There is a certain underdog mentality that the Estancia High girls’ basketball team carries with it.
The Eagles weren’t supposed to win the Corona del Mar Tip-Off Tournament. They weren’t even supposed to be in the championship game.
“If you see us walking down the street, you’re not like, ‘Oh, those must be basketball players,’” senior guard Celia Duran said. "[We’re] a bunch of goofballs.”
But after Saturday night, they are a bunch of goofballs who are also champions.
Estancia rallied from a 14-point third-quarter deficit to stun Tesoro in overtime, 69-67, and win the Tip-Off Tournament championship game at Northwood High.
It is the first time Estancia has won the tournament. Heck, it’s the first time the Eagles have won a tournament, period, in Xavier Castellano and Judd Fryslie’s six years as co-coaches.
They did it with a scrappy effort led by all-tournament team selections Duran, who had a team-high 24 points, and Garnett, the transfer from Texas who had 11 points and was tasked with guarding standout Tesoro guard Priya Prasad.
Prasad picked up two fouls on Garnett in the first quarter, but Garnett and Estancia senior Stephanie Garcia were generally effective on defense, as Prasad struggled with her shot early. She did manage to come alive in the second half and score a game-high 25 points.
“I just needed to be smarter with my play,” Garnett said.
Duran, last year’s Newport-Mesa Player of the Year who scored 13 of her points in the fourth period and overtime, was emotional after the victory.
“I just have been having a lot of family problems,” she said, declining to elaborate. “It’s nice to be successful in something, you know? … By winning this, and helping my team be successful, it’s like a big [relief from] all of my problems. That’s why I was crying. I did this to prove all the people, the non-believers, wrong.”
Estancia (4-0) was behind, 34-20, midway through the third quarter. But the Eagles cut their deficit to five points headed into the fourth.
They took their first lead of the second half, at 47-46, on Duran’s driving bank shot with 2:45 to go. Duran’s basket with 50 seconds left in regulation gave Estancia a 54-52 edge, but Tesoro’s Suhansi Perera tied it on a baseline drive, sending the game to overtime.
Prasad banked in a three-pointer to start overtime, but the Eagles responded with a huge three from senior Lehua Alama-Jordan. The transfer from Reno scored a season-high 14 points, including four big three-pointers.
“Today she just goes, ‘Coach, I can’t make my shots,’” Castellano said. “I just look at her and I go, ‘You’re going to make your shots today’ … thank God she did. She was clutch, man.”
Two free throws by Prasad gave Tesoro a 65-64 edge with less than a minute left in overtime, but then Estancia sophomore Maya Van Den Heever hit another huge three-pointer to put the Eagles up two points.
Alama-Jordan got a steal and layup, and the Eagles were on their way to the tournament title.
Other clutch players included senior guard Bryanna Vernon, who made a big three-pointer in the second half and also got big rebounds late in the contest.
“Everyone stepped up,” Castellano said. “Everyone on our team has heart.”
CdM Tip-Off Tournament
Estancia 69, Tesoro 67 (OT)
SCORE BY PERIODS
Est 12 – 6 – 18 – 18 — 15 – 69
Tes 12 – 13 – 16 – 13 – 13 — 67
Est – Duran 24, Alama-Jordan 14, M. Van Den Heever 13, Garnett 11, Vernon 3, Garcia 2, Simmons 2.
3-pt. goals – Alama-Jordan 4, Garnett 3, M. Van Den Heever 1, Vernon 1.
Fouled out – Garnett.
Technicals – None.
Tes – Prasad 25, Perera 14, Taubman 9, Cowart 8, Horsager 6, Patton 5.
3-pt. goals – Prasad 4, Taubman 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.