Surf League promises intrigue in boys’ basketball

Newport Harbor senior guard Sam Barela, left, shown against Loara on Nov. 27, has helped the Sailors start the season 18-1.
(Scott Smeltzer/Staff Photographer)

The Corona del Mar, Newport Harbor and Edison high school boys’ basketball teams all played in tournament championship games on Saturday.

Of the three teams, the Sea Kings and Sailors won titles. CdM (13-5) beat host Santa Barbara 50-37 to win the Santa Barbara tournament, led by tournament MVP John Humphreys, a junior forward. Newport Harbor (18-1) topped Sunny Hills 67-54 to win the Century Elks Classic, and the Sailors had senior point guard Sam Barela as their tournament MVP.

Newport Harbor is on a school-record 14-game winning streak.

Edison (14-6) also nearly came away with a title but lost 58-54 in overtime to Palos Verdes in the title game of the Rancho Mirage Holiday Invitational. Senior guards Aiden Garnett and Kaden Headington made the all-tournament team.

These stellar performances interest me as a basketball fan, but also because I have picked up boys’ basketball as one of my beats for the remainder of this winter season. The Sea Kings, Sailors and Chargers will all do battle in what should be a very competitive Surf League as part of the Sunset Conference.

The other team in the league is Los Alamitos (4-10).

Edison and Newport Harbor finished as co-Sunset League champions last year, while Corona del Mar finished second in the Pacific Coast League.

All of the Sunset Conference teams have crossover games Friday night. Marina (10-9) plays at Edison, while Laguna Beach (7-11) plays at Los Alamitos. Newport Harbor hosts Huntington Beach (8-11), and CdM hosts Fountain Valley (7-13).

More crossover games are scheduled for Wednesday, before Surf and Wave League play begins on Jan. 11. Edison plays at CdM in a key Surf League contest on that night.

Goalkeeper Maya Avital impresses for CdM girls’ water polo

Corona del Mar High girls’ water polo has a legacy of producing standout goalkeepers, from Brittany Fullen to Alex Musselman to Heidi Ritner to Erin Tharp.

Tharp was the Sea Kings’ starting goalkeeper for two years before graduating last year and heading to USC. In stepped Maya Avital, a junior.

Avital sure seems like the next great goalie the program will produce, if last weekend’s Bill Barnett Holiday Cup tournament was any indication. Avital made 17 saves in the final, a 9-8 loss to top-ranked Laguna Beach.

She also made 13 saves in a 5-4 semifinal win over Foothill. Included in that total was a big one where she came out to stuff a backhand attempt from Foothill junior Malia Allen with 2:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.

That stop kept the score tied at 4-4 at the time, before CdM’s Grace Myers was able to score with five seconds left to lift the Sea Kings to victory.

Avital, whose older brother Tamir also played water polo at CdM and now plays at Cal, is the backbone of the defense and works with center defender Megan Peterson, also a junior.

“Maya is extremely confident,” CdM coach Justin Papa said. “She’s really hard to rattle. For such a young athlete, she’s very mentally strong.”

CdM (5-2) has no matches this week. The Sea Kings return to action when they start Surf League play at home against Los Alamitos at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Twitter: @mjszabo