Sophomore Levi Darrow has been the starting shooting guard for the Newport Harbor High boys’ basketball team throughout the season, even if at 5-foot-10 he’s usually the Sailors’ shortest player on the court.
Senior point guard Sam Barela is five inches taller. Barela can score, but he also looks to dish to players like Darrow on the perimeter.
Darrow came up big Thursday night in a Surf League tiebreaker game against rival Corona del Mar at Marina High. He scored eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter as Newport Harbor won 59-47, earning one of the league’s two automatic berths into the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
Two playoff games were necessary after Newport Harbor, CdM, Edison and Los Alamitos all finished tied for first in the league with a 3-3 record on Wednesday. Edison (19-10) earned the other automatic berth after beating Los Alamitos 64-54 at Marina. Aiden Garnett scored 22 points and Kaden Headington added 19 for the Chargers, who will play in the Division 1 playoffs.
Los Alamitos (10-17) was eliminated from playoff consideration due to a sub-.500 overall record.
Newport Harbor (25-4), ranked No. 13 in Division 2AA, will vie in that division next week. Including the tiebreaker game, the Sailors finished the regular season with three straight wins and their most wins in a season. CdM (18-10) will have to apply for an at-large berth into the same division. The section will release the playoff pairings Sunday.
“I think there are peaks and valleys to a season,” Newport Harbor coach Bob Torribio said. “We went through a little bit of a valley to start the league, but luckily for us, our guys are focused on our next game, our next practice. We don’t dwell on the past. You learn more about yourself in those tough losses.”
Senior forward Dayne Chalmers scored 18 points Thursday for the Sailors, who beat the rival Sea Kings for the second straight night. Barela added 11 points.
Newport Harbor led just 37-36 after three quarters but began the fourth on a 13-3 run. Darrow had eight points in the run, including a pair of three-pointers, while Barela contributed a three-point play after banking in a runner in the lane.
“I don’t know, my teammates make plays for me,” Darrow said. “Off catch-and-shoots, I’m wide-open. Dayne Chalmers or Sam Barela will drive in and try to dish or finish. I just get easy looks from my teammates … In the past couple of games, I haven’t been shooting that well, but they just tell me to keep shooting and have confidence in myself and shot.”
Robbie Spooner and Will Harvey each scored seven points for Newport Harbor.
Junior forward John Humphreys scored 13 points for CdM, including a trio of three-pointers. Junior guard Jack Stone added 12 points.
CdM coach Ryan Schachter said the Sea Kings played without their starting point guard, senior Connor Schimmelpfennig, who sprained his ankle last week. He played in Wednesday’s league finale but was unable to go on Thursday as his ankle was sore.
Now CdM will have to apply for an at-large berth for the postseason for the first time in Schachter’s 13 seasons in charge.
“Without ‘Schimm,’ it’s just a grind for us to get in the flow,” Schachter said. “He hurt his ankle before the Edison game last week, sprained it really bad. Today it was really sore. We just couldn’t get easy shots. That has a lot to do with us without Connor, and it has a lot to do with their defense. They defend very well, and they’re always in the right spots. They have very few defensive breakdowns.
“Do I feel good? No. We’ve lost two in a row. Hopefully my point guard will be ready to go [for the playoffs]. I’ll know on Monday how our guys respond in practice. We’ve won 18 games, played a great schedule, but we’re a little beat up and tired.”
Newport Harbor 59, Corona del Mar 47
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Corona del Mar 7 – 13 – 16 – 11 — 47
Newport Harbor 13 –9 – 15 – 22 — 59
CdM – Humphreys 13, Stone 12, J. Garza 10, Garbers 4, Hamilton 3, McKenna 3, Olson 2.
3-pt. goals – Humphreys 3, Stone 2, Hamilton 1, McKenna 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
NH – Chalmers 18, Barela 11, Darrow 11, Spooner 7, Harvey 7, McConnaughey 3, Firey 2.
3-pt. goals – Darrow 3, Harvey 1, McConnaughey 1.
Fouled out – None.