has started where it left off last season, and that’s not a good thing.

Slow starts are to blame for the Oilers’ early struggles this season.

Huntington Beach dropped its second game in as many days in the Jim Harris Classic at Ocean View High, losing 62-56 to Pomona Diamond Ranch in pool-play action on Tuesday. The setback marked the Oilers’ 16th straight dating to the 2017-18 season.

Huntington Beach, coming off a 2-24 campaign, earned one of its two wins last season during the Jim Harris Classic. The Oilers had a chance to end their skid against the Panthers, despite falling behind 18-3 in the first quarter.


Huntington Beach climbed back into it and went into the fourth quarter with a 48-47 lead. John Stenlund rallied the Oilers, finishing with 16 points and three blocked shots.

The senior’s left-handed hook shot with 2:45 to go cut Diamond Ranch’s lead to 56-54, but Huntington Beach wouldn’t score again until nine seconds remained. The Oilers (0-2) fell apart down the stretch, missing three shots and turning the ball over three times.

The concerning thing is it’s two games in a row where we’ve come out real flat. When you dig yourself into a hole like that so early, it’s tough to fight back.
Billy Thompson, Huntington Beach High coach

Connor Parker sealed the game for Diamond Ranch (1-0). He converted six of seven free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter, giving him 12 points to go with 14 rebounds.


Justin Morris, a 6-foot-4 junior, had 17 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks for the Panthers, while Kai Hendricks added 14 points and four three-pointers.

Huntington Beach High’s John Stenlund collects a loose ball rebound during game against Diamond Ranc
Huntington Beach High's John Stenlund beats Diamond Ranch's Justin Morris (10) to a rebound in Jim Harris Classic pool-play game at Ocean View High on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“The concerning thing is it’s two games in a row where we’ve come out real flat,” said Oilers coach Billy Thompson, adding that his team started behind 15-0 on Monday and lost the season opener to El Toro 62-48. “When you dig yourself into a hole like that so early, it’s tough to fight back. I’m proud of our guys that they fought back, they didn’t give up, which shows a little bit about their character, and why this year is different than last year, but obviously we got to learn how to finish games.”

Diamond Ranch, which made the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2A playoffs last season, beat Huntington Beach in the tournament for the second straight year. The Panthers are looking to return to the tournament title game, and a win against El Toro on Wednesday will help their cause.

The Oilers, who finished third in their three-team pool, will resume tournament play on Thursday. Huntington Beach is one of three local schools in the 12-team tournament, joining host Ocean View and Fountain Valley. The Barons opened with a 49-46 win over Portola on Monday, while the Seahawks beat Laguna Hills 73-34 on Tuesday night.

“The competition is good, [with] a couple of new teams I’ve never seen before, like Portola,” Diamond Ranch coach Kevin Ryan said of the six-day tournament, which ends Saturday. “I think our big guy [Morris] did pretty well. He was finishing at the rim OK. If he would make a little bit more layups, he would have a 25-[point] and 15-[rebound] game.”

After Huntington Beach’s Richard Imagawa (10 points) tied the game at 52-52 with two free throws midway through the fourth quarter, Morris gave the Panthers the lead for good.

Garrett Parker found Morris down low for an easy basket, and Diamond Ranch took a 54-52 lead with 3:16 left. Morris, who recorded 10 points in the second half, finished eight-for-12 shooting. His size kept the Oilers’ losing streak alive.


“We returned a lot of guys who got a lot of minutes last year, and hopefully they learned a lot through that process,” said Thompson, whose three returning starters are Stenlund, Imagawa and Nick Saccacio. “Nobody wants to go through a 2-24 season.”

Huntington’s Nick Saccacio gets tangled up with Diamond Ranch defender Garrett Parker during a break
Huntington Beach High's Nick Saccacio, right, gets tangled up with Pomona Diamond Ranch defender Garrett Parker during a fastbreak in the Jim Harris Classic at Ocean View High on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Jim Harris Classic

Pool play

Diamond Ranch 62, Huntington Beach 56


Diamond Ranch 20 – 8 – 19 – 15 — 62

Huntington Beach 12 – 19 – 17 – 8 — 56


DR – Morris 17, Kendricks 14, C. Parker 12, G. Parker 8, Solomons 6, San Luis 3, Saldarriaga 2.

3-pt. goals – Kendricks 4, Solomons 2, Morris 1, San Luis 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

HB – Stenlund 16, Imagawa 10, Hennessy 7, Downs 7, Saccacio 6, Gueco 4, Johnson 4, Wilson 2.

3-pt. goals – Stenlund 2, Imagawa 2, Saccacio 1, Hennessy 1, Downs 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

Twitter: @ByDCP