May 28, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Saddleback High captures 62-33 victory over Costa Mesa to take outright league title

Saddleback players and coaches gather for a team picture after winning the Orange Coast League title Thursday night. (Photo Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone)

Saddleback High’s girls basketball team captured the Orange Coast League title outright Thursday night and did it in convincing fashion.

The Roadrunners jumped to a 31-point halftime lead and went on to defeat Costa Mesa 62-33 to take the crown. Saddleback (17-8, 8-0) still has two more league games but this one was special for coaches Al Martinez and Dan Lara.

“It means a lot to the program, maybe they won’t embrace it until later on,” Martinez said. “We’re still two games away of going 10-0 and that’s what I really want the girls to achieve. I don’t believe there’s been another girls team at Saddleback that has gone through the whole league season undefeated and I wanted them to graduate with that legacy.

“At the same time, we got to gear up for the playoffs and I want them to have the mentality that if we work together we can go a distance.”

Saddleback had balanced scoring led by Maria Martinez and Karime Lopez, who each had 12 points. Lopez also had 12 rebounds. Daisy Flores had 10 points and six steals and Desiree Quero had seven assists for the Roadrunners.

The Roadrunners’ defense was dominant in the first half, forcing 26 turnovers, mainly off their full-court press and 38 for the game.

“That’s our bread and butter,” Martinez said. “We’re like nine deep, we can rotate, we can go with a big lineup and we can go with a small lineup because they’re all athletic.”

Costa Mesa (5-16, 3-5) finished strong outscoring Saddleback 16-8 in the fourth quarter. Tarah Harmon, who led the Mustangs with 22 points, scored 10 of those points in the final stanza. Lorelei Hobbis, a 6-3 center, added eight points and grabbed 16 rebounds for Costa Mesa.

After a dominating first half, Saddleback outscored Costa Mesa 14-8 in the third quarter to take a 54-17 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“I think the girls had that killer instinct tonight, they wanted it since the very beginning,” Coach Lara said. “They played together. I think we had close to 20 assists, I think that was the big difference playing together fighting for it and they knew what was at stake. When you have the opportunity to clinch and be the number one team, that’s what played out, so we’re happy about that.

“As a coach, it’s kind of like a dream come true you could say. We’ve been at Saddleback, myself for nine years, six years with the girls (he also coached the boys team for three seasons) and this is my very first league championship, so it’s definitely going to be very special.”

Lara and Martinez hope the Roadrunners can make a run in the playoffs.

“Last year, making it to CIF semifinals was very special for us too. We didn’t get that league championship, but this year, we accomplished our number one goal,” Lara said. “We moved up a little bit (in CIF playoff divisions) but we’re excited for the challenge and we’re looking forward to finishing the last two games, hopefully on a good note and see what playoffs has for us.”

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone;