COSTA MESA — Through three quarters Tuesday, Estancia High guard Ben Beck was on track to outscore Saddleback all by himself.
The junior had produced 21 points, two more than what the Roadrunners combined to score. Beck never played again in the Orange Coast League contest at home.
The Eagles had no use for Beck in the final quarter, as they went into it up 37 points. They wound up with a 68-31 win, their biggest margin of victory of the season.
Can you believe Estancia Coach Agustin Heredia was concerned before the contest? He called it a trap game, believing his players might be looking ahead to Thursday's league finale at home.
Beck wasn't overlooking Saddleback, which is in last place in league. Beck hit a season-high five three-pointers and now he and the Eagles can focus on the next matchup, which will determine second place in league.
First place is out of the picture because Laguna Beach wrapped up the league title with a win against Godinez.
To finish second, Estancia has to get past rival Costa Mesa, which can steal the spot and the Battle for the Bell from the Eagles with a win. The programs go into the game sharing second place in league at 6-3.
What they haven't shared the past four seasons is the rivalry. The Mustangs have lost it every season, all with Heredia at the helm.
When Heredia played at Estancia, the 1990 graduate said the game against Costa Mesa used to be a tuneup for league play. Times have changed with Estancia and Costa Mesa being a part of the same league.
The Mustangs proved they could beat Estancia, having done so in comeback fashion a couple of weeks ago at home. The 39-36 triumph against the Eagles was Costa Mesa's first in two years.
Costa Mesa can sweep the series for the first time in five years. Unlike Saddleback, which dropped to 1-8 in league, Heredia said the Mustangs pose matchup problems.
"They got a lot of guards," Heredia said. "They're good, quick guards and they kind of get after it a little bit. They can shoot the ball well and we struggle guarding the perimeter."
The Eagles didn't have to worry about the Roadrunners' outside game.
The visitors missed their first 11 field-goal attempts and finished one of 13 from the floor in the opening quarter. Estancia jumped ahead, 20-3, thanks to Beck and Estancia's bigs, Rashad Davis and Lucas Pereira, combining for 14 points.
Heredia said Pereira turned his best effort in quite some time. Pereira was one of four players honored on senior night, a good time for him to score in double figures for the first time since Dec. 16.
Davis got his eight points and most of his 11 rebounds in the first half. The Eagles went into halftime ahead, 34-13, but they didn't slow down in the third quarter en route to their third straight victory.
Beck opened the second half by hitting a three-pointer while a defender fouled him. He converted the four-point play at the free-throw line.
Beck was more proud that he hit the free throw because he struggled at the charity stripe in the previous game. Gaining confidence at the line before the big game was good for Beck, who made four of five free throws.
Going five of nine from behind the arc was a positive as well. But he isn't trying to get too caught up with the rivalry.
"It's just another league game," said Beck, who zeroed in on the keys to the game against Costa Mesa. "We just have to be more patient and mentally stay in the game. Last game, we kind of had mental mistakes [facing] their [1-3-1] zone. We gave away [the ball] and gave them points."
Orange Coast League
Estancia 68, Saddleback 31
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Saddleback 3 – 10 – 6– 12 — 31
Estancia 20 – 14 – 22 – 12 — 68
SB – E. Mendoza 10, Esquihuas 9, Toro 9, Farias 2 , Ortiz 1.
3-pt. goals – Toro 2, Esquihuas 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
E – Beck 21, Pereira 14, Davis 8, Harry 8, Sullivan 6, J. Mendoza 5, Ponce 4, Fackler 2.
3-pt. goals – Beck 5, J. Mendoza 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.