COSTA MESA — Celia Duran stole the ball in the final minute of the game Tuesday night, and a thought flashed through the head of the Estancia High sophomore point guard.
She knew it was her time, even in a hostile gym. She had to deliver for the Eagles.
"It kind of hit me," Duran said. "Kassie [Stratton] is not here anymore. I had to do this for my team."
Duran put on the best performance of her young basketball career. The last shot was the biggest.
Her three-pointer with 23 seconds to go capped a frantic comeback and helped Estancia stun Costa Mesa, 61-60, in the teams' first Battle for the Bell rivalry game at Costa Mesa High.
It could be said that Duran put on a performance like Stratton, the two-time Newport-Mesa Player of the Year who graduated last year. She scored a career-high 34 points, to go along with eight steals. She hit 13 of 17 free throws. She even blocked two shots.
Never before had Duran scored 34 points — not at Estancia High, not in NJB, not even at TeWinkle Intermediate.
"The highest at TeWinkle was 25," Duran said. "And it was against Mesa."
She picked a good time to again go off against the Mustangs, helping Estancia (11-10, 3-2 in the Orange Coast League) beat Mesa for the seventh straight time in league dating back to 2008. But it was not just Duran who stepped up for the Eagles, who scored a season-high in points despite having their second-leading scorer, sophomore guard Bryanna Vernon, out sick.
Junior forward Diana Avila came off the bench to score a career-high 11 points. Junior center Gianna Jason battled through foul trouble to record 11 points and 11 rebounds.
"A couple of years ago Kassie had a concussion, and Jenny Boldizar came out of nowhere and hit six threes to help us win that game," Estancia Coach Xavier Castellano said. "I asked [Coach] Judd [Fryslie], 'You think we're going to have someone come out like that this year?' And [it was] Diana Avila. A big 11 points.
"Mesa did everything right. We just pulled one out. Those girls played their absolute hearts out. We've never scored 61 points with this group. I mean, the last couple of games we've been scoring in the 30s, winning ugly. I don't think today was that pretty, but we got some layups. We got the ball in the hole."
Costa Mesa led for most of the contest. Coach Nichole Maddox found it hard to keep the lead as three starters — Molly Settles, Marlene Castro and Rachel Witter — fouled out in the fourth quarter.
"We let up on defense in the fourth quarter, thinking that we had it won," Maddox said. "We can't ever let up on defense ... it deflates a team when you take three starters out of the game."
Duran helped the Eagles move into a tie for second in league with the Mustangs (9-12, 3-2) behind Godinez, which is 5-0 in league. She rallied her team from a four-point deficit with two minutes to go, tying the score at 58 on a crazy banked-in runner from near the free-throw line with 38 seconds to play.
Costa Mesa called timeout. Duran ruined whatever play the Mustangs had drawn up, stealing the ball in the back court before launching a three-pointer from the right side.
It went in, giving Estancia its first lead since early in the second quarter. The Eagles then held off the Mustangs, who got a good look at a potential tying three-pointer that rimmed out. Sophomore Ebelin Roman grabbed the rebound and scored from in close with four seconds left, but Mesa still ended up a point short.
Senior guard Nancy Aguilar had a season-high 21 points to lead the Mustangs. Roman had a strong game with nine points, seven rebounds and four steals.
But Estancia, which graduated every contributor except Duran from last year's league championship team, somehow found a way.
"We just didn't give up," Avila said. "We did not give up at all."
Orange Coast League
Estancia 61, Costa Mesa 60
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Estancia 13 – 13 – 16 – 19 — 61
Mesa 13 – 19 – 16 – 12 — 60
Est – Duran 34, Avila 11, Jason 11, Garcia 3, Rubacalva 2.
3-pt. goals – Duran 3, Garcia 1.
Fouled out – Silva.
CM – Aguilar 23, Roman 9, Castro 8, Settles 8, Witter 5, Mino 4, Hobberlin 2, Loredo 1.
3-pt. goals – Aguilar 1.
Fouled out – Settles, Castro, Witter.