Three weeks ago, Jim Harris, Ocean View High School basketball coach, was quietly telling friends he feared his team might go 0-10 in the Sunset League after the Seahawks lost their opener against Fountain Valley.
On Wednesday night, the Seahawks took a big step toward clinching the league championship with a stunning 63-55 victory over host Marina with center Todd Norman scoring eight of his game-high 25 points in the last quarter.
The victory gave the Seahawks (12-7, 6-1) a two-game lead in the six-team league with only three games remaining. Streaking Ocean View has won eight of its last nine games.
"It's going to be difficult for anyone to catch them," said Steve Popovich, Marina coach. "I was very confident that we would win tonight, but they earned it."
Ocean View's defense was the difference as the Seahawks limited Marina (15-6, 4-3) to 19 points in the second half. Marina went nearly five minutes in the fourth quarter without scoring a field goal.
Guard Craig Rice made a three-point shot at the buzzer to end the third quarter that gave Ocean View a 48-47 lead, and the Seahawks never trailed again. Norman made two straight baseline shots to extend the lead to 54-49 and then sealed the victory with four free throws in the final two minutes.
Ocean View's two fine guards, Rice and Mike Frohn, combined for 35 points and dictated the tempo against the taller Vikings. Steve Guild led Marina with 14 points and freshman center Cherokee Parks added 11 points.
Afterward, Harris admitted the season outlook appeared bleak after the opening loss to Fountain Valley.
"We were struggling," he said. "We were picked to finish fifth in the league, and that was being realistic, considering our summer and how we were playing. Then a light went on in the players' heads after the Fountain Valley game.
"We've been the most consistent team in the league. We play well together and we play good defense. Defense was the difference tonight, just like it's been all year."
In other league games:
Fountain Valley 84, Huntington Beach 60--Four Fountain Valley players scored in double figures, including Tom Weaver with 16 points, Mike Murli with 15 points, Kevin Andersen with 14 points and Jim Borgquist with 12 points.
Edison 56, Westminster 54--Guard Alvin Loftis scored 16 points for Edison and center Chris Tower led Westminster with 17 points.