NEWPORT BEACH — Newport Harbor High junior Curtis Fink has been feeling sick for more than a week.
Fink said he vomited three times during the Sailors' nonleague victory over El Toro on Saturday. The past week, he's been down about 10 pounds.
On Wednesday night, Newport Harbor had a must-win Sunset League showdown against Huntington Beach. It was not an ideal time for one of the Sailors' top players to be under the weather.
Fink still came up huge.
He scored a career-high six goals as the Sailors started strong and beat the Oilers, 11-9, Wednesday night at Newport Harbor High. And after the game, he shrugged it off.
"I'm not really worried about my performance," Fink said. "My team, they backed me up and they helped support me. They actually were the ones getting me open, and [Andrew] Silvers and Farrel [South] and [Ryan] Fowler were all the ones drawing the six-on-fives. The coach prepared us for the types of plays we were going to run, and we just executed well."
The Sailors (16-1, 3-0 in league) took the upper hand over Huntington Beach (19-4, 2-1) in the league title race with two matches to go. Los Alamitos is also 3-0 in league but has played neither Newport nor Huntington Beach; the Griffins and Sailors meet Oct. 26.
Newport Harbor, which also solidified its No. 2 spot in the CIF Southern Section Division I coaches' poll, is going for its second straight league title. The Tars also won the title in 2009 but had to forfeit it due to using an academically ineligible player.
Fink consistently hurt the Oilers, ranked No. 4 in Division I. He scored three times in the first quarter, including one on a redirect of a precise pass from fellow junior Preston Lee, as the Sailors jumped out to a 5-1 lead.
By halftime, Fink had five goals as Newport maintained a 7-4 edge. He finished the game shooting six for seven.
"We just came together in that first quarter," said Lee, who had a game-high three steals. "Everyone was playing well together. Curtis just frickin' caught fire. He was a beast. But yeah, we were super pumped up and all on the same page."
Huntington Beach responded to the Sailors dropping on two-meter man Ian Arnold, shooting almost exclusively from the outside. Senior Noah Harrison led the way with four goals.
Each time he scored, the 15 or so in-uniform Huntington Beach cheerleaders in the stands got excited. The shot that brought the Oilers the closest was bar-in with 5:22 left in the third quarter, cutting the Tars' lead to 8-6.
"They just dropped on two meters and relied on their goalie," Huntington Beach Coach Brian Anderson said. "We picked them apart on the outside. We scored nine goals, and that's where all our shots came from — outside. It's at the other end of the pool where we have to play, and we didn't play it today. We made the turnovers earlier in the game. If you told me you scored nine goals in the game, you should have won that game, right?"
Not in this case. Newport Harbor immediately responded in that third quarter, with two goals in less than a minute. Fink scored from the outside, then Farrel South (four goals) scored from the inside on a nice pass from Dan Stevens to increase the lead back to 10-6.
It was the answer Newport Harbor Coach Robert Lynn wanted to see.
"You know what, it's a testament to how hard they've been working and to their mind set," Lynn said. "They were focused. Huntington Beach brought 200 people here today. They knew what it meant to knock us down. They came after us tooth and nail, and we weathered the storm and controlled them the whole game.
"They're a strong team, and we were prepared for that. We took this last week very seriously. I wanted to make sure these guys handled it like young men, and our kids came out very focused and strong."
The Sailors went three for seven on their power-play. Fink had two of the goals.
"On six-on-five they were really pressing the 1-2 side," Fink said. "It was Farrel and Fowler, and so that set up me, Dan Stevens and Preston Lee on the other side. We just worked the three-on-two."
Huntington Beach was scoreless in three power-play opportunities, though junior Jovan Jeremic did score on a penalty shot.
Senior Koby Yokota made 11 saves for Newport Harbor, which again had the lead cut to two when the Oilers' Max Schultz scored off a foul with 51 seconds left in the fourth quarter. But after Huntington Beach got the ball back, Lee made a steal near mid-tank.
Fowler had a goal and a steal for Newport Harbor, and Stevens and South both had two steals.
Newport Harbor will now prepare for the Battle of the Bay against rival Corona del Mar, on Saturday at the Sailors' pool. Newport's confidence level is high.
"What we've been doing good lately has been communicating in the water," Fink said. "It's been helping us a lot."
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