CORONA DEL MAR — Karléh Wilson said it was a shock how the season ended last year, with the Corona del Mar High girls' basketball team falling to Estancia in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A playoffs.
The Sea Kings have usually beaten the Eagles in recent years. That playoff loss last year hurt.
"We went into that game and didn't really think that we had a problem," Wilson said.
Driving to the basket and scoring was no problem for the CdM senior forward Tuesday. Wilson made sure Estancia didn't start a winning streak in the interdistrict rivalry.
She scored a game-high 18 points to help CdM beat Estancia, 44-31, in a quarterfinal of the CdM Tipoff Tournament on Tuesday night at CdM.
The Sea Kings (2-0) play against either Segerstrom or San Juan Hills in a tournament semifinal back at CdM on Thursday night. To get there, they made doubly sure to prepare for a very young Estancia team.
"We told each other not to be cocky, to just play hard and play like it's a good team and go all out," said Wilson, who added eight rebounds.
The Sea Kings got things done defensively, forcing Estancia (1-1) into 30 turnovers. They have started strong after a winless Pacific Coast League campaign last year and the playoff loss to the Eagles. With six seniors in the rotation, they're a fairly veteran group.
"I really like our team," CdM Coach Mark Decker said. "I think the expectations from everywhere else are not real high on us, but this team really likes to play defense and they're pretty good at it. I think we're going to surprise some people."
Sophomore guard Keaton Gaughan added eight points for CdM, and seniors Maddy Camarillo and Jordan Meyers added five each. Senior guard Melanie de Arakal had four points to go along with her game-high six steals.
Meyers and another senior guard, Samantha Coffman, each had four steals.
Estancia accomplished big things last year, going undefeated in the Orange Coast League for its first league title in eight years. But the Eagles graduated a host of seniors, led by the two-time Newport-Mesa Player of the Year, Kassie Stratton. The only returner who played a lot last year is sophomore guard Celia Duran.
The Eagles still hung tough late in the first half, pulling within 15-13 on a steal and layup by sophomore guard Bryanna Vernon. But Corona del Mar scored the last six points of the first half and outscored the Eagles, 16-2, in the third quarter.
Wilson scored eight of her points in the 21-2 run as the hosts built up a sizable lead. Estancia Coach Xavier Castellano was still impressed by the play of his junior post player Giana Jason, who had 11 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and three blocks.
"We've got to try and develop," Castellano said. "We're just trying to see who we can get to grasp this game. [Jason] and Celia are solid. Her and Celia know what to expect. I'm just trying to find three girls who can play with them. It's mix-and-match. Our seniors, Andrea [Silva] and Jenny [Rubacalva], when they're solid, we're pretty good.
"I hate saying it's a rebuilding year, because every year you go out and you want to win. I just think the faster they get things, the faster they comprehend this game, the quicker we can be more competitive."
Estancia plays in a fifth-place semifinal game Thursday.
CdM, meanwhile, reached the final of its host tournament last year before losing to Back Bay rival Newport Harbor. Decker said the Sea Kings could have a tough game in the semis this year if Segerstrom beats San Juan Hills on Wednesday. Decker said Segerstrom, the two-time defending Golden West League champion, is probably the best overall team in the tournament.
"We'll have our hands full," Decker said. "We'll definitely have to play better than we did for most of this game."
CdM Tipoff Tournament
Corona del Mar 44, Estancia 31
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Estancia 5 – 8 – 2 – 16 — 31
CdM 10 – 8 – 16 – 10 — 44
Est – Jason 11, Duran 8, Vernon 8, Ramos 2, Simmons 2.
3-pt. goals – Vernon 2, Duran 1.
Fouled out – None.
CdM – Wilson 18, Gaughan 8, Meyers 5, Camarillo 5, de Arakal 4, Coffman 2, Hoogenboom 2.
3-pt. goals – None.
Fouled out – None.