The deck was stacked against the Huntington Beach High girls’ basketball team as they took the court to open the Matt Denning Nike Hoops Classic on Saturday.
Huntington Beach would be without the services of sophomore center Andie Payne and senior power forward Bella Serrano, the Oilers’ top two post options.
Oilers coach Russell McClurg knew that his team would have to play disciplined, and he would have to go deeper into his bench than he otherwise might have chosen to.
Huntington Beach had just eight players dressed for the game, but a big game from an unlikely source helped the Oilers put together a strong showing on a big stage.
Sophomore small forward Noelle Duffey had 11 points, seven rebounds and three steals, and Huntington Beach pulled away in the second half to defeat Sonora 46-35 in a showcase game at Mater Dei High.
Duffey was a marksman from the perimeter, hitting all three of her three-pointers from the right corner.
“Before the game, I was practicing a lot on my corner shots, and in practice, I’ve really been working on my shooting,” Duffey said. “Recently, I fixed my shot because I used to shoot too high.
“With Coach Russ’ help, I was able to lower it to help improve my percentage.”
Duffey is in her first year on the varsity team, but like many of the Oilers, she has been part of the Huntington Beach Waves feeder program for years.
“I was real proud of her,” McClurg said of Duffey. “I think that it is going to help our confidence in her and her confidence in what we are doing.
“She’s probably the eighth man off the bench. It was a very small bench today. We were able to play everyone on the team.”
McClurg said that Payne was in Iowa for her grandfather’s funeral, while Serrano suffered an elbow sprain in the Oilers’ 67-10 win over Laguna Beach on Thursday night. The Oilers are hopeful that Serrano can return for next Thursday’s Surf League opener at Los Alamitos.
Huntington Beach (13-5) still managed to outrebound Sonora (13-3) by a count of 38-27.
Marisa Tanga had a game-high 16 points and six rebounds for the Oilers, and Meghan McIntyre added 12 points and eight rebounds.
The junior small forward has made a habit of playing bigger than her size. McClurg commented on her toughness, likening her to a “bulldog.”
“She’s this tough little scrapper, and she’s very strong,” McClurg said. “She’s super strong. She’s my best defender. If we go man [on defense], I’m usually putting Marisa on the best offensive player.”
On a morning that it seemed that the Oilers would be challenged to reel in the rebounds, the Oilers delivered an inspired effort that followed in the footsteps of Tanga’s style of play.
“I think a big part of something that I’m trying to do this year is to empower my team and get everyone to have some energy,” Tanga said. “It starts with me, so I just hope that it trickles down to everyone else.”
Alyssa Ke had a team-high 13 points, five rebounds and four steals for Sonora. Calla Anderson added seven points and 11 rebounds.
Huntington Beach led Sonora 24-22 at halftime. Taking care of the basketball helped the Oilers settle in on defense, and the Raiders scored just 13 points the rest of the way.
“Our point guard does a good job,” McClurg said. “Alyssa [Real], she might not get these great scoring stats, but that kid handles pressure very well, and she makes great decisions out there, for the most part. She doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes, and she kept the press on.
“The kid has to play the whole game. She looked over to me, and I go, ‘There’s no sub for you.’
“That’s how important she is to our program. She’s the quarterback of the team.”
Matt Denning Nike Hoops Classic
Huntington Beach 46, Sonora 35
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Sonora 13 – 9 – 5 – 8 — 35
Huntington Beach 13 – 11 – 6 – 16 — 46
S – Ke 13, Anderson 7, Lizardo 5, Dremer 6, Yoshitake 4.
3-pt. goals – Ke 3, Dremer 2.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
HB – Tanga 16, McIntyre 12, Duffey 11, Real 3, Palmer 2, Benabou 2.
3-pt. goals – Duffey 3.
Fouled out – None.