June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Irvine boys basketball team defeats Portola and earns coveted CIF playoff berth

Irvine players and coaches celebrate after Friday’s win over Portola. (Photo: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

Irvine High School’s boys basketball team clinched fourth place and a trip to the CIF Division 4 playoffs Friday night defeating Portola 71-51 at the Pacific Coast League post-season tournament.

Irvine players and coaches were ecstatic after the win at Portola which sends the Vaqueros to the CIF playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

Irvine is ranked fourth in this week’s CIF 4A poll.

“This is really special for us, this is the first time that our program has made the playoffs in nine years and if we’re able to get a playoff win, now that we’re the higher seed earning this four spot, that would be the first time since 2008-2009,” said Irvine Coach Harry Meussner.

“This means so much to us and I really want to commend the boys because they’ve been committed, they’ve been all in and they’ve worked hard every single day and I’m just really proud to be their coach.”

Four teams from the league receive automatic berths in the CIF playoffs, so it was important for the Vaqueros to win, although they could have applied for an at-large berth.

“It locks in fourth and an automatic berth, which is really special for us,” Meussner said.

Cooper Stearns scored 21 points, Finn Hoffman and Jaesang An 13 points each, Taewon Kim 10 points and Ali Dal nine points to lead Irvine (15-13, 6-4).

“Finn Hoffman had a big injury last year, was a two-sport athlete, went down to just basketball, and made a commitment to work on his game and was named captain and finished and showed a lot of heart and rebounded,” Meussner said.

“Cooper Stearns, as always, was making sure we were calm from the beginning to the end of the game, Jackson Shaffer off the bench gave us a lot of energy, Jaesang An made a lot of big time shots and Ryan (Bugay) and Taewon having really tough defensive assignments and locking in on what they had to and everyone up and down the bench just buying in to what we were trying to do.”

Stearns, the star and leader of the team, said he was happy for the seniors and thrilled the squad could bounce back from a loss to Beckman in the tournament.

“I’m just super proud of the group of guys we’ve had this year,” said the junior forward. “We’ve had so many ups and downs, injuries left and right, we haven’t played a game this whole season where everyone is healthy so we’ve been constantly battling adversity.

” …. Through a lot of adversity through the ups and downs of the season and being able to pull it out with a CIF berth and having a chance to go win a banner, that was my main goal from the beginning.

“I’m so happy that the seniors will get a chance to go the playoffs and happy that Coach Meussner and our coaching staff and our school will have a chance to go represent ourselves in a place that we haven’t been represented in a decade now.”

Portola (8-20, 3-7) was led by Emmett Lo, who had 17 points and Brady Kim, who had 10 points.

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com