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Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week: Tars' Rakestraw huge down the stretch

Sailors' 7-footer steps up late in season to help team claim first CIF Southern Section playoff win in six seasons.

February 21, 2013|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
  • Kevin Rakestraw regularly electrified Newport Harbor High rooters with his rim-rattling dunks this season.
Kevin Rakestraw regularly electrified Newport Harbor… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

Kevin Rakestraw said he has seen the photo on Twitter. The photo isn't of the 7-foot center from Newport Harbor High.

The photo just has his name written inside a large pizza box, with the words "Newport Sucks" in big letters and his last name in smaller letters just below.

A player from the Edison boys' basketball team posted the photo on his Twitter account. The night before a game against Newport Harbor in late January, the tweet read "Team Dinner #rakestraw" followed by a link to the photo.

In the photo, two Edison players are next to a pizza box, one eating a slice and another holding one. They enjoyed their dinner before the Chargers edged the Sailors, 60-58, in overtime of a Sunset League game.

"That was funny," Rakestraw said of the photo. "That didn't bug me that much."

What did bug Rakestraw was that the Sailors lost another tight game to Edison in the waning seconds. For the second time in three weeks, they let another one slip away against the Chargers.

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The result, not so much the photo and tweet, motivated the senior. In the team's final six games of the season, you didn't need a hashtag to find Rakestraw.

He played his best down the stretch for the Sailors, leading them to their first CIF Southern Section playoff appearance in three seasons and first postseason win in six seasons.

Rakestraw was a force for Newport Harbor. He doesn't weigh much for his height, 195 pounds, yet he carried the team.

When it mattered most, the last six games, Rakestraw was averaging 17 points, double-digit rebounds and blocking handful of shots to help the Sailors, at one point, win four in a row. The last time they won that many consecutive games was at the start of the season, and those victories came against teams that combined to finish 34 games below .500.

Rakestraw performed back then, averaging 13.2 points 10.2 rebounds during the first four games. How he closed out the season for Newport Harbor bested his start. He faced tougher teams — first in league, then in the CIF Southern Section Division 2A playoffs — that combined to go 83-57.

One of those teams, Westlake, is still playing. Rakestraw tried to end that team's season on Tuesday.

The Sailors hung with the No. 1 seed and Marmonte League champions in the second round , before losing, 87-78, at home. Newport Harbor became just the eighth team to limit Westlake's margin of victory to single digits.

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