June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Woodbridge survives San Clemente’s late charge to capture Estancia Coast Classic title

Woodbridge High School players and coaches celebrate the tourney title. (Photos: Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone).

The Woodbridge High School boys basketball team won its first tournament championship since 2014 Saturday night at Estancia High, but it took a gallant effort to hold off comeback-minded San Clemente.

Jason Briggs scored 22 points and Ezra Kim added 16 as the Warriors held on to defeat the Tritons 67-63 in the championship game of the Estancia Coast Classic Gold Division.

The Warriors (11-5) extended their winning streak to five games and snapped San Clemente’s four-game winning streak while avenging an earlier season loss to the Tritons (15-5).

“It’s a huge win and we had to battle,” said Briggs, who was named to the all-tournament team. “It got a little shaky but we made adjustments. This group is unbelievable and we may have had a little extra motivation to beat these guys after they beat us earlier this season.”   

Woodbridge led 53-37 after three quarters and Briggs’ basket upped the Warriors lead to 60-43 with 4:11 remaining in the game.

However, that’s when the Tritons kicked into high gear and nearly overcame the huge deficit to win. Porter Hansen scored 16 of his game-high 29 points in the final four minutes of the game and had the Tritons on the verge of a thrilling comeback victory.

Trailing by 17 points in the final minutes, San Clemente went on a 19-4 run, highlighted by a pressing Tritons defense and Hansen’s scoring surge.

Hansen’s 3-pointer with 34 seconds left cut the lead to 64-62. However, San Clemente could not muster any more points down the stretch as three 3-point attempts rimmed out in the final 20 seconds. Jaiden Sabino made a pair of free throws and Kim added a free throw as the Warriors survived the Tritons late gush.  

“This team is gritty and has heart,” said Warriors Coach Steve Scoggin.”Our motto is to keep playing and that’s what they did tonight. Give San Clemente credit, they came back strong and we didn’t handle the press very well, but we did enough to get the win.”

Following the game, Woodbridge forward Stephen Lamp was named the tournament’s MVP.

“It’s feels great to win the MVP but more importantly our team is on a roll, we’ve won five in a row and we’re getting into a groove,” said Lamp, who scored five points and played a crucial role on the boards despite giving away several inches to San Clemente’s front line. “We’ve been in games like this before and we remained calm when they made a big run and we got to our spots and hit our shots.”

JC Schindler also had an outstanding game for Woodbridge scoring 14 points and he was aggressive on defense forcing turnovers and hustling for loose balls.

“We were trying to slow the game down a bit when they were on their big run, and we’ll have to continue on improving that part of our game,” said Schindler. “But this win is a momentum booster as we get ready to start league.”

Woodbridge went on a late 12-2 run in the first quarter and led 19-16 after eight minutes of play. Both teams had their up and downs in the second quarter but the Warriors held a slim 32-30 lead at halftime.

Kim had a hot hand in the third quarter as he drilled three 3-pointers and led a 21-7 run to propel Woodbridge to a 53-37 lead after three quarters, and thus setting the stage for a dramatic finish. 

“They outplayed us tonight,” said Tritons Coach Landon Pluimer. “We didn’t bring the energy until late in the game, but Woodbridge is a very good team.”

Christian Fernandez (19 points) and Will Whidden (11 points) also turned in strong games as they scored 19 and 11 points for San Clemente. Hansen was named to the all-tournament team.

To get to the finals, Woodbridge defeated Arlington, Fountain Valley and Cabrillo while the Tritons beat Laguna Beach, Heritage and Irvine. 

For full view, click on the photo:

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone