They say that everything is bigger in Texas.
In Texas, though, Estancia High junior Slade Garnett didn’t have the chance to ring a bell after a girls’ basketball game.
Garnett, who transferred to Estancia from Texas last June, made sure she had the opportunity to do so Tuesday night at home.
There was the season-high 20 points. There was the defensive job on Costa Mesa’s top scorer.
In the end, Garnett perhaps had the most fun of anyone after the Eagles beat cross-town rival Costa Mesa, 64-50, winning the girls’ basketball Battle for the Bell series for the fifth time in six years.
“It’s awesome, said Garnett, a big smile on her face, after the game. “We don’t do this in Texas, so it’s super-fun.”
The teams split their two meetings this year, but Estancia keeps the bell since Tuesday’s margin of victory was greater than Mesa’s 67-64 win in the Orange Coast League opener on Jan. 14.
Perhaps more importantly for the Eagles, who were led by sophomore point guard Maya Van Den Heever and her 23 points, they moved closer to defending their outright league crown. Estancia (20-3, 6-1 in league), ranked No. 6 in CIF Southern Section Division 3A, controls its own destiny with three league games to go.
Laguna Beach (5-2 in league) remains in second place. Costa Mesa (12-10, 4-3 in league) dropped into a tie for third with Godinez after Tuesday’s loss.
Estancia Co-Coach Xavier Castellano shrugged when asked what it meant to keep the bell.
“We kind of get caught up in the whole Mesa-Estancia rivalry,” he said. “I tell our girls, our goal is to win every league game and win a league championship. Maybe that’s my fault, that I don’t put that much emphasis on the bell ... We’ve won it the last five out of six years. I mean, it’s great, but we want to win league and we want to go far in the playoffs.”
The game was close for most of the first three quarters. Costa Mesa senior guard Danielle Obong scored seven quick points to open the second half, giving Costa Mesa a 33-28 lead. But Estancia rallied back, behind big shots from Garnett.
“My shots were just falling,” Garnett said. “I decided to be more bold this game and just go for it. I didn’t want to hold back. I really wanted to win.”
She was fouled on a three-pointer from the corner, making two free throws to cut the Mesa lead to two points. Then, she nailed a three-pointer from the same corner to give the Eagles the lead back.
Garnett then hit another triple from the other corner, giving Estancia a 39-37 lead late in the quarter. The shots were important as the Mustangs focused on shutting down Estancia senior guard Celia Duran (seven points).
“Slade was huge offensively tonight,” Castellano said. “Defensively, she’s not going to get that much credit ... [Obong] had 25 [points] against Laguna. Slade’s been stopping everybody. She does a great job.”
The Mustangs tried to respond. Senior forward Jacqueline Guerrero hit a three-pointer early in the fourth quarter, cutting Estancia’s lead to a single point. But from there, the hosts went on a 15-2 run to seize control. Van Den Heever had eight of her points in the surge, which included Mesa’s spark off the bench, sophomore Katherine Lawrence, fouling out with nine points.
“I think we just had a mental letdown,” Costa Mesa Coach Nichole Maddox said. “We didn’t have a lot of calls that went our way, and a couple of kids got in foul trouble. I think they were thinking, ‘Stay out of foul trouble,’ as opposed to, ‘Play good defense.’ I think it was just a mental lapse ... [but] Estancia played a good game and they played the whole way through, so congratulations to them.”
Junior forward Eliza Jason had 13 rebounds for the Eagles, and senior forward Lehua Alama-Jordan added five points and six boards. Those contributions were key, as Estancia senior forward Michelle Simmons (finger) played limited minutes.
Garnett and Alama-Jordan each had six steals, while Van Den Heever had five and Duran four. The Eagles forced Costa Mesa into 36 turnovers while committing just 19 themselves.
Obong finished with 11 points and six steals for the Mustangs. Junior Aubriona Mathis had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Costa Mesa plays at Calvary Chapel on Thursday, while Estancia plays host to Saddleback.
The Eagles, who survived a one-point win at Laguna Beach after opening league with the loss to Mesa, now have won six straight games.
“We had a couple of games where we were lost,” Garnett said. “I think we’re back and we’re ready to go.”
Orange Coast League
Estancia 64, Costa Mesa 50
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Mesa 11-15-11-13 — 50
Estancia 15-13-13-23 — 64
CM – Obong 11, Mathis 11, Guerrero 10, Lawrence 9, Loredo 6, Reskey 3.
3-pt. goals – Obong 2, Guerrero 1, Lawrence 1, Reskey 1.
Fouled out – Lawrence.
Technicals – None.
Est – M. Van Den Heever 23, Garnett 20, Duran 7, Alama-Jordan 5, Garcia 3, Vernon 2, Simmons 2, Jason 2.
3-pt. goals – Garnett 4.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.