High Schools: O'Brien back in mix

Tim O'Brien says he took a five-year break from coaching basketball because he was "just tired, just worn out."

He coached for five seasons at Estancia High, seven at Orange Coast College, and then 13 years ago he went back to the high school ranks.

O'Brien started at a new school, Northwood. He led the program to three league titles, and then after the 2006-07 season, O'Brien stepped down.

"I thought I was done," said O'Brien, adding that he began coaching in 1978. "I got an itch. I got back in it."

In his first season back at Northwood, O'Brien led the program to an undefeated Pacific Coast League title.

O'Brien has won everywhere he has coached, guiding teams to league, CIF Southern Section, CIF Southern California Regional and CIF State titles.

At 58, he is still outcoaching other coaches, who are much younger. His team wasn't even supposed to claim the league championship this season.

"I thought Woodbridge would be the best team [in league]," said CdM Coach Ryan Schachter, whose program had won or shared four of the past six Pacific Coast League crowns, until O'Brien returned and helped Northwood sweep the two-game series against CdM, which finished second in league, two games back of the Timberwolves.

"I thought Northwood would be good. Coach O'Brien has done a great job with these guys. Those [players he has] are good, [Kevin] Norman, [Zach] Pierce and [Cole] Murray. They have the best players in the league. They're definitely the best team."

The week began with some good news for the CdM boys' basketball team.

In the CIF Southern Section Division 3-AA poll, the Sea Kings moved up to the No. 3 spot. They were in position to earn one of the top four seeds in next week's playoffs.

All the Sea Kings needed to do was win their final two Pacific Coast League games.

They fell short, splitting the games, which cost them a shot at sharing the league title and locking up a possible top-four seed in the postseason.

"The seeding, that's more of a theoretical thing. It looks good, but it doesn't mean much. We still got to play teams," Schachter said. "The league championship was here, it was tangible. The seeding is secondary to getting a league championship, because that's right here, right now."

Well, it was, until CdM lost at Northwood, 62-53, on Tuesday.

On Sunday, when the section releases its playoff pairings, Schachter will see how much finishing second in league will hurt his team's chance of earning one of the top four seeds.

Out of the teams ranked in the top four in Division 3-AA, CdM (18-9, 8-2 in league), No. 1 Lawndale Leuzinger (19-7, 7-3 in Bay League) and No. 2 La Verne Damien (20-6, 7-3 in Sierra League) each placed second in their respective leagues. Only No. 4 Jurupa Valley finished atop its league, the River Valley, sharing it with Riverside La Sierra.

The teams ranked No. 5 (Santa Margarita) and No. 6 (Santa Barbara San Marcos) also didn't win their respective leagues. San Marcos was the runner-up in the Channel League. Santa Margarita finished dead last without a win in the Trinity League, but it played against the likes of Mater Dei, Bellflower St. John Bosco, JSerra and Orange Lutheran, programs ranked No. 1 in Division 1-AA, No. 1 in Division 3-A, No. 3 in Division 4-AA and No. 11 in Division 1-AA, respectively.

The No. 7 (Temple City) and No. 8 teams (Atascadero) in Division 3-AA each won their leagues, Rio Hondo and Pac-7, but they didn't face the kind of tough nonleague competition CdM did. The Sea Kings played Tustin (No. 1 in Division 3-AAA), Canyon (No. 5 in Division 2-A), Foothill (No. 8 in Division 1-AA), Ocean View (No. 4 in Division 3-A) and Las Vegas (No. 6 in the state of Nevada by MaxPreps.com).

The Sea Kings won't be the only Newport-Mesa program making the postseason. Expect Newport Harbor, a fifth-place team from the Sunset League, and Costa Mesa, which shared third place in the Orange Coast League, to play this upcoming week.

The Sailors (13-13, 4-6) should receive an at-large berth into Division 2-A, which would mark their first playoff appearance since the 2009-10 season. The Mustangs (10-16, 5-5) are in Division 4-AA.

Sage Hill (10-15, 3-7 in Academy League) and Estancia (7-18, 3-7 in Orange Coast League) are hoping to receive at-large entries in Division 4-A and Division 3-A, respectively, after they each finished near the bottom of their leagues.

Costa Mesa, Estancia and Corona del Mar are each having their alumni baseball games on Feb. 16.

Costa Mesa's game is at TeWinkle Park at 6 p.m., while Estancia and CdM are having their games on their home fields at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.


Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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