FOUNTAIN VALLEY – It was the ability to pay attention to the details that earned the Huntington Beach boys' basketball team a key, Sunset League road victory Friday.
Huntington went to Fountain Valley for a game that would drop one team from a share of second place in the league standings. Leading from start to finish, the Oilers maintained their share of second with Edison after scoring a comfortable 56-38 win. The outcome put the Oilers at 4-2 in league and 13-10 overall.
Fountain Valley slipped to 3-3 in league and is 14-7 overall.
Huntington Coach Fabian Luna thought that his squad's ability to work as a team would determine whether or not the Oilers would be successful.
"I thought our kids played really well," said Luna who collected his 101st career win at Huntington. "I told them not to worry about who takes the credit. What was more important was that we work together as a team. That would be the key for us. Our guys paid attention to the little things and that made all the difference tonight.
"We also played to our strengths which was to contain the ball and tag their shooters on defense, and make plays off the dribble. I was real happy with this win."
Fountain Valley Coach Roger Holmes had no explanation as to why his team performed so poorly – and for the second time this season against the Oilers.
The Barons shot dismally from the field and free-throw line in the first league meeting between the teams earlier this month, making only 15 of 56 shots from the floor and four of 14 attempts from the foul line in a 49-41 loss on Jan. 6. The 41 points were a season low for the Barons.
On Friday, they struggled even more. They were just 12 of 55 from the field and scored a new season low.
Their free-throw shooting (nine of 14) was the only thing that had improved slightly.
"I can't figure it out," said Holmes who perhaps got a precursor of what was to come Friday after saying his team had a "horrible" practice on Thursday. "We came out flat, didn't hit our shots and lost our confidence early and didn't recover. We were just not there tonight.
"We've had a habit this year of falling behind early in league games. We trailed Edison, 13-0, and were down, 21-9, to [Los Alamitos]. The first time we played Huntington, we got down pretty big in that game, too. It happened again tonight."
Huntington scored the first seven points of the game. Fountain Valley did draw to within 11-10 but junior forward Harley Ruder scored the final four points of the quarter to put the Oilers up, 15-10. Junior guard Andrew Tenbrink would score the first five points of the second quarter, hitting from three-point range and then a jumper, to give the Oilers their first double-digit lead of the game at 20-10. They took their biggest lead of the half, 24-12, on two free throws by senior guard Rory Aldana with 2:25 left in the half.
The Barons didn't score their first points of the quarter until senior forward Thomas Le hit two free throws with 3:21 left in the quarter, and didn't score their first basket of the quarter until junior guard Josh Armstrong hit a bank shot with 1:10 left before halftime. Another bank shot by Armstrong, followed by a lay-up by sophomore forward Jacob Meyer, in the final minute, pulled the Barons to within 24-16 at the half.
Huntington took further control by scoring the first 10 points of the second half. Tenbrink scored six of those points during the run that took the Oilers to a 34-16 lead at the 5:51 mark of the third quarter. The Oilers held a 42-27 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Fountain Valley made one final charge and got to within 44-36 when junior forward Tanner Trounce hit a three-point shot, his third of the game, with 5:31 left, but could get no closer. The Oilers then put the game away by going on a 12-0 run over the next three minutes. The run started with a nice back-door pass by Ruder that led to an easy lay-in by senior forward Bryan Ortt and ended a nice tip-in by Ruder off a missed shot by Tenbrink.
The Oilers were in front by 20 for the first time, 56-36, with 1:30 to go.
Tenbrink led all scorers with 20 points. Aldana scored 15 and Rudder 14.
Armstrong's 10 points led the Barons in scoring and Trounce added nine points.
"We have the talent on this team to go 5-0 in the second half of league," Luna said. "But, we are taking things one game at a time. That's all we can do. We can't look too far ahead."
If the Oilers wish to take another step toward a possible league championship, then they have to look no further than Wednesday when they play at league-leading Los Alamitos. The Griffins beat the Oilers, 68-61, Jan. 11.
Fountain Valley also has a key road test Wednesday at rival Edison. The Barons upended the Chargers, 59-53, in the teams' first meeting on Jan. 11. The Chargers (4-2 league) routed host Newport Harbor, 63-28, on Friday.
Both games Wednesday tip at 7 p.m.