CORONA DEL MAR — Two little girls emerged from the Corona del Mar High crowd with a huge cardboard cutout of Coach Ryan Schachter's head. When they greeted Schachter near the scorer's table before halftime, his facial expression didn't resemble the smile on the cutout.
Schachter wasn't too happy with how his Sea Kings played the first half of the Battle of the Bay against Newport Harbor. They trailed by as many as 13 points, before going into the break down eight.
"We didn't look good," he said of his Sea Kings, who usually do look good under Schachter whenever they play the Sailors.
During his seven seasons in charge of CdM, Schachter has never lost to Newport Harbor in the city championship game. It seemed like this was going to be the season in which the Sailors ended CdM's four-game winning streak in the Back Bay rivalry.
The Sailors avoided the annual game against CdM the past two seasons. There was no dodging the Sea Kings' run to start the second half, helping them rally for a 64-54 win at home on Friday.
At the end, Schachter was all smiles. His Sea Kings (7-4) once again beat the Sailors (7-4).
"It's pretty fun. It's exciting," Schachter said of resuming the rivalry with Newport Harbor. "The kids were really involved, a lot of emotion, a little extracurricular [activity] after the game."
There was some pushing and shoving when the two teams lined up to high-five each other.
The rivalry is that intense. As CdM guard Max Stone put it, many of the players on both sides grew up playing with and against each other since elementary school.
In high school, the Sea Kings own the Back Bay. They took it away from Newport Harbor by opening the third quarter on a 17-2 run.
In the first five minutes, CdM turned an eight-point deficit into a seven-point lead. At no point did Newport Harbor Coach Bob Torribio call a timeout during the Sea Kings' scoring barrage.
"We weren't answering their baskets," said Torribio, who let his team play on, only to see Stone bury his second three-pointer in the third quarter.
Stone hit five threes and finished with a game-high 19 points, five steals and four rebounds. Stone's final three broke a 46-46 tie with 5:28 left to play. The Sea Kings never looked back.
The rest of the Sea Kings got involved during crunch time as three others, Bo St. Geme (14 points), Blake Grable (12) and Ryan Griffin (10), produced double-digit points.
Grable made a lot of it possible, after Schachter decided to get the 6-foot-3 guard at the high post in the second half. The senior tore apart the Sailors' zone, which relied on 7-foot Kevin Rakestraw to stop any penetration by CdM.
Rakestraw also hurt the Sea Kings by scoring 10 of his 13 points in the first half. His length bothered the Sea Kings for much of the first half, until Grable attacked the lane, finding Griffin a couple times for easy baskets. St. Geme also went in for a layup, pushing CdM's lead to seven with 2:39 to go.
While the Sea Kings' offense continued to click, Newport Harbor went almost 21/2 minutes without scoring in the fourth quarter. After Zach Wade (10 points) ended the Sailors' scoring drought by knocking down one of two free throws, Torribio called a timeout. He needed a defensive stop as the Sailors trailed, 55-49, with 2:23 left.
The defensive stand never came. The Sea Kings swung the ball around, with Stone finding a wide-open Grable behind the three-point line. He nailed it, giving him six points in the fourth and putting the game away.
"We knew we were the better team the whole time," said Stone, who helped CdM knock off its second straight Sunset League opponent in four days, the other was Los Alamitos. "We were just waiting for our time to strike."