Birmingham provides lift for San Clemente
Blake Birminghan understands his assignment on the San Clemente boys basketball team.
“When I get out there I just try to bring some energy,” Birmingham said.
Birmingham came off of the bench to score a team-high 11 points and supply a jolt on defense as San Clemente beat Valencia, 50-43, in the North/South Challenge on Monday night at El Toro High.
He was named the game’s most valuable player.
“Blake gave us everything we wanted from him,” Tritons coach Marc Popovich said. “He went in ready to score. On defense, he was very active and got some deflections that turned into steals for us.”
San Clemente (8-3) had its biggest lead - 12 points - in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Valencia (4-6) cut its deficit to 42-39. The Tritons regained control as 6-foot-11 senior Dillon Waikle scored on an offensive rebound, Gage Shelmidine made a free throw and Birmingham made a 3-pointer and followed with a driving basket to make it 50-39.
The North/South Challenge, in its 17th year, continues at El Toro on Tuesday with six games. The finale matches two Orange County top-10 teams: No. 3 Orange Lutheran against No. 4 Los Alamitos.
Also in the North/South Challenge:
Laguna Beach 77, Huntington Beach 72: Sophomore Blake Burzell scored 25 points, Darin Richardson scored 20 and Isaac Wulff added 19 for the Breakers (9-3).
Noah Gonzalez scored 18 points for Huntington Beach (6-6) which had a 14-point lead at halftime.
“At halftime,” Laguna Beach coach Bret Fleming said, “we talked about knocking that down to seven points at the end of the third quarter. We didn’t quite get there.”
The Breakers trailed by 12 going into the fourth quarter, but got the win by outscoring Huntington Beach by 17 in the final quarter.
Burzell was named the game’s MVP. Other North/South Challenge game MVPs on Monday were Buddy Alton (Westminster), Charlie Stassel (Newport Harbor), Dawson Baker (Capistrano Valley), Brad Belshe (Cypress) and Anthony Coloma (Woodbridge).
The other North/South scores: Westminster 80, Dana Hills 68; Newport Harbor 63, Irvine 39; Capistrano Valley 70, La Habra 49; Cypress 57, San Juan Hills 49; and Woodbridge 51, Aliso Niguel 47.
In girls soccer:
No. 9 Los Alamitos 2, No. 1 Santa Margarita 0: Randi Geffrey and Mo Ponce scored for the Griffins (8-1-2) in a nonleague game at Los Alamitos.
In the 14th minute, Los Alamitos’ Amanda Jones stole the ball at midfield and fed a pass through to Ally La Carra-Platt, who drew a 30-yard free kick. Geffrey attacked the goal, firing a shot over the wall and beyond the outstretched hands of Eagles goalkeeper Christina Kosmala.
“We were very fortunate on the free kick,” Los Alamitos coach Mossy Kennedy said. “It was the goal that did change things.”
With the lead, Los Alamitos’ midfield settled into the game. Their passing was crisper, as the Griffins consistently out-touched the Eagles (9-2-0).
Conversely, possession-oriented Santa Margarita appeared rushed, resorting to stretch passes that yielded few secondary scoring chances. The Eagles sent 12 shots toward the net in the second half, but only four made it to the target.
“We were defending them pretty high,” Bryn Chesser said. “We were doing high pressure in the second half. It made them panic, and it messed up their passes.”
For Los Alamitos, Hannah Foley had one save in the first half, and Taylor Vanis made four in the second half. Kosmala totaled six stops for Santa Margarita.