CORONA DEL MAR — Coach Mark Decker is sporting a new beard at Corona del Mar High. The facial hair is a tribute to his father, Ron, who passed away recently.
Fans understood why Decker scratched his beard rather than his head a handful of times on Monday night. His girls' basketball team tipped off the season against a team it usually beats easily.
San Juan Hills gave the Sea Kings a contest in the opening round of the CdM Tip-Off Tournament.
The Sea Kings used a 7-0 run in the fourth quarter to get past a former Pacific Coast League opponent, 43-35, and advance to the quarterfinals of the 16-team tournament.
The tournament is in its third year and CdM has reached the championship game every year. Decker believes the Sea Kings have to work on some things before making a run this year.
"I don't even want to know," Decker said of his team's 44.4 free-throw-shooting percentage. "They fouled us a lot and we didn't take advantage."
San Juan Hills kept the game close for much of the 32 minutes. The Stallions even took a 23-19 lead at halftime.
Any San Juan Hills advantage against CdM was unheard of last year.
"To look back at last year, our team lost to this same squad, 59-10," San Juan Hills Coach Cat Nolan said. "We've come a long way in a year."
This is the first year San Juan Hills has seniors on the team. The Stallions challenged the smaller Sea Kings.
Size is no longer CdM's strength. The 5-foot-11 Katie Bergsma and 6-1 Caroline van der Velde are no longer on the team. The Sea Kings plan to rely heavily on their outside shooting for points.
Ellie Nadal provided the scoring threat for CdM, finishing with a game-high 17 points. She knocked down three three-pointers, including one during a 7-0 run that gave CdM a 39-33 lead with three minutes left to play.
Nolan called a timeout, hoping to end the Sea Kings' momentum. She called it from her seat after an official gave her a technical foul midway through the third quarter.
The official joked with her after Nolan asked for a timeout.
"You may stand up to request a timeout," the official said after he informed Nolan earlier that she lost her standing privileges on the sideline with the technical foul.
"It's my first [technical] in my life, my whole career," said Nolan, who has been a coach for 10 years.
Decker smiled. He was happy to escape the first round with a victory after his team converted only 12 of 27 free-throw attempts.
The Sea Kings moved on to play Costa Mesa tonight at 7. The Mustangs knocked off Brethren Christian, 63-49.
"I hope its first-game jitters," Decker said of his team's woes from the charity stripe, "because Costa Mesa looked really good in that first game. We have our work cut out [for us]. We've got to play a lot better … to have a chance."
The next game will be Kayla Marolt's second in the last two years at CdM.
The guard is back after Decker said she missed all of last season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. The guard contributed nine points, three steals and made five free throws, almost half of the team's total.
While the Sea Kings went to the free-throw line often, San Juan Hills attempted only three foul shots.
The Stallions lost their post player, Erika Marshall, in the fourth quarter. Marshall, who led her team with 12 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, fouled out with 84 seconds left.
With Marshall in foul trouble, San Juan Hills managed just two field goals in the final eight minutes. Decker was glad to see Marshall no longer being a factor with her size. He could now leave the beard alone.
CdM Tip-Off Tournament
Corona del Mar 43,
San Juan Hills 35
SCORE BY QUARTERS
SJ Hills 8 – 15 – 8 – 4 — 35
CdM 10 – 9 – 13 – 11 — 43
SJH – Marshall 12, Conklin 6, Parra 6, Vega 4, Dobberman 2, Greiner 2, Fox 2, Thomas 1.
3-pt. goals – None.
CdM – Nadal 17, Marolt 9, Schroff 4, de Arakal 3, Coffman 3, Gallarado 3, Meyer 2, Wilson 2.
3-pt. goals – Nadal 3, de Arakal 1, Schroff 1.