COSTA MESA — In the second quarter, the Estancia High boys' basketball team looked like world-beaters.
The second half was a different story.
Visiting Palos Verdes used its size to pull away and end the Eagles' season, 52-42, in the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA first-round game at Estancia High.
Estancia (16-12), the second-place team from the Orange Coast League, ends the season with a first-round playoff loss for the third straight year.
"It was their strength, to a man, that kind of wore us down a little bit," Estancia Coach Agustin Heredia said. "They were pounding the ball inside, and we talked about fronting and getting in there. They were just a little bit stronger than us."
The unseeded Eagles looked like the stronger team in the first half, even going against the No. 12-seeded Sea Kings (16-11). Senior Davon Joyner asserted himself in the second quarter, scoring 14 of his game-high 23 points to give Estancia a 29-26 halftime lead.
The Eagles also scored 23 in that second quarter. The problem was, it was more than they scored in the other three quarters combined.
"We knew Joyner would get his points," Palos Verdes Coach Bob Varnell said. "We figured we'd do what we can to contain the other guys. I think the zone really hurt them in the second half."
Joyner made eight of his 15 shots. The rest of the Eagles were a combined seven of 36 from the floor (19%).
Palos Verdes was more balanced, with senior forwards Spencer Armer and Matt Meskin scoring 18 and 16, respectively. Senior Al Bjekovic and junior Matt Costa scored nine each.
Bjekovic is the younger brother of former Los Angeles Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic, who now plays for New Jersey. There was nothing machine-like about the 6-foot-5, 255-pound center's game, as he was as comfortable outside the arc as in the paint.
Bjekovic dished off back-to-back assists late in the third quarter as the Sea Kings tied the score at 36-36. From there, they ended the game on a 16-6 run.
Estancia stayed close for a while, using the second three-pointer of the night from sophomore Chad Fackler to pull within 41-39 with six minutes left. But Palos Verdes didn't panic.
"We were more patient in the second half," Varnell said. "And we got the ball inside."
Armer's drive to the basket with 2:20 left gave Palos Verdes a 50-42 lead. The Eagles couldn't get closer, missing a trio of three-pointers with just more than a minute left before Palos Verdes could grab a rebound.
Heredia took out his starters, including seniors Joyner, Ray Holmes and Charlie Umansky, to some well-deserved applause in the final minute.
Palos Verdes, an at-large team from the Bay League, is a program on the upswing after going a combined 1-29 the previous three years in league. Heredia said he was also proud of his Eagles.
"I was pleasantly surprised being 16-12," he said. "I didn't have us earmarked for this type of season. It's just disappointing for the guys who are seniors and leaving. We had a great opportunity to beat a higher-seeded team."
CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA
Palos Verdes 52, Estancia 42
SCORE BY QUARTERS
PV 12 – 14 – 12 – 14 — 52
Est 6 – 23 – 7 – 6 — 42
PV – Armer 18, Meskin 16, Bjekovic 9, Costa 9.
3-pt. goals – Meskin 3, Bjekovic 1.
Est – Joyner 23, Beck 7, Fackler 6, Holmes 4, Davis 2.
3-pt. goals – Fackler 2, Joyner 1, Beck 1, Holmes 1.
Fouled out – Beck.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun