HUNTINGTON BEACH – The first full week in December traditionally has been the week that the Ocean View High boys' basketball tournament gets underway. Such was the case Tuesday but the annual event, which has drawn some of the top prep teams, had a new look and feel to it.
For starters, the tournament, formerly known as the Tournament of Champions, has been christened the Jim Harris Memorial Tournament of Champions, in honor of late-Ocean View head coach Jim Harris who died near the end of October after a brief battle with cancer. His presence was definitely missed, but he'd be proud of what the Seahawks accomplished on the court.
Ocean View routed the Manual Arts of Los Angeles, 90-48, in the first game of the tournament. The Seahawks ran out to a quick lead and never let up on the Toilers.
Jimmy Harris, who served as co-head coach with his father and now shares the same role with Tim Walsh, was pleased with his team's overall effort. Harris and Walsh were able to insert their entire lineup into the action and the game used a running clock in the fourth quarter.
"It was a good start," he said of opening night of the tournament. "We expected to serve up a game plan to prepare for an athletic team (Manual Arts), and they were athletic, but our guys played well right from the beginning. Conor [Clifford] really kick-started us. He played pretty well."
Ocean View bolted to a 16-6 lead midway through the opening quarter. The Seahawks went on to score the final seven points of the quarter starting with a steal and lay-up by freshman guard Kendall Small. Senior guard Cristian Rivera hit a three-point shot and senior guard Eric Belgen scored on a soft hook from inside the key, to take the score to 29-12. Clifford, the Seahawks' seven-foot center, scored 10 of his game-high 19 points in the quarter.
The lead grew to 20 points (32-12) on two free throws by senior guard Matt Aldanese in the first minute of the second quarter. The biggest lead of the half was 22 points, first coming at 43-21 on a pair of free throws by Clifford and the last time at 49-27 after senior guard Robby Weaver weaved his way through the key for a lay-up just before intermission.
Although the Seahawks were in complete control, Harris saw room for improvement.
"We did get a little sloppy in the first half," he said. "We weren't ID-ing man-in-transition situations. We talked at halftime and made some adjustments, and I thought our guys did a nice job of correcting things in the second half. They never let up."
Two free throws and a three-point shot by Aldanese in the first 33 seconds of the second half pushed the lead to 54-27. The Seahawks also went on a mini-scoring run to end the third quarter and carried a 78-32 advantage into the final eight minutes.
A basket by senior guard DeAndrae Stevens with 3:43 left on the clock gave Ocean View its biggest lead in the game, 86-42.
After the game, Harris thought his father would echo his sentiments regarding the Seahawks' play.
"He'd say the same thing I did," he reflected. "He honed in on all aspects of the game, even when we had big leads, like we did tonight. It was all about playing with integrity for him."
Between 12 and 16 teams annually compete at the Tournament of Champions but this year's event has just eight teams, Jimmy Harris said. And, the tournament started on a Tuesday, instead of its usual Monday opening. In addition to Ocean View and Manual Arts, Rancho Verde, Narbonne of Los Angeles, Saddleback Valley Christian, Clovis West, King of Riverside, and Killarney of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, also are competing at the five-day event.
Wednesday's schedule is set: Killarney plays Rancho Verde at 4:30 p.m., Saddleback Valley Christian battles Clovis West at 6 p.m. and King of Riverside takes on Narbonne at 7:30 p.m.
Ocean View returns to tournament play Thursday to face Rancho Verde. Other games Thursday at Ocean View pit Narbonne against Saddleback Valley Christian, Clovis West against King of Riverside and Manual Arts against Killarney.
The tournament continues Friday and concludes Saturday.