The Surf League girls’ basketball championship game did not turn out to be what it could have been.
Corona del Mar High senior center Tatiana Bruening did not play against Huntington Beach, relegated to the bench by a new bout with the flu, Sea Kings coach Brason Alexander said.
Still, both teams came away with reason to celebrate on Tuesday night.
Senior center Daniella Benabou had a game-high 13 points to go with six rebounds and two blocked shots, as visiting Huntington Beach defeated the Sea Kings 50-21 in the teams’ regular-season finale.
Senior power forward Bella Serrano added 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Oilers (21-6, 5-1 in league). Sophomore shooting guard Meghan McIntyre and junior small forward Marisa Tanga scored 11 points and nine points, respectively.
Huntington Beach won its second league title in three seasons. The Oilers ran the table after dropping their league opener at Los Alamitos 48-25 on Jan. 10.
In winning the league championship outright, the Oilers did not forget that they were afforded the opportunity when CdM (16-12, 3-3) pulled off a 36-33 upset of the Griffins at home on Jan. 15.
Oilers coach Russell McClurg seemed to consider the league title a bittersweet victory, wishing that the Sea Kings had been at full strength for the league championship game.
“You want to play every team at their best always,” McClurg said. “We prepared for [Bruening] in this game, and again, on senior night, that’s probably another sad thing is not being able to see her perform. We understand that she is pretty sick.”
The Oilers went on a 10-0 run in the first three minutes of the second quarter to take a 20-5 lead. The outside shooting of Serrano helped Huntington Beach gain separation, as she made three shots from beyond the arc in the first half.
“This game, [our coaches] told us to spread it more, so I was like, ‘OK, I’ll just go to my spot,’” Serrano said. “They hit me, and I just kept shooting, so I was pumped up for that.
“I was just staying in my spot, hoping that they were going to pass it to me.”
Huntington Beach led 23-7 at halftime, and it extended that lead to 34-12 heading to the fourth quarter.
Benabou had success in making runs to the rim, and she was a primary recipient of sophomore point guard Alyssa Real’s seven assists.
With the game out of reach, the Sea Kings grabbed a defensive rebound and called timeout with 38 seconds remaining. A chant of “We want Four!” came from the crowd, and senior guard Malia Halafuka walked to the scorer’s table to check in.
Halafuka said she suffered a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus while trying to make a steal in an AAU tournament. The injury occurred four months ago, wiping out her entire senior season.
When she entered the game, the Oilers had left all of their players in the backcourt, giving Halafuka an uncontested layup. The ball found its way to her sister, Nia, a freshman guard. She passed the ball to her older sister, who made the final basket of the game.
“I thought it was a really special moment, especially coming from my sister,” Halafuka said. “The most important part of being on varsity was that my sister was on varsity, too, so we could share the floor.
“It was just a really special moment for both of us.”
Senior power forward Alara Ersu had five points and five rebounds for the Sea Kings. Senior point guard Samantha Uehara added four points and four rebounds.
CdM finished third in the league after Los Alamitos defeated Edison 62-30 on Tuesday.
Alexander said he was unsure if his team would receive an at-large selection into the CIF Southern Section Division 2A playoffs due to a large number of schools in the division. The playoff pairings will be released on Sunday.
Huntington Beach 50, Corona del Mar 21
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Huntington Beach 10 – 13 – 11 – 16 — 50
Corona del Mar 5 – 2 – 5 – 9 — 21
HB – Benabou 13, McIntyre 11, Serrano 11, Tanga 9, Payne 4, Duffey 2.
3-pt. goals – Serrano 3, Tanga 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
CdM – Ersu 5, Uehara 4, Alexander 4, Tomlinson 4, M. Halafuka 2, N. Halafuka 2.
3-pt. goals – None.
Fouled out – None.