Houston Mallette says living in Orange County is a lot different than the San Francisco Bay Area.
The 15-year-old loves the beach life, though. Playing basketball for one of the top high school programs in the county is another perk for Mallette.
Eight games into his first season with Pacifica Christian Orange County, Mallette is making a name for himself.
The Tritons trust their 6-foot-4 guard. And they went to Mallette with the game on the line Tuesday, and he delivered.
Mallette hit a buzzer-beating, game-winning turnaround jumper near the free-throw line, lifting Pacifica Christian to a 58-57 win over Eaglecrest of Centennial, Colo., in a Corona del Mar Beach Bash opener.
“He was smooth, nice and controlled,” Tritons coach Jeff Berokoff said of Mallette, a transfer from Richmond Salesian College Prep.
Berokoff could say the same things about the rest of the Tritons (6-2). They didn’t panic in the waning seconds.
Instead of calling a timeout after Jake Wiley’s basket in the paint gave the Raptors a 57-56 lead with 23 seconds to go, Berokoff let Pacifica Christian play out the final possession. Berokoff said he didn’t want Eaglecrest to get set defensively.
The Raptors never really got to settle in on Tuesday. Coach Jarris Krapcha said he and his team traveled from Denver and landed at John Wayne Airport around 4:50 p.m. Tipoff at CdM High was at 8 p.m.
Despite the quick turnaround, the Raptors (1-1) were seconds away from beating the No. 9-ranked team in Orange County. They just had to make one more stop, and it seemed like it might happen.
With the clock winding down, Eaglecrest, ranked No. 9 in the Colorado High School Activities Assn. Class 5A poll, took away a play that Pacifica Christian had scored on twice before.
“The play was a backdoor for Judah [Brown],” Mallette said. “We looked for it and it was a great play call by coach. My read … is if he doesn’t go, to just turn around and shoot.”
Mallette went with the second option: himself.
While Mallette led the team with 17 points, Pacifica Christian’s two 6-7 forwards — Brown and Solomon Davis — played well. Brown, a junior, had 15 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots, and Davis, a senior, added 10 points and eight rebounds and one block.
The Tritons move on in the tournament to play Los Alamitos at Costa Mesa’s TeWinkle Intermediate School on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The winner wins the pool and advances to Friday’s semifinals.
“We knew we had our hands full. They’ve got some talented kids,” Krapcha said. “I felt like our kids really competed hard, and, you know, we were right there. The kid hit a great shot.”
Mallette scored six points in the final quarter. His first two points came during a 7-0 run by the Tritons to start the fourth.
Another youngster, freshman Riyaan Jiwani, came off the bench and sparked Pacifica Christian in the first 57 seconds of the fourth quarter. The guard knocked down two free throws and a three-pointer, and with Mallette’s two free throws, the Tritons built a 50-43 lead.
Aaron Bokol, who scored 25 points, helped the Raptors get back in it. The senior hit his fifth three-pointer, part of Eaglecrest’s 9-2 run. Ty Robinson had two layups during the spurt, finishing with 15 points.
The Raptors took their first lead in the fourth, but they couldn’t hold on at the end. Mallette caught a pass on the left wing, dribbled to his right, then stopped underneath the free-throw line. When he didn’t see Brown cut to the left, toward the basket, Mallette came through for the Tritons.
“He’s confident, he’s competitive, you know, and he lifts us all up when we play,” Brown said of Mallette, who made all six of his free throws, helping the Tritons go 16 of 17 from the line.
Two more wins by Pacifica Christian and it can reach Saturday’s title game, where it will most likely face powerhouse Mater Dei.
“That would be really fun,” Brown said of seeing the Monarchs, ranked No. 5 in the state by CalHiSports.com. “But honestly, I’d love to play anybody.”
Brown is just happy to be playing in high school again. He missed last season after he was ruled ineligible to play after transferring from Bermuda Dunes Desert Christian Academy to Pacifica Christian.
Mallette is the latest transfer to Pacifica Christian. He said he moved to Huntington Beach after his father, Wesley Mallette, got hired at UC Riverside as a senior associate athletics director in external relations.
Last season, Houston Mallette played behind James Akinjo, who is now a freshman at Georgetown, and twins Jaden and JoVon McClanahan. The Pride won the CIF North Coast Section Division 3 title in 2017-18.
“As a freshman making varsity, you know, he got his butt kicked a lot during practice, but he worked his way up to second guy off the bench throughout the season,” Wesley Mallette said of his son. “And one of the things that we looked for when moved down here was a school that was similar, in terms of a faith-based school, small, great community, great coaching and a great program, something he can be a part of and build.”
CdM Beach Bash
Pacifica Christian Orange County 58, Centennial (Colo.) Eaglecrest 57
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Eaglecrest 18 – 13 – 12 – 14 — 57
Pacifica Christian Orange County 15 – 11 – 17 – 15 — 58
E – Bokol 25, Robinson 15, Europe 8, Wiley 4, Ruckard 3, Stilson 2.
3-pt. goals – Bokol 5, Europe 2.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
PCOC – Mallette 17, Brown 15, Davis 10, Sims 7, Jiwani 5, Bahadoor 4.
3-pt. goals – Mallette 1, Brown 1, Jiwani 1.
Fouled out – None.