Villa Park fights off challenge from Newport Harbor, earns spot in Grizzly Invitational final

SANTA ANA – The Villa Park boys basketball team got its first test of the season Friday and passed with flying colors. The Spartans beat Newport Harbor 61-54 in the semifinals of the Grizzly Invitational at Godinez High.

Villa Park (9-0) didn’t score for the first five minutes of the game and only scored three points in the first quarter. The Spartans outscored the Sailors 42-28 in the next two quarters to get a lead they were comfortable with.

“The slow start was all Newport Harbor. They have length and it was the first game we have seen size-to-size,” Villa Park coach Kevin Reynolds said. “I felt like they were going to be the best team we’ve seen this year and they proved it.”

The Sailors could only keep Oregon State commit Julien Franklin at bay for so long. Franklin scored 23 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and dished out five assists.

Franklin has been the most dominant player in the Grizzly Invitational. He scored 38 points against Irvine in pool play and 30 points against El Toro in the quarterfinals.

“He is the best player in Orange County,” Reynolds said of Franklin. “He can shoot it, handle it, he does everything for us. If there is a better guy in Orange County, I don’t know who it is.”

Villa Park will play Yorba Linda in the championship of the Grizzly Invitational on Saturday at 7:45 p.m. at Godinez High.

Charleston Moore was a much-needed spark off the bench for Villa Park. Moore typically starts for the Spartans but came off the bench Friday due to a minor injury. He had 13 points and scored the team’s first field goal late in the first quarter.

“He provided great energy for us,” Reynolds said. “It was a great team win.”

Newport Harbor (4-1) led 8-3 at the end of the first quarter and Villa Park fought back to enter halftime tied at 24. Franklin and Moore each had six points in the second quarter and Ricky Schroeder had four points and three rebounds in the frame. Schroeder finished the game with nine points and nine rebounds.

Villa Park outscored Newport 21-12 in the third quarter to build a comfortable lead. Cal Whitney made two big 3-pointers and had two steals during the Spartans’ run.

The Sailors battled back in the fourth quarter but couldn’t get the defensive stops they were getting early in the game.

Sam Barela scored 11 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter. Dayne Chalmers was effective in the paint for Newport Harbor, scoring 11 points and grabbing a team-high seven rebounds.

The nine consecutive wins for Villa Park is the program’s best start to a season since 2005. The Spartans won their first nine games that season and finished the season 25-3, ending the season with a second-round playoff loss to North Torrance.

Yorba Linda beat Capistrano Valley Christian 53-41 in their semifinal matchup Friday. Omair Memon led Yorba Linda with 17 points and Alec Mena and Cory Knutson each added 12 points. Festus Ndumanya, a 6-foot-7 center, had a team-high 16 points for CVC.

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