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Girls' Basketball: Eagles rally to stun Mesa

Estancia scores final 11 points of the game to upend rival in Orange Coast League opener for both schools.

January 08, 2013|By Matt Szabo
  • Estancia's Bryanna Vernon (2), Maya Van Den Heever (32) and Celia Duran (5) celebrate a win over Costa Mesa.
Estancia's Bryanna Vernon (2), Maya Van Den Heever… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

COSTA MESA — The go-ahead shot was a baseline jumper taken by senior center Gianna Jason, who rarely shoots from outside of the key.

Then freshman Maya Van Den Heever, who hadn't touched a basketball in about a month, hit four clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

You could call the Estancia High girls' basketball team scrappy, or even opportunistic. Just make sure you also call the Eagles the winners of the first Battle for the Bell game of 2013.

Estancia, ranked No. 9 in CIF Southern Section Division 3-A, stormed back Tuesday night in its home gym. The Eagles scored the last 11 points of the game to stun rival Costa Mesa, 49-42, in the Orange Coast League opener for both schools.

Both teams have league title aspirations this year. Only Estancia opened with a win. And the Eagles can ensure that they take back the bell they lost last year by winning again at Costa Mesa on Jan. 29.

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"Nobody works harder than us, I know that," Estancia co-coach Xavier Castellano said after his team pulled out the victory Tuesday. "We went to our press and that won us the game. Mesa played great. We got lucky. But we got lucky because we prepare for that, we work on stuff like that, end-of-game situations."

Costa Mesa Coach Nichole Maddox wouldn't argue that the Eagles got lucky. She said her team was unlucky, as it was missing senior guard Rachel Witter (sick). When Estancia rallied to defeat Costa Mesa last month at the CdM Tip-off Classic, the Mustangs were also down two starters, Witter and senior co-captain Molly Settles.

"We're definitely the better team," Maddox said. "We've never had a full team, so being able to be in the lead the whole game and playing without a full team says something. I mean, it comes down to finishing, and we were unable to finish tonight.

"Losing doesn't necessarily mean you're not the better team. Better teams lose."

But there will be no asterisk for Tuesday's game. Estancia (10-6), led by 16 points from junior captain Celia Duran, earned the victory with tough defense at the end. Costa Mesa, which had indeed led for nearly the whole game, went up by four, 42-38, on a free throw by junior Alexa Loredo with 3:32 remaining.

The Mustangs (9-7) would not score again. Instead the Eagles began to rally.

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