ORANGE — Ellie Nadal was in a hurry Saturday evening.
The Corona del Mar High senior guard turns 18 on Tuesday, and was having an early birthday dinner. After getting large ice packs applied to her shoulder and knee, she smiled while accepting her Orange Tournament all-tournament award. Soon, she sped out the gym door.
"Where are you going?" Coach Mark Decker asked.
"The Melting Pot," Nadal replied, and Decker nodded.
"Good choice," he said.
It made sense after the Sea Kings melted down while falling to Katella, 26-18, in the Orange Tournament championship game at Orange High.
Corona del Mar is 6-2, the two losses each coming in tournament title games. The Sea Kings fell to Newport Harbor on Dec. 4 in the final of the CdM Tip-Off Tournament.
"Obviously, it sucks to lose in the final," Nadal said. "We're working our butts off, and when we get here we're just not coming out like we should. We're just waiting for the [other] team to show us how good they are, and then play with them. We don't come out like we are in any of the other games."
The Sea Kings weren't going to win against Katella (7-1) by scoring a season-low 18 points. They hadn't scored this few in nearly three years, since a 69-18 loss to Laguna Hills on Jan. 30, 2008.
CdM scored the first four points of the game against Katella on drives to the basket by junior Karleh Wilson, but already there was frustration as senior guard Kayla Marolt picked up three quick fouls in the first five minutes of the game.
Decker said Marolt never really got into the flow of the game. Neither did the other Sea Kings. After Wilson's second basket at 4:30 of the first quarter, the Sea Kings didn't score for the rest of the quarter. They watched the Knights build a 9-4 lead.
"We got very tentative and we missed a lot of easy shots," Decker said. "It seemed like we ended up losing confidence after we missed a few shots. We score 20 points in a quarter quite often, and to score 18 in the whole game? I don't know that I can remember a poorer offensive performance than we just put on."
Tied at 11-11 at halftime, CdM scored just two points in the third quarter, coming on a jumper by junior Samantha Kaufman. Again, Katella built a lead, this one 23-13.
Nadal banked in a three-pointer midway through the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to nine, at 25-16. A subsequent layup by senior Saylor Schroff cut it to seven with 2:08 to play, but CdM couldn't get closer.
Schroff had perhaps the best game for CdM, with four points, 10 rebounds and four steals. Katella junior guard Jasmine Williams, who was named tournament MVP, had seven points and four steals. Her teammate, senior Jolene Rankin, scored a game-high eight.
Katella Coach Jimmy Valverde praised his defense.
"They were averaging like 50 points a game, and they scored 18 tonight," Valverde said. "The biggest difference for us is the heart and the desire. We don't score a lot of points; we rely on our defense."
Decker said the Sea Kings will be looking to improve their toughness as the season progresses.
"You know, we didn't have the toughness to win a championship tonight," he said. "Two weeks in a row … We can't just be good shooters when things are going well. We need to be confident and good shooters when it's tough, in tough and tight situations. We're not there yet. We will get there, but we're not there yet."
Katella 26, Corona del Mar 18
SCORE BY QUARTERS
CdM 4 – 7 – 2 – 5 — 18
Katella 9 – 2 – 12 – 3 — 26
CdM – Wilson 6, Schroff 4, Coffman 4, Nadal 3, Marolt 1.
3-pt. goals – Nadal 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Kat – Rankin 8, Williams 7, Meza 4, Ramirez 4, Belmares 3.
3-pt. goals – None.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.