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Fountain Valley's Jackson Gatlin blocks a shot by Huntington Beach's Mason Luna during the Barons' 72-60 victory at Fountain Valley High Friday night.
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Fountain Valley tops Huntington Beach

OCVARSITY.COM

FOUNTAIN VALLEY – Fountain Valley perhaps asserted itself as the favorite in Sunset League boys basketball Friday with a 72-60 victory over Huntington Beach.

Perhaps.

The league opener for both teams was a Fountain Valley home game, always an advantage in high school basketball. An even larger factor was the absence of Huntington Beach's Harley Ruder, who might be the Sunset League's best player.

Ruder took an elbow to his head last week when the Oilers were playing in a tournament in Orlando, Fla.


OCVarsity Hot Shots: Friday's basketball games


"We've kept him out for precautionary reasons, until he gets reevaluated," Huntington Beach coach Fabian Luna said.

Ruder, a 6-foot-5 and 200-pound senior who is averaging a team-high 20 points a game, was missed Friday. The Oilers (10-6, 0-1) missed not only his scoring but his defensive presence. Fountain Valley (13-4, 1-0) found uncongested lanes to the basket to go with its well-established outside shooting game.

Jackson Gatlin, a 6-7 senior, scored 25 points for the Barons, who also got 23 points from 6-3 senior Josh Armstrong.

Huntington Beach 6-3 junior Ryan Morrissey made six 3-pointers to account for his 18 points. Freshman Steven Stafford added 15 points for the Oilers, who are recovering from a flu virus that hit the team during the Florida trip.

Fountain Valley took a 15-11 lead into the second quarter, had a 40-26 lead at halftime and was up by 18 going into the fourth quarter.

The Barons scored only four points over the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, but were not harmed.

Huntington Beach scored zero points during those three minutes.

Fountain Valley's biggest lead was 23 points in the fourth quarter. Huntington Beach scored 12 of the game's final 13 points, but the rally was as late as it was ineffective.

"We moved the ball around really well," Holmes said. "We rebounded well, too, which was a big concern going in because they (the Oilers) are pretty big."

Does Fountain Valley coach Roger Holmes now believe his team is the one to beat in the Sunset League?

"I think it's us with Huntington," Holmes said. "We have returners, and they have a lot of returners. They have Ruder, Morrissey and (senior Andrew) Tenbrink. I'd say it's pretty even."

Luna said Los Alamitos is the league favorite.

"You have to go with the defending champion," Luna said of Los Alamitos, which was 9-1 in league last year with Edison, Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach tied for second at 6-4. "When we get healthy, we'll have a shot."

Holmes does not expect the same type of game for the Barons-Oilers rematch Jan. 25 at Huntington Beach.

"Without Ruder, that cut out a huge piece of their pie," Holmes said. "He's just a load. It will be a different game when we play them again."

Huntington Beach's next has a league home game Wednesday against Marina. Fountain Valley plays at Newport Harbor in a league game Wednesday.

Contact the writer: sfryer@ocregister.comr


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