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BATTLE OF THE BAY IV

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Newport Harbor High’s Ethan Talley takes a shot against Corona del Mar’s Brandon Browning (1) and Brandon Hicks (19) in the Battle of the Bay on April 7. The rivals meet for a fourth and final time this year on Saturday.
(Christine Cotter)

The gym had barely emptied out at Cerritos College when Back Bay rivals Corona del Mar High and Newport Harbor began plotting their next meeting.

After last Saturday’s epic five-set thriller in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 boys’ volleyball final, the coaches began to think of the best way to motivate their teams for the impending CIF Southern California Regional Division I tournament.

Some questions loomed in the aftermath of CdM’s 23-25, 25-15, 25-23, 23-25, 15-13 victory over Newport Harbor in the section championship match.

The Sailors had come into the match 32-0, having already notched a pair of wins against CdM this year, but the Sea Kings came away with the most sought-after victory of them all.

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So which team deserved to have the top seed in the regional tournament? The powers that be honored the CIF championship.

And now No. 1 CdM (33-4) will host No. 2 Newport Harbor (34-1) in the SoCal Regional Division I final on Saturday at 6 p.m., a match that many are calling the national championship.

The most memorable moments are playing Newport Harbor and CIF finals last year. Those are some of the best games, some of the best moments of your life.
Corona del Mar High libero Diego Perez

For the record, these are the top two teams in the nation, according to MaxPreps.com. By those rankings, however, Newport Harbor retained the top spot.

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“You can’t make up these stories,” Sea Kings setter Patrick Paragas said. “I think if we were going to write a story about how we wanted to end our season, we would say, ‘Playing Newport Harbor at our house.’

“Hopefully, we can beat them and finish our Cinderella season, but we’re expecting a grind on Saturday.”

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Corona del Mar High's Tyler Flood and his younger brother, Adam, defend a shot by Newport Harbor's Jack Higgs in the Battle of the Bay match on April 7.
(Christine Cotter )

The story lines for this final contest of the season include a set of brothers who will be playing their last match together, as CdM middle blocker Tyler Flood will be headed to NYU in the fall.

Flood became an integral part of the Sea Kings’ rotation this year. His younger brother, Adam, is a junior outside hitter committed to USC.

“It’s been absolutely insane,” Adam Flood said of sharing the court with his brother this season. “This is the first time that I have played on the same team as my brother. It’s been something truly special being front row with him.

“I can’t even explain it in words. It’s just incredible to be playing with him.”

While coaches searched for the right words to get the best out of their teams this week, a common theme seemed to be a call for a fourth rendition of the Battle of the Bay this spring.

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Newport Harbor fought off multiple match points in the first tilt with CdM, winning the Orange County Championships final by a score of 19-25, 26-24, 19-17 at Edison High on March 19.

In the teams’ regularly-scheduled nonleague match, Newport Harbor swept visiting CdM 25-18, 25-20, 26-24 on April 7.

Following Newport Harbor’s win over La Jolla to open the regional tournament, junior setter Joe Karlous revealed that Newport Harbor coach Rocky Ciarelli knew exactly what to say to rally the troops.

It’s a lot of playing in three weeks. They played a lot of matches, but I think a chance to play CdM again kept them focused.
Newport Harbor High coach Rocky Ciarelli

He said that Ciarelli looked for a show of hands after asking, “Who wants to play CdM again?” All hands shot up in unison.

“It was easy,” Ciarelli said of pressing the right buttons with his squad. “There’s no doubt that this playoffs is rough. It’s a lot of playing in three weeks. They played a lot of matches, but I think a chance to play CdM again kept them focused. There’s no doubt about that.”

While both teams methodically worked their way through the regional bracket, the collective hope was that they would run into each other again. After the Back Bay rivals won their regional semifinals, Adam Flood confirmed those suspicions.

“I think everyone’s pretty fired up to play [Newport Harbor] again, and I think all of us would have been just a little bummed if [Los Angeles] Loyola would have won,” he said. “Playing Newport Harbor is just going to bring that tremendous atmosphere. Everyone’s going to be in here. I think everyone wants that.”

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This postseason has brought extra excitement to the Back Bay, but next year, the regular-season stakes will go beyond bragging rights. The Sea Kings will join the Sunset League next season, bringing added intrigue to the rivalry.

Although he will not partake in the league contests next year, CdM senior libero Diego Perez said that the matches against Newport Harbor ranked high on his list.

“The most memorable moments are playing Newport Harbor and CIF finals last year,” Perez said. “Those are some of the best games, some of the best moments of your life.”

::

CIF Southern California Regional Division I final

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

Where: Corona del Mar High

Fan info: The doors open at 5 p.m. General admission is $12. Tickets for students with their ASB card, children (ages 5+) and seniors are $8. Fans are encouraged to arrive early, as the match is expected to produce a sellout.

andrew.turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @ProfessorTurner


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