CORONA DEL MAR — For the first 10 minutes of Corona del Mar High's Pacific Coast League opener Friday, Coach Ryan Schachter said it looked like his boys' basketball team was stuck in the mud.
The goal before the home contest against Irvine was for the Sea Kings to reach 70 points. At the pace they were going, half of that point total seemed more likely.
Then in a 47-second span, CdM no longer was in a mucky situation. The Sea Kings can thank Blake Grable for turning a one-point game into a rout.
The junior guard produced three three-point plays in a 47-second span in the second quarter. The Sea Kings never looked back, beating the Vaqueros, 64-34.
"Even though we won by 30, it doesn't feel like a 30-point win," Schachter said. "We had to grind it out."
The Sea Kings' road to defending their league title won't be as smooth. It never really has been, even when CdM boasted the best talent in the league during Schachter's first five years at the school.
In his sixth season with the Sea Kings, Schachter views the league as a wide-open race. He lost five starters off last season's team, which reached the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs.
He's already scoreboard watching and it's only the first league game of the season.
Jason Simco, an assistant, showed him the score of University's home game against Woodbridge. The game was even at halftime before Woodbridge pulled out a 51-45 victory.
"We have Woodbridge on Tuesday," Schachter said. "It's going to be a tough league. No one is head and shoulders above anyone."
Schachter mentioned every team in the six-team league that can contend for a crown, except for the one CdM (9-6, 1-0 in league) faced Friday.
Irvine (8-10, 0-1) went into the evening without its best player, Mahesh Kumar, who is out for the season with a knee injury. The Vaqueros lost their top player last season in the season opener.
They were undermanned against CdM. Only eight players suited up. Well, only five get to play on the court, and the five that saw time in the first quarter hung with the Sea Kings.
"First quarter was really ugly, just both ways," said Schachter, whose team was tied at 11 with Irvine after eight minutes. "We were fouling a lot and it was a slow pace. We wanted to kind of speed it up a little."
The Sea Kings took off in the final five minutes of the second quarter.
They pushed the tempo and Grable began scoring in bunches.
Grable, who finished with 13 points, knocked down a three-pointer to give CdM a 19-15 lead. The advantage grew rather quickly after Max Stone grabbed a defensive rebound and threw it across the court to a running Grable.
Grable converted a layup while a defender fouled him. He completed the three-point play at the free-throw line with 4:24 left in the first half.
Twenty-seconds later, Grable attacked the basket, this time from the baseline before pulling up for a successful shot. He was fouled again, and again he finished the three-point play at the charity stripe.
Grable wasn't the only CdM player recording a three in the second quarter. Stone nailed one and finished with 12 points.
The Sea Kings closed out the first half on an 18-4 run, getting a fade away jumper from forward Andrew McCormack at the buzzer. McCormack did more damage on the boards, grabbing 10, doubling his point total.
Jake McCloskey, a transfer from Edison, led CdM, recording 10 of his 15 points in the second half. The senior guard got into foul trouble 90 seconds into the second half and Schachter pulled him with three fouls.
"He's got to learn to keep his arms out on [defense]. He feels like he can just take the ball," Schachter said of McCloskey. "When he gets going in transition, he's really good."
Pacific Coast League
Corona del Mar 64, Irvine 34
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Irvine 11 – 8 – 8 – 7 — 34
CdM 11 – 23 – 10 – 20 — 64
I – Burg 8, Kerns 8, Kaye 7, Foster 6, DeKlotz 5.
3-pt. goals – None.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
CdM – McCloskey 15, Grable 13, Stone 12, Calise 8, McCormack 5, Griffin 5, Olson 2, Johnston 2, Coffman 2.
3-pt. goals – McCloskey 2, Grable 1, Griffin 1, Stone 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.