COSTA MESA — Someone from the stands must have tossed a penny on to the basketball court at Estancia High. Players do not carry change during games.
Coach Agustin Heredia picked up the penny, and was about to keep it, possibly for good luck. He tossed the penny behind the bench.
Heredia did not need any luck. His boys' basketball team was 99 seconds away from knocking off rival Costa Mesa Wednesday.
The Eagles took care of business in the first Battle for the Bell game, picking up a 50-38 victory to help them move into a first-place tie in the Orange Coast League. Estancia is sharing the top spot with Laguna Beach after the Breakers suffered a setback to Saddleback, their first in league.
The Eagles (13-9, 4-1 in league) are the hottest team in league. They closed out the first half of league play with four straight wins.
The latest one was revenge for last season, when Costa Mesa ruined Estancia's league title hopes. The Mustangs' lone win in league came in the regular-season finale against the Eagles.
All Estancia had to do back then was beat a Costa Mesa team that was on a 10-game losing skid and it shared the league crown with Laguna Beach. It never happened and players like Davon Joyner still remember.
Joyner slashed any hope the Mustangs had in the first meeting between the two programs this season. The senior scored seven of his game-high 15 points in the fourth quarter.
"We were just able to hold our own," said Joyner, who added seven rebounds. "We kept the tempo at our pace and did not [let] them get back in the game. Any kind of run they made, we stopped it."
Joyner, as well as Charlie Umansky (13 points) and Ray Holmes (10), helped Estancia become the second straight league opponent to stop Costa Mesa in its tracks.
After a fast 3-0 start to league, the Mustangs (9-12, 3-2) are struggling to score points. They have been unable to reach 40 points in the last two contests.
Costa Mesa did not help itself with its free-throw shooting. The Mustangs converted just 10 of 19 attempts from the charity stripe.
One of the biggest misses came with 1:39 left to play. Andrew Albers, who was in a one-and-one situation, had an opportunity to cut the deficit to 44-38 and make it a two-possession game if the senior made two free throws. The 6-foot-7 Albers, who led the Mustangs with 14 points and 11 rebounds, missed the first attempt, and the Eagles got the rebound.
Heredia breathed a sigh of relief.
"It helped that they missed a lot of free throws," said Heredia, who also saw the Mustangs miss many field-goal attempts.
Costa Mesa shot 30% from the floor. The Eagles' defense played a role in forcing bad shots. An ample amount of those came from behind the three-point line, where the Mustangs hit just four of 19.
Costa Mesa performed differently than it did in the previous three games, all at home. Playing on the road for the first time since the league opener on Jan. 12 can have that effect on a team.
The Mustangs got off to a slow start. They probably were still not over the devastating one-point loss at home to Laguna Beach last Friday.
Coach Bryan Rice said after that game that the Mustangs let one slip away. Estancia ran away from the Mustangs 90 seconds into the fourth quarter.
The Eagles went on a 9-0 run to give them a 39-24 lead, their biggest advantage of the night. Rice called a timeout, but he knew the Mustangs were in a tough spot.
"They kept scoring and we couldn't get stops," Rice said.
"[We] couldn't recover."
Orange Coast League
Estancia 50, Costa Mesa 38
SCORE BY QUARTERS
CM 4 – 11 – 9 – 14 — 38
E 10 – 14 – 9 – 17 — 50
CM – Albers 14, Dawson 8, Walden 7, Dimson 6, Hefner 2, Hayes 1.
3-pt. goals – Dimson 2, Dawson 1, Walden 1.
Fouled out – Dawson.
Technicals – None.
E – Joyner 15, Umansky 13, Holmes 10, Fackler 6, Beck 4, Davis 2.
3-pt. goals – Fackler 2, Umansky 1, Beck 1, Holmes 1, .
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.