HUNTINGTON BEACH — With the regular season coming down to its final week, the Ocean View boys' basketball team faced yet another challenger Friday that was looking to knock the Seahawks off the top perch in the Golden West League standings.
Although the visiting Westminster Lions gave it their best shot, it wasn't enough to do the job.
Ocean View overcame a slow start and feisty Westminster by finishing fast to grab a 57-42 victory that took the Seahawks to 8-0 in league play. The win kept the Seahawks alone in the top spot, one game ahead of second-place Loara with two games to play.
The loss knocked Westminster out of title contention with a 5-3 record.
"They are ready to play us every time," Ocean View Coach Tim Walsh said of the Lions. "Jesse [Miramontez] does a great job preparing his team, and they were ready tonight."
Ocean View, ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division 3-A, held a narrow, 43-39 lead with 5:30 left to play when Seahawks sophomore guard Kendall Small missed two free throws. Small, however, came up with a key steal near midcourt seconds later, drove the lane and was fouled going to the basket by Westminster center Myron Aiava. This time, he sank his two attempts to push the lead to 45-39.
The foul shots triggered a quick, 7-0 run by the Seahawks that took the lead to 50-39 with 3:10 left. After his free throws, Small came up with another big defensive stop when he stepped in to alter a shot by Aiava, who lost the ball in midair. The Seahawks grabbed the loose ball and at the other end of the floor, junior forward Dillon Reise drained a three-pointer.
Less than a minute later, Ocean View sophomore guard Tyler Burch was fouled under the Ocean View basket by Aiava, who fouled out on the play. Burch sank his two free throws for an 11-point cushion.
The Seahawks (17-6 overall) outscored the Lions, 14-3, to end the game. Small scored eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, getting several of his points on twisting lay-ups.
"The fourth quarter is Kendall's time," Walsh said. "He's extremely competitive and he took over for us. And he's just a sophomore.
"I thought he did a great job and Nathan Kosai came off the bench and hit some enormous three-pointers for us in the first half."
The start to the game was reminiscent of the team's first meeting on Jan. 16, a night Ocean View left Westminster with a 52-48 win. The Seahawks didn't take their first lead of the game Friday until 2:25 remained in the first half. They went in front, 20-18, when Reise scored off a nice pass inside by senior guard Josh Mishler. Small then had a steal and hit a layup. The two plays completed a 10-0 run and gave the Seahawks a 25-18 advantage with 1:35 left in the half.
Ocean View never trailed after Reise's basket. The Seahawks led, 27-23, at the half.
Westminster (11-12) started strong. The Lions scored the first six points of the game, all coming on layups by Aiava. They led, 10-5, after the first quarter and held their last lead at 18-15 on a layup by senior guard Paul Peña four minutes into the second quarter.
Reise hit four three-pointers and finished with 15 points. Burch had nine points and Kosai, who hit two, three-pointers in the second quarter, had six points.
Ocean View has little time to savor Friday's win over the Lions. In less than 12 hours, the Seahawks will play Saturday at the Nike Extravaganza at Mater Dei High. They take on the Durango Trailblazers of Las Vegas at 10:30 a.m.
"It's a tough turnaround, but we want to be ready and come out and battle tomorrow," Walsh said of the early tip time. "Durango likes to play a fast, up-and-down game, and we like that pace, too. We need to get some rest tonight so we can be ready to go in the morning."