Laguna Beach High faced a boys’ basketball team on Monday that it can possibly see in the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs.
The Breakers, ranked No. 3 in the Division 3AA poll, knew what it took to slow down No. 14 Rancho Mirage. They prevented Rancho Mirage from getting hot from three-point range during the third annual Coach Mike’s Long Shot Challenge.
Instead, it was the Breakers who got in a groove to start the third quarter en route to a 69-45 victory in the one-day showcase at Corona del Mar High.
The Breakers (17-3) had an 11-point lead at halftime and they extended their lead, thanks to a 23-8 run in the third quarter. Laguna Beach senior Blake Burzell finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman Nolan Naess added 22 points for the Breakers.
“I thought we played with good poise,” Laguna Beach coach Bret Fleming said. “I thought for the most part we executed the game plan. We knew they were going to go with some box-and-one [defense] and the trap on Blake and Charlie [Rounaghi]. They wanted to try to keep the ball out of Charlie’s hands and keep it away from Blake’s hands. Owen McMurray stepped up and had a great game. [Naess] killed it. He absolutely played great.
“We played great defense and tried to get a hand in their face while they tried to hit a three. They average more than 75 points a game, so our defense did a good job.”
The Breakers faced a Rancho Mirage team that defeated Thermal Desert Mirage 91-11 on Friday, when Wes Lynch hit 16 three pointers and finished with 59 points.
On Monday, Lynch was limited to only nine points. He made four of seven from three-point range.
Zack Kroker led the Rattlers (15-5) with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Koby Alvarez scored eight points. The Rattlers were five of 18 from beyond the arc.
“We know all of them shoot threes,” Burzell said. “We focused on making sure we had a hand to the face and not give them an open three. A contested three is harder to make than an open three.”
McMurray scored 11 points for Laguna Beach, and Rounaghi added eight points and eight rebounds.
“We passed the ball around,” Burzell said. “We shot the ball really well. We held them under 50 points, which is unheard of because they have been scoring big numbers. We just played defense, shared the ball, and got some good shots. We took care of the ball. We just have to keep working hard and do what we do. We have to keep believing in ourselves.”
Laguna Beach hosts Estancia in Orange Coast League play on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Breakers are atop the league with Costa Mesa at 2-0, while Estancia is one game back at 1-1.
“This game was important for us,” Fleming said. “We wanted to play up a little higher than what we normally play. We know we have a target on our back in league and we have to bring our best game each time.”