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Longhorns win national title

BASKETBALL: Newport-Mesa NJB squad outlasts foes.

April 28, 2008

Coach Berry Carter’s fifth-grade Newport-Mesa Longhorns secured their third straight NJB national title by defeating Irvine, 51-50, in recent All-Net competition.

The favored Longhorns had to fight their way through the loser’s bracket, winning three tough games on March 30 to win the title at the invitation-only tournament that represents the best fifth-graders from Las Vegas, Hawaii San Diego and Northern California.

A review of the Longhorns postseason follows:

Newport-Mesa started the long trek to another national title with a tough draw in the sectionals, comprised of teams from Southern California.

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The top four teams from the Orange County All-Net Blue Division advanced to the same sectional.

The Longhorns defeated a tough Rancho Santa Margarita team, 61-55, to open the tournament. Forward Austin Percy proved to be the difference in this first contest scoring from the post and leading a tough-minded defensive effort.

Jake Haar led the Longhorns against the Tustin Knights, last year’s national runners-up. Haar wore down the Knights with a withering press and Haar led the offensive spurt with a pair of three-pointers to key a 51-38 triumph.

The final featured two teams that have become friendly rivals. Irvine Blue features some of the best fifth-grade NJB players. Irvine and Newport-Mesa split their two regular-season meetings.

Michael Cage led Newport-Mesa with great defense and opportune scoring, as the Longhorns won this rematch, 54-48.

In pool play for at the national tournament, Newport-Mesa faced a strong Heat team from Ventura in the opener.

Tied, 15-15, at halftime, Newport-Mesa broke the game open in the second half and won going away, 68-43.

Solid play from point guard Max Stanley proved to be the difference.

Offensively, Stanley brokered the ball into the correct hands, at the correct time and, defensively, he led a relentless full-court press that finally wore the Ventura team down.

Game 2 proved to be the toughest test for the Longhorns of the entire series. The Las Vegas Fury defeated the Longhorns, 61-59 on two last-second free throws.

Harrison Carter almost single-handedly led the Longhorns to victory, hitting two clutch free throws with three seconds left in the game. His rebounding and scoring throughout kept the Longhorns close.

The loss to the Fury threw the Longhorns into the loser’s bracket. To repeat as champions, they had to win on Sunday, all against the best teams from pool play.

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