The Sunset League boys' basketball race is turning into what several of the league's coaches felt it would become: a real dog fight. And as of this week, it's still anybody's title to take.
There's still plenty of basketball to be played, but as has been the case in the first two weeks of the league season, home hasn't proved to be a safe haven for a few teams.
After three games, four teams were tied for first place at 2-1. The most surprising is Fountain Valley, which after a Jan. 7 loss at Edison has won two straight to move into a share of the league lead with Edison, Huntington Beach and Los Alamitos.
The first half of league play comes to an end Friday.
Fountain Valley moved into that tie and picked up an important league win Friday by going to Huntington Beach and handing the Oilers their first league loss, 50-49. The Barons escaped with the win only after the Oilers missed two free throw attempts with 2.9 seconds remaining.
Fountain Valley's triumph came just two nights after Huntington had delivered Edison its first league loss and first setback of the season. The Oilers had opened their league season Jan. 7 with a two-point win at defending league champ Los Alamitos.
"Every game in this league is a 'can-win, can-lose' type of thing," Fountain Valley Coach Roger Holmes said. "Huntington has done a great job of pulling out those first two close ones. We were fortunate to get this one, especially on the road. They are very good and I was proud of our guys in hanging tough all game and being in it at the end."
Fountain Valley came from behind in the fourth quarter to get the win, thanks to a pair of three-point shots down the stretch by junior guard Sean Myers that took the Barons from down three to up by three.
Myers' two big buckets led to an 11-point night for Myers, who also had eight assists. Zach Matar led the Barons in scoring with 15 points, to go with seven rebounds. Judd Chamaa scored his nine points on a trio of three-point shots and Tanner Trounce had seven points, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.
Jordan Reise had a game-high 18 points, Dirk Cason scored 12 and Andrew Tenbrink 10 for Huntington.
"We just weren't ready to play Friday night and when you do that, anyone in our league is good enough to beat anyone," Huntington Coach Fabian Luna said. "It was unfortunate because we really could have taken control of the league. But there is plenty of basketball left and kids will have those type of letdown games after playing at such a high level.
"Credit to Fountain Valley. They came with energy and really played well and we just couldn't match it. They did a great job of attacking the glass and that, combined with some big threes by their point guard (Myers), really doomed us."
Prior to edging Huntington, the Barons beat visiting Marina, 68-41. Matar had a double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds, Nathan Moss had 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists, Chamaa hit three three-point baskets and finished with 10 points and six rebounds, Myers had nine points, eight rebounds and three assists and Jacob Braken scored nine points.
"We played and pretty solid game on both ends of the floor," Holmes said. "Our defense was tough and we rebounded very, very well."
The win came against a Marina program Holmes had coached the previous 16 years. The Jan. 12 meeting between the teams marked the first time Holmes had gone up against his former school.
"For me, it was a Sunset League game," he said. "People were trying to make it more than that, but it wasn't. It was different, for sure, playing against players that I knew personally. They were battling to win and so were we."
Fountain Valley entered the week 13-6 and its two league wins to date equaled last year's win total in league play. The 13 wins has already surpassed last year's 10-win season.
"We are playing pretty good at this point in the season, but still have a lot of room for improvement," Holmes said. "This group really can't look ahead more than each day at practice and then the next game we play. We have to stay focused on improving our game as a team and as individuals.
"The players have welcomed an entire new staff and new approach this year with open arms. We are firm believers that attitude and effort gets you as far as skill and talent. Offensive and defensive strategies are ever changing, but attitude and effort need to always be there. Those demands, by our staff, never change."
Fountain Valley, which hosted Newport Harbor on Wednesday, ends the first round of league play Friday at Los Alamitos.
Huntington had entered the Fountain Valley game on a high from its previous outing, a Jan. 12 league showdown with undefeated Edison. The Oilers handed the Chargers their first loss of the season, 39-37, in a game Huntington led from start to finish. Despite leading by as much as 14 points on two occasions in the third quarter, Huntington had to survive a missed three-point shot attempt and two other shots from close range — all in the final 10 seconds — to get the win.
Huntington, which came in ranked eighth in CIF Division 2AA, avenged a December loss to Edison in the championship game of the La Quinta Tournament. Andrew Tenbrink hit two big shots to beat the shot clock late in the fourth quarter to preserve Huntington's lead. The sophomore led Huntington with 11 points.
"It was a wild ending," Tenbrink said. "It feels great to win this. We've been crosstown rivals for so long and it feels good to give them their first loss of the season. This is a big win for us."
Edison's school-record start to a boys' basketball season — 16 consecutive victories — and came to an end at Elmer Combs Gymnasium. The Chargers, who entered the game ranked No. 1 in CIF Division 2AA, were led by Dreon Barlett with 14 points and Kris Wolfe with 10 points. They had just 10 points at the half.
Huntington put aside its disappointing loss to Fountain Valley to win consecutive nonleague games. First, the Oilers took care of Katella, 69-50, at the Coaches vs. Cancer Showcase, a seven-game event Saturday at Villa Park High. Ten Oilers scored, led by Tenbrink and Blake Skorich with 10 points apiece.
On Monday, Huntington took on neighboring Ocean View in a Martin Luther King Day nonleague game. The host Seahawks held a seven-point halftime lead (48-41), but the Oilers — who had scored 41, 39 and 49 points in their three previous games — scored 40 in the second half to come away with an 81-72 victory.
"That is always a good win to get because Jim (Harris) and his teams are always strong," said Luna, who had seven players score, led by Reise's 23 points, Vincent Oe with 22 points, Carson with 13 points and Tenbrink with 12 points.
Edison: The Chargers bounced back from their Jan. 12 loss at Huntington to pick up a 50-34 Sunset League road win Friday at Newport Harbor. Dreon Barlett had a game-high 18 points and Dylan Garrity, who played ill in the previous week, had 11 points for Edison in a game where Newport Harbor Coach Larry Hirst collapsed courtside with 2:14 left to play, Edison Coach Rich Boyce said. Hirst was taken by ambulance to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian and later released. Boyce said Tuesday that Hirst "is better and resting at home."
The following night, Edison routed El Modena, 67-35, at the Coaches vs. Cancer Showcase at Villa Park High. Garrity led all scorers with 23 points and Barlett contributed 18 points for the Chargers, who improved to 18-1.
Edison hosts Marina in Sunset play at 7 p.m. Friday.
Marina: The Vikings had three players score in double figures, but it wasn't enough to get them past visiting Los Alamitos, which posted a 65-52 Sunset League victory Friday. JJ James had a game-best 18 points and Matt Swartz and Matt Arnall scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, for Marina.
"The kids played hard and fought the whole game," said Marina Coach Jerry Simon. "We need to make better decisions on both offense and defense in order to improve."
Ocean View: The Seahawks went to 2-0 in Golden West League play Friday after outscoring host Westminster, 15-2, in the fourth quarter to earn a 59-41 victory. Billy Keller netted 34 points and Conor Clifford added 12 points for the Seahawks, whose Jan. 12 home league game against Loara was postponed due to a power outage, Seahawks co-Coach Jimmy Harris said.
Keller also had 27 points, Clifford 12 points and Luke Davis 11 in Monday's 81-72 loss to Huntington.
"We just need to get better on defense," Harris said. "Consistency has been our problem. We're starting to become more consistent on offense, but we're definitely not there yet on the defensive side.
"We gave up 81 points and I don't recall an Ocean View team giving up 81 points. That's rare."
The Seahawks host league foe Santa Ana at 7 p.m. Friday.
Brethren Christian: The Warriors took over sole possession of first place in the Academy League by picking up two big wins.
Last Friday, Brethren Christian routed host Whitney, 71-43, behind a strong defensive effort and 10-of-18 shooting from three-point range. Riley Thomas led the scoring with 24 points and Daniel Healy turned in his second triple-double of the season with 11 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists. Six Warriors scored from behind the arc.
The Warriors came back Saturday to pick up a key win against visiting St. Margaret's, 55-47, in overtime. The Warriors allowed the Tartans just two points in overtime to take early control of the league race. Thomas again led the way in scoring with 21 points, Healy added 13 points and seven assists and was six for six from the free-throw line and senior Bobby Frisch finished with nine points and 10 rebounds.
The Warriors, who are toward the end of final exams week, are 19-1 and 4-0 in league play. They play just once this week and host league foe Sage Hill at 8 p.m. Friday at Liberty Christian High in Huntington Beach.
Brethren Christian: The Warriors dropped consecutive Academy League games to Whitney and St. Margaret's. Diannia Demazeliere scored nine points in Friday's 46-20 loss at Whitney and had eight more during Saturday's 47-31 home loss to St. Margaret's, a game in which Madison Desler hit four three-point shots to finish with 14 points.
Brethren Christian resumes league play with a 7 p.m. game tonight against Sage Hill at Liberty Christian High.
Edison: The Chargers made Los Alamitos their fourth Sunset League victim Tuesday and remained atop the league standings after a 68-43 win over the host Griffins. Bonnie Samuelson had 23 points, Rilee Horton 11 points and Genna Gomez 10 points for Edison, which improved to 3-0 in league and 17-1 overall.
In a 73-42 league win Jan. 13 over Newport Harbor, Karlie Samuelson hit six three-point shots and finished with 26 points and Bonnie Samuelson had 17 points.
The Chargers will try to complete a 5-0 run in the first-half of league play when they travel to face Marina at 7 tonight.
Fountain Valley: The Barons earned their first Sunset League victory Tuesday by winning, 44-35, at Newport Harbor. Leslie La led Fountain Valley (1-3) in scoring with 13 points and Christine Tran had eight points.
The Barons host Los Alamitos at 7 p.m. today.
Huntington Beach: The Oilers (16-2) improved their Sunset League record to 3-1 Tuesday by defeating Marina, 54-29. Kelsey Minato topped four Oilers in double figures with 17 points. Danielle Kennedy had 11 points and Maya Kennedy and Stephanie Louie both scored 10.
In a previous league outing, the Oilers downed Fountain Valley, 69-29. Minato again paced Huntington with 16 points and Louie, a freshman, hit three three-point shots and finished with 11 points.
The Oilers conclude the first-round of league play with a 7 p.m. home game today against Newport Harbor.
Marina: The Vikings (3-1) fell for the first time in Sunset League play Tuesday in a 54-29 loss at Huntington Beach. Sloan Turner topped Marina with eight points.
In a Jan. 13 league contest, Marina upended host Los Alamitos, 47-39, in what Coach Butch Fredlow said was his team's "most complete game of the year." The Vikings paired balanced scoring, getting 13 points each from Turner and Loren Dorame and 10 more from Alyssa Kinoshita, with solid defense.
The Vikings end the first round of league play by hosting Edison in a 7 p.m. tip.
Ocean View: The Seahawks got their third straight Golden West League victory Tuesday by defeating visiting Westminster, 48-44. Guard Kelli Berry's 26 points (four three-pointers) keyed the offense, with Hannah Ferguson adding 11 points.
In a previous league game, Ocean View (3-0) limited host Loara to eight first-half points and posted a 42-22 win. Berry again topped the scoring charts with 18 points and Ferguson had 10 points.
"We are relaxed but confident going into this week's league competition," said Ocean View Coach Kim Morris, whose Seahawks host last year's league champion, Segerstrom which also is 3-0, in a battle for first place at 7 tonight.