Boys’ Basketball Edges Out Victory in Senior Night Matchup Against Irvine High

The energy was palpable as students — decked out in neon construction gear — erupted into cheers and raised purple “Go Bulldogs” signs after guard and junior Colin Huang scored a buzzer beater at the end of the third quarter.

Boys’ basketball (8-2) won its home conference senior night game against Irvine High 62-51 on Jan 28. Because Beckman High (5-5) beat Woodbridge High (6-3) that night, Portola High is in a prime position to advance to CIF; even if the Bulldogs lose their final two games, they will still be tied for first in the Pacific Coast League.

The boys’ next league matchup will be an away game against Beckman High on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m.

The Bulldogs scored nine points in the first quarter compared to the Vaqueros’ 12 points but gained a lead by the second quarter, 34-23. Though Portola High was only three points ahead by the end of the third quarter, the team secured its victory in the fourth quarter, which was the product of re-focusing and adjusting its defense, according to head coach Brian Smith. 

“We came out lacking honestly, but we still came through with the win, and we’re better than that—especially with that crowd,” shooting guard and senior Marly Jaisel said. “We definitely needed to improve on our energy tonight. I didn’t have it today either. Usually, we’ve got to start out with way more energy in the beginning and just come out as the hype, fun and entertaining team to watch, and today we didn’t.”

Forward and junior Devin Daniel finished with the most points at 16, while guard and senior Makai Brown followed with 13 points. For this game, Smith said that rebounds and man-to-man defense improved, but  that to prepare for future matches, the team must focus on free throws.

The game attracted a particularly high volume of spectators; the gym reached its occupancy limit of 500, and many were turned away from entering, according to Smith. Irvine City Council members such as mayor Farrah Khan, vice mayor Anthony Kuo and councilmember Tammy Kim attended in support of Brown, who was subjected to racist comments in the game against Laguna Hills High on Jan. 21. 

After the game, former NBA basketball player Josh Childress, Capistrano Valley Christian School basketball coach Chris Childress and entrepreneurs J.J. Jones, Byron Roth and Michael Tierney surprised Brown with a $20,000 college scholarship after hearing about the Laguna Hills High incident. Brown was also offered an internship with sports agency Athletes First and one-on-one training with NBA trainer Jordan Lawley.

“It makes me feel like everything that he’s gone through so far wasn’t in vain because there’s some positive that can come out of it,” Terrell Brown, Makai Brown’s father, said. “He doesn’t have to look back on it and say, ‘I was the kid who had racial remarks hurled at me.’ That won’t be his only memory. He’ll be like, ‘Man, some people really looked out for me and supported me, and they even helped me get to college.’”

The basketball team has been especially supportive of Makai Brown in light of the past week’s events. 

“With everything going on with Makai, the guys have rallied around him, and we’ve rallied together as a team, and honestly, I told the boys, ‘Now all the eyes are on us right now,’” Smith said. “So we have to conduct ourselves the right way, we’ve got to make the right decisions, and we also have to treat people good… Let’s be the example then. Let’s be the light in a dark place.”