The Newport Harbor High boys’ basketball team’s foundation is defense, and when the Sailors are knocking down their shots, they’re nearly unbeatable.
The Sailors gave Marina a good taste of that Friday night, romping to a big early lead en route to a 79-52 victory in a Sunset Conference crossover game.
Robbie Spooner hit six three-pointers and scored 27 points, all in the first three quarters, and Will Harvey added 22 for visiting Newport Harbor (13-1), but it was the defensive work that keyed its eighth victory by 25 or more points.
Marina (9-9) made just five of 27 first-half shots, falling behind by 22 at the break. When the Vikings finally found their touch, it was too late.
“I think our defense [is why we’ve won big so many times],” Sailors coach Bob Torribio said. “Our guys have a next-play mentality, and when we’re shooting the ball well and we defend like we do, these nights are going to happen.
“You can always rely on your defense. There’s nights we haven’t shot the ball well and things have gone our way a little bit, which is great, but no matter what, we rely on our defense. When you’re making shots like Robbie was tonight, and the rest of our guys, and you play D, you’re going to be a tough matchup.”
Newport Harbor’s stifling defense made a difference in Marina star Jakob Alamudun’s struggles to start the game.
The Lehigh University-bound senior missed his first 10 shots, didn’t score until hitting two free throws nearly midway through the second quarter, got his first basket two minutes into the second half, and finished with 24 points — five above his season average — despite missing 17 of 22 shots. Some of the misses were open looks within six feet.
“It’s a different game, and we probably have a different mentality the rest of the game [if Alamudun is making his shots],” said Marina assistant coach Nate Galloway, who ran the team while head coach Nick Racklin served a one-game suspension for “unauthorized activity” last weekend in the Vikings’ gym. “We’ve been the kind of team that, if we’re missing shots, it kind of affects the other end of the floor for us.”
Racklin, who wasn’t present, said in a phone interview after the game that he was locking up Marina’s gym Sunday after it was used for youth basketball. Athletic director Michelle Spencer saw him with a player who had worked the games and was taking shots afterward, and she reported it to the CIF Southern Section.
“Not a practice, and I didn’t open the gym for them,” said Racklin, who will be back on the sideline next week. “No one told [the players] to go in there. But perception is reality, I guess.”
Galloway thought Racklin’s absence might have affected the team.
“It’s not easy as a high school basketball player to be in situations like that, that are unexpected,” he said. “I was hoping to get them to play a little more loose and have a little more fun out there, but we didn’t come out firing on all cylinders, like we wanted to. I think we were hyped up to start really well, and when that didn’t happen, they might have panicked a little early.”
Dane Chalmers added 10 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots for Newport Harbor, which stretched its lead to 26 points before Marina used a 7-0 run late in the third quarter to trim the deficit to less than 20. The Sailors led by 30 before both teams emptied their benches.
The result did not count in the league standings. Newport Harbor is in the Surf League, and Marina is in the Wave League.
Newport Harbor’s only loss is to Villa Park (15-1), and it plays at Tesoro (8-1) in the Orange County North-South Challenge on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Newport Harbor 79, Marina 52
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Newport Harbor 14 – 22 – 20 – 23 — 79
Marina 4 – 10 – 21 – 17 — 52
NH – Spooner 27, Harvey 22, Chalmers 10, Darrow 8, Barela 7, Firey 3, Forbath 2.
3-pt. goals – Spooner 6, Harvey 3.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
M – Alamudun 24, Keeler 10, Barnella 5, Ishino 5, Aguirre 4, Webster 2, Bates 2.
3-pt. goals – Alamudun 3, Barnella 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – Bench.
SCOTT FRENCH is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @ScottJFrench