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Too much Puente for Estancia

BASKETBALL: Costa Mesa senior guard scores 26 to lead Mustangs to 69-57 win over Estancia Tuesday.

January 31, 2007|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza

COSTA MESA — A dented trophy stood inside the Costa Mesa High boys' basketball program locker room.

When asked what happened to the prize earned by the Mustangs after beating Estancia in the heated cross-town rivalry a couple of years ago, guard Miguel Molina laughed.

"We were tossing it around," Molina said. "It just fell."

The Mustangs could afford to play around with the trophy and allow it to drop.

Costa Mesa found a replacement Tuesday night by beating Estancia, 69-57, to claim the rivalry trophy after clinching the series.

One more game remains in the three-game series between Costa Mesa-Estancia.

But senior guard Larry Puente made sure that the last regular-season game would mean more to Costa Mesa than city bragging rights. It will most likely mean an Orange Coast League championship.

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Puente scored 21 of his game-high 26 points in the first half to go with 15 rebounds, seven assists, six steals and one block as Costa Mesa is now in a three-way tie with Laguna Beach and Calvary Chapel for first place in league with three league games remaining.

"This is like our third year in a row, [so it feels] pretty good to keep [the trophy] here," said Puente, who made 12 of 18 field goals. "If we win our next two [league] games, we'll be league champs for sure."

The way Puente's performing, the Mustangs (15-8, 4-2 in league) are on pace to win their second straight league crown.

Last year, they won the school its second league title in 46 years. That was under Ryan Schachter, who's now coaching at Corona del Mar. Under their new man, Jeff McDaniel, the Mustangs are turning it up at the right time.

Leading the way is the 6-foot-4 Puente, who delivered a show unseen before by the first-year coach.

"Larry was awesome," McDaniel said. "That was probably the best performance I've seen by [a high school] player as far as just making plays and scoring the ball."

At will Puente abused Estancia (2-21, 0-6), scoring 16 points in the opening quarter. He glided past defenders before spinning away in the lane from help for a layup.

Then when the Eagles' appeared to figure out Puente, he faded away. He penetrated to the left, and while the defender scooted toward the basket, Puente pulled up for a baseline jumper.

Just like that and Costa Mesa led 24-14, pushing Estancia to switch its defense.

The approach changed. Defenders mobbed him in the third. Even when they knocked him down, Puente flipped it to someone else to hurt Estancia.

Hao Nguyen was that person. He drained four three-pointers to finish with 15 points and end any hope of Estancia making a comeback.

"We played hard on [Puente] so he couldn't get anything easy like he did in the first half," said Estancia guard Ian Castellanos, who, along with Blake Pinto, finished with 17 points. "It's really disappointing."

Orange Coast League

Costa Mesa 69, Estancia 57

Estancia -- Castellanos 17, Pinto 17, McDonald 8, Tro. McClanahan 6, Ta. McClanahan 5, McKendry 4.

3-pt. goals -- Pinto 2, Tro. McClanahan 2, Castellanos 1, Ta. McClanahan 1.

Costa Mesa -- Puente 26, Nguyen 15, Titus 10, Molina 8, Millian 4, Waldron 4, Duong 2.

3-pt. goals -- Nguyen 4, Puente 1, Molina 1, Titus 1.

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