Newport Harbor High boys’ basketball coach Bob Torribio had a couple of concerns heading into Saturday night’s showdown with Tesoro, a team ranked in the Orange County top 10, at the Orange County North-South Challenge.
Torribio’s biggest worry was how much gas his Sailors had in the tank after two Sunset Conference crossover wins over Fountain Valley and Marina, and the second was how they would react to playing a very good Titans team in a showcase atmosphere with limited time to prepare.
Newport Harbor got off to a sluggish start through the first two quarters, just as the coach had expected, but the Sailors picked things up, both offensively and defensively, to extend their winning streak to 10 games with a 60-50 victory at Tesoro.
“The fellas buy in and compete every night for us,” Torribio said. “Tesoro is well-coached, they play hard, they defend and they rattled us in the first half. But we took a few breaths, got our legs back and settled down in the second half.”
Newport Harbor (14-1) trailed Tesoro 30-28 at halftime and really turned up the defensive pressure over the last two quarters, holding the Titans (8-2) to 20 second-half points.
The Sailors made it a point to stop Titans’ 6-foot-9 center Noah Honetschlager, sending quick double and triple teams at him as soon as he caught it down low, forcing him to become a passer instead of a scorer.
Honetschlager scored just seven points on the night, and with him rendered ineffective, the Sailors were able to get out in transition and score some easy baskets.
Senior forward Dayne Chalmers was the beneficiary of those easy looks, scoring a game-high 19 points, with 10 of those coming in the third quarter, when Newport Harbor outscored Tesoro 17-10 to take a 45-40 lead into the fourth.
“I just try to cut into the open spots and a lot of times I get layups,” Chalmers said of his scoring output. “But it’s Sam [Barela] who really helps me get good shots.”
Barela, the Sailors’ senior point guard and all-around leader, knew Tesoro was planning on keeping the ball out of his hands as much as possible. But he was surprised to see the Titans go in full denial mode as soon as he got rid of the ball.
Barela didn’t force the issue, however, taking what the defense gave him while turning in an impressive near triple-double with nine points, eight rebounds and 10 assists.
Barela saved five of those nine points for the right time.
With Newport clinging to a five-point lead with under two minutes to play, Barela drove down the middle of the floor, took contact, and finished strong at the basket, completing the old-fashioned three-point play at the free-throw line. He then broke Tesoro’s press and got fouled on another drive, sank both free throws, giving the Sailors a 58-46 lead with under a minute left.
“Sam just loves basketball,” Torribio said. “He loves preparing, he loves practice, he loves the bus ride down and he supports whatever we’re trying to do as coaches which makes our lives a lot easier.”
The theme of loving to play basketball seems to be a running one for Newport Harbor. When asked what it means to get a road win over a team like Tesoro means, Barela acknowledged the ranking aspect of the game, but said the Sailors don’t pay much attention to it.
“It goes to show that we don’t care about the rankings,” he said. “We just love to play basketball and have fun doing it.”
Junior guard Robbie Spooner added 13 points with three three-pointers for Newport Harbor, while sophomore Levi Darrow chipped in nine.
Also at the Orange County North-South Challenge, Corona del Mar defeated El Toro 78-60 behind 17 points and 12 rebounds from John Humphreys and 14 points from Jack Stone.
Orange County North-South Challenge
Newport Harbor 60, Tesoro 50
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Newport Harbor 15 – 13 – 17 – 15 — 60
Tesoro 16 – 14 – 10 – 10 — 50
NH – Chalmers 19, Spooner 13, Barela 9, Darrow 9, Harvey 8, McConnaughey 2.
3-pt. goals – Spooner 3, Chalmers 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
T – Ty. Broughton 16, Garrett 10, Honetschlager 7, Tr. Broughton 6, DeAngelo 6, Mahlen 3, Jones 2.
3-pt. goals – Ty. Broughton 3, DeAngelo 2, Garrett 1, Mahlen 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
DEVIN UGLAND is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @Devin_Ugland