Eagles, CdM to collide

Estancia High girls' basketball co-coach Xavier Castellano removed his team's statistics from the popular website MaxPreps when the season ended.

Castellano didn't want to give any opponent a scouting edge in the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A playoffs. It was irrelevant, at least for the first round.

The Eagles play not only a familiar opponent, but one within the district. No. 12-seeded Estancia (20-6), the Orange Coast League champion, will take on Corona del Mar in a Division IV-A first-round game at Estancia on Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Sea Kings (9-17) earned an at-large berth after finishing last in the six-team Pacific Coast League.

Costa Mesa, which finished second in the Orange Coast League, is also in the Division IV-A draw. The Mustangs (12-14) will play host to No. 3-seeded JSerra, an at-large team from the Trinity League, in a first-round game.

Newport Harbor (11-15) earned an at-large berth into the Division II-A playoffs after finishing fifth in the Sunset League. The Sailors will play at No. 7-seeded Eisenhower of Rialto, the Citrus Belt League champion, in the first round Thursday night.

Estancia finished 10-0 in league for its first league title in eight seasons. Corona del Mar finished 0-10 in league and enters the playoffs on a 12-game losing streak, but that means little to Castellano. He saw his team lose to CdM in the semifinals of the CdM Tournament, 51-41, on Dec. 2, though Estancia was without senior Brenda Soto (shoulder) in that game and senior Kassie Stratton (calf) played only briefly.

"They go in hungry, being in a tough league and then they get a team like us that they've already beaten," Castellano said. "We're hungry as well. We want that first playoff win. Who better to play than CdM? We're pretty evenly matched."

Castellano doesn't expect the Eagles to get blown out in the first round like in his first two years. Stratton, last year's Newport-Mesa Player of the Year, leads Estancia in scoring at 14 points per game. CdM Coach Mark Decker said he doesn't have anyone averaging half that.

Decker said Ellie Nadal, Karleh Wilson, Saylor Schroff, Kayla Marolt, Daniela Gallardo and Melanie de Arakal all average between four to six points per game. Someone will need to step up to have a chance at Estancia.

"We need more than one person," Decker said. "This will be a really big challenge for us. It's at Estancia, and they're on a roll. But I think we'll be up to compete. It should be fun.

"There's not a lot of secrets [playing against Estancia]. For us, it's good because we've had some success against them."

The Sea Kings have gone 5-0 against the Eagles the last three seasons. Thursday's winner would likely play No. 5-seeded Duarte in Saturday's second round.

Costa Mesa will have a challenge against JSerra, the No. 3 seed in the division despite the fact the Lions went 0-8 in the Trinity League. Coach Nichole Maddox's Mustangs are led by senior forward Annie Sturm (13.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game).

Newport Harbor makes its second straight playoff appearance under Coach Justin Long. The Sailors doubled their Sunset League wins, from one to two, and Long said he was confident his team would get in the postseason after a strong preseason highlighted by winning the CdM Tournament.

Long said senior center Alex Morton is close to 100% after battling back and ankle injuries during the season. Junior forward Kasey Thompson leads the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game.

"Alex hasn't been complaining about her back at all in practice and Kasey, every game she gets better," Long said. "This is the perfect time for us to go into CIF."

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