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Esperanza starts league with rout of No. 5 Villa Park
The Crestview League is a four-team league. Each team has only six league games. That makes every league game critical.
Esperanza started Crestview League play impressively Tuesday with a 65-45 win over Villa Park. The game at Villa Park High was the league opener for both.
Kezie Okpala scored 29 points for Esperanza, which could have been considered the underdog. Villa Park is No. 5 in the Orange County top 10, while Esperanza is not ranked.
Esperanza (13-7 overall) is ranked in its CIF-Southern Section playoff division, coming this week at No. 8 in Division 2AA. Villa Park (15-6) is No. 5 in Division 1A.
Villa Park played without starting guard and second-leading scorer Myles Franklin, who missed the game because of an ankle injury. Spartans coach Kevin Reynolds said Franklin, averaging 18 points a game, might only miss two more games.
Evan Battey led Villa Park with 27 points, two more than his average. He scored the Spartans’ first 11 points.
Villa Park made only 17 of 52 shots, for 33 percent. Esperanza was 22 for 48 from the field, for 46 percent.
The Aztecs had a 28-20 lead at halftime. Okpala opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer and Esperanza kept rolling from there.
Villa Park made a brief run in the fourth quarter, when the Spartans trimmed the Aztecs’ lead to 15 points. Esperanza quickly pulled away again as Travis Kettering made a 3-pointer and Okpala converted a 3-point play.
Esperanza coach Mark Hill said he knew Villa Park would be an easier opponent with Franklin missing.
“He’s a big key to that team,” Hills said. “But Battey stepped up and I was afraid of that all day.”
Kettering scored 14 points. Brendan Harrick, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, scored 13 with six rebounds. Harrick transferred from Servite and before becoming athletically eligible had to sit out the first month of the season because he did not make the change of residence required by CIF rules to become immediately eligible.
“Our defense got better since he got here,” Hill said of Harrick. “We rebound so much better when he’s on the floor, too.”
Okpala is happy that league play is underway.
“We played at a different pace,” said Okpala, a 6-6 junior who can score in a variety of ways. “We played with more of a sense of urgency.”
Also in the Crestview League:
No. 8 Foothill 57. Canyon 41: The defending league-champion Knights (14-5, 4-0) were led by Luca Araujo’s 22 points at Foothill.
In the Empire League:
Cypress 59, Pacifica 58: Brad Belshe scored 21 points for the visiting Centurions (12-5, 3-0).
In the North Hills League:
No. 7 Yorba Linda 78, El Modena 50: Isaac Douglass had another big night, scoring a game-high 21 points for the visiting Mustangs (15-5) in a league opener.
No. 7 Crean Lutheran 72, Whitney of Cerritos 32: Micahel Bagatourian scored 33 points with 13 rebounds for the host Saints (14-4).
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