IRVINE — Coach Ryan Schachter said he felt a little uneasy going into Monday. It was a feeling he has not had during the Corona del Mar High boys' basketball team's 19-game winning streak in Pacific Coast League play.
Half of his players were sick. Two players did not make the trip to University.
"I had a feeling going in that we were going to lose," Schachter said. "I just felt that the guys kind of had excuses built in. There's never a time for an excuse.
"Whether you're sick or not, you still play hard."
On the night CdM had a chance to clinch the outright league title, it suffered its worst league loss during Schachter's five seasons in charge.
The Trojans' 81-60 upset of CdM will surely hurt the Sea Kings' seeding in the upcoming CIF Southern Section Division III-AA playoffs. The third-ranked team in the division's coaches' poll dropped a game at the wrong time.
The program that last beat CdM in the 2008-09 season is the one that does it again to the Sea Kings.
The streak is over at 19, and now the Trojans (14-10, 7-2 in league) have an outside shot of sharing the league title with CdM (17-8, 8-1).
The Sea Kings can still claim sole possession of the crown on Wednesday, when they close out the regular season at home against lowly Beckman.
The league title does not mean as much to Schachter as making a run at a section title. That road has gotten a lot harder.
"Whether we win [league] outright, it doesn't matter," said Schachter, who has led CdM to three league championships in the past four seasons. "It's about getting ready for the playoffs and building momentum.
"More than that, I want to get healthy and I want to get right going into the playoffs."
Losing by 20-plus points for only the second time this season might be the way the Sea Kings regroup. They have one more chance to get back on their feet.
University buried CdM by hitting 12 three-pointers, eight coming in the first half.
The Sea Kings used a variety of zone defenses. None seemed to work.
The Trojans kept jacking up threes, and the ones they missed, they usually got second-chance opportunities. The Trojans grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, helping University take a 46-28 lead at halftime.
Marcus Bradley explained why CdM dug itself its largest first-half hole of the season.
"We just came out and didn't play hard at all, and this is the outcome of it," Bradley said. "This is what happens when you come out not ready to play. We get embarrassed.
"It's very disappointing. Now it's going to be hard for us to do what we have to do. We can't blame anyone … but ourselves."
Schachter said Bradley was one of the Sea Kings playing with a cold. While his teammates had cold shooting nights, Bradley almost accounted for half of CdM's points.
The 6-foot-6 forward led the Sea Kings with 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting and 11 rebounds. The only quarter in which the senior did not record a field goal was the fourth, when the game was out of reach.
The reason the Trojans enjoyed a big lead was due to CdM's inability to stop University at the start of the third quarter. University went on a 17-8 run to take a 63-38 lead, its biggest advantage of the game.
Christian Scott contributed four points during the Trojans' spurt and finished with a game-high 32. Christian Directo hit one of his four three-pointers and finished with 20 points, allowing University to avenge a 87-60 loss at CdM on Jan. 18.
"They scored … in their first 10-12 possessions in the third quarter and we didn't get a stop until 2:52 left in the quarter," Schachter said. "[The loss is] going to hurt us tremendously [when it comes to the playoff seeding]. We may drop to six, seven or eight. Who knows?
"I can understand losing because they're shooting the ball real well, but to lose and to get outcompeted like that, it's unacceptable."
Pacific Coast League
Corona del Mar 60
SCORE BY QUARTERS
CdM 16 – 12 – 20 – 12 — 60
Uni 24 – 22 – 23 – 12 — 81
CdM – Bradley 27, Cheek 13, Haly 11, Freeman 4, Ayzin 3, Jackosky 2.
3-pt. goals – Cheek 1, Ayzin 1.
Fouled out – None.
Uni – Scott 32, Directo 20, Kwan 13, Zachary 12, Wang 2, Joens 2.
3-pt. goals – Directo 4, Kwan 4, Zachary 3, Scott 1.