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Estancia begins with win

Girls' Basketball

Eagles continue to show improvement, as Duran leads way with 22 points and Jason has 16 points.

January 10, 2012|By Matt Szabo
(Don Leach / Daily…)

LAGUNA BEACH — Less than two weeks ago, Xavier Castellano became a father for the first time.

The players on his Estancia High girls' basketball team aren't quite as young as Castellano's baby daughter Lilah, but the Eagles are still very inexperienced.

On Tuesday night they began their defense of last year's Orange Coast League title. Only one player, sophomore Celia Duran, played much last year to help the Eagles win that title by going a perfect 10-0 in league.

Estancia graduated three Newport-Mesa Dream Team players, including Co-Player of the Year Kassie Stratton. Duran has gone from a pure shooter off the bench to a point guard for Estancia.

The Eagles still appear to be in good hands.

Duran scored 22 points and junior center Gianna Jason added a career-high 16 points as Estancia defeated Laguna Beach, 51-34, in both teams' league opener at Laguna Beach High.

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It wasn't pretty. The Eagles, tied for 16th in the CIF Southern Section Division 3A poll, will take the result.

"We have 15 girls, and all 15 play because we're so young," Castellano said. "We're just trying to get them more in-game experience. We make freshman mistakes, and it's varsity basketball. Against good teams, that kills us ... But we're improving. From where we were at the beginning of the year until now, we're a different team. A lot of girls are doing things now that I didn't think they were going to do until next year. Our progression has gone nicely."

Estancia (9-8) staved off an upset attempt from Laguna Beach (0-8). The Eagles' press defense was usually effective; Duran had 12 steals and Jason added seven.

Duran, who is averaging 20.4 points per game over her last five games, could always score. Castellano has been as impressed lately with her decision-making as point guard. In Tuesday's game she set up senior forward Jenny Rubacalva nicely on all three of Rubacalva's layups.

"I definitely had to grow a lot," Duran said. "Now it's not just, 'Oh I turned the ball over. Oops, I can get out of it.' Now it's on [me].

"In a way I think it's fun, but at the same time it's a big responsibility. But I do have fun. When you give a nice pass to a teammate who usually doesn't score, that makes them so happy. And it makes me so happy. It makes me feel accomplished. You get a little bit of adrenaline, and they get that same adrenaline."

The Eagles led nearly the whole game, but usually only by single digits. They led, 27-18, at halftime.

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