Laguna Beach High's best start to the boys' basketball season in school history came to an end Tuesday night with a bleak performance against Orange Lutheran in a tournament opener.
The effort spurred coach Bret Fleming to issue his team a challenge.
The Breakers, winners of their first seven games and ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA poll, also lost their top player in Blake Burzell for the fourth quarter in a 54-40 setback in a pool-play game in the Charlie Williams Memorial Tournament at Westminster High.
Burzell, a fourth-year standout, fouled out with 56 seconds left in the third quarter.
The game was close just for a few moments, after Laguna Beach rallied within seven at the start of the fourth quarter, but it was Orange Lutheran's shooting struggles outside the lane more than anything the Breakers accomplished that provided the opportunity.
"We didn't play very well," said Fleming, whose team fell behind 8-0 at the start. "We were selfish, we didn't pass the ball, we didn't cut, we didn't do the things that make us who we are, and we don't look very good when we're not doing those things."
The Breakers will try to put this one behind them with another pool-play game, against Buena Park, on tap Wednesday at 4 p.m.
"Oh no, it's not one that you throw away," Fleming said about Tuesday's loss. "It's one that we need to take a deep look inside and start figuring out who we are and decide that's not who we are and see if we come out better the next time."
Burzell, who had scored 20 or more points in five of the previous seven games after averaging 18.0, 18.4 and 23.6 his first three seasons, scored just two points before halftime. He barely got to double digits — a three-pointer gave him 10 for the night — before fouling out.
Burzell missed his first four shots, two of them from beyond the arc, as the Lancers (3-5) scored on six of their first eight possessions over the first 3½ minutes.
He got his first basket to trim the deficit to 8-4, then Orange Lutheran scored nine in a row. Burzell didn't score again until the third quarter, when he had all eight of the Breakers' points.
Nolan Naess scored a game-best 12 points, half on three-pointers, for Laguna Beach.
Josh Griffin and Cooper Jervis led the Lancers with 11 apiece, and Isaiah Pope scored 10.
The Lancers used a high-pressure defense to disrupt Laguna Beach's offense all night and moved the ball well on attack, opening paths through the lane. They dominated on the boards, outrebounding the Breakers 56-28, with Cade Potter grabbing five (of eight total) during the game-opening run.
Laguna Beach went through five-minute droughts in the second quarter and at the start of the second half, but it pulled within 40-33 with 5:40 to play as Naess found Charlie Rounaghi underneath and then drove the left baseline for a basket after an Orange Lutheran turnover. The Breakers could have gotten closer after forcing another turnover, but Potter stripped the ball from Naess and fed Jervis breakaway layup, and Potter restored the double-digit advantage with 4:32 to go.
Orange Lutheran 54, Laguna Beach 40
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Laguna Beach 11 – 8 – 8 – 13 — 40
Orange Lutheran 21 – 8 – 9 – 16 — 54
LB – Naess 12, Burzell 10, C. Rounaghi 6, Lusk 5, Morgan 4, McMurray 3.
3-pt. goals – Naess 2, McMurray 1, Burzell 1.
Fouled out – Burzell.
Technicals – None.
OL – Griffin 11, Jervis 11, Pope 10, Anderson 6, Potter 6, Warner 4, King 4, Knibb 2.
3-pt. goals – Griffin 2, Jervis 1.
Fouled out – Warner.
Technicals – Potter.