In a game that had several twists and turns, needed extra time to decide and went down to a few frantic seconds, the Laguna Beach High boys' basketball team discovered something about itself in the early stages of the season: its resilience.
Laguna withstood a late rally in regulation by visiting Dana Hills, then came up with big plays in overtime, to clip the Dolphins, 67-65, in a nonleague game Wednesday at Dugger Gym.
The Breakers showed their moxie after letting a seven-point lead evaporate in the final 67 seconds of regulation, twice fell behind in overtime, yet went on to win their fourth game to improve to 4-2.
The game was the home opener of the 2012-13 season for the Breakers.
"What I liked about this game is that when [Dana Hills] came back and tied it up, our kids didn't fold the tent," Laguna Coach Bret Fleming said. "I was really pleased with the way our guys stayed in control and kept attacking the basket. That was really nice to see."
Laguna went into overtime without two of its starters in the lineup. Junior Noah Blanton, who finished with six points but played big in the middle, fouled out with 28 seconds left in regulation. Senior guard Cole Kesler, who started slowly but warmed up big-time to hit several key, three-point shots that sustained the lead for the Breakers, was on the bench, nursing a leg cramp. Kesler did return to the floor with 29.2 seconds left in overtime, with the Breakers clinging to a 66-65 lead thanks to a pair of free throws by senior Jake Dalke.
With Blanton and Kesler on the bench, juniors Josh Adams and Bryan Ludloff came up with key performances in overtime.
Adams, who finished with nine points, got six of them in OT when he hit all six of his free-throw attempts. In each of his three trips to the foul line, his free throws gave Laguna a one-point advantage, the last of which came at 64-63 with 1:36 left.
After Dalke had put Laguna in front, 66-65, Dana Hills (3-3) came up court with a chance at the lead. Guard Cory Blau drove the lane but was met at the baseline where he was met by a pair of Breakers. Blau was forced to turn and make a pass before heading out of bounds, and Ludloff stepped in front of the Dolphins' Ian Wright to intercept the pass. Dalke ended up with the ball and was fouled. In the double-bonus, he hit the second of two free-throw attempts to put the Breakers up, 67-65, with 11.4 seconds left.
Ludloff had subbed in for Kesler in overtime.
"Those were two huge plays by Josh and Bryan," Fleming said. "They were key for us."
On Dana Hill's final possession, Jack Sheffield missed from three-point range and the Dolphins had two, quick follow shots from close range dance around and fall away from the rim, as time expired.
Dana Hills used a 10-0 run in the first half to take an 18-10 lead. The Dolphins had their lead trimmed to 23-22 at the half after Kesler delivered a long-range three-point shot with six seconds left before intermission.
Laguna took control at the outset of the second half. With good ball movement and a shuffling defense, the Breakers score the first six points of the half to go on top, 28-25. They led by as many as 12 points on a few occasions, taking their last 12-point lead, 47-35, when Blanton scored on a follow shot off his own miss with 7:07 left in the fourth quarter.
Kesler led Laguna with 24 points. Dalke scored 16 points and junior guards Alec Wulff and Matt Jones had eight and four points, respectively.
The Breakers were able to withstand the torrid shooting night turned in by Dana Hills senior guard Toffic Dalou, who hit eight three-point shots and led all scorers with 26 points. Blau, who came into the game with 13 three-point shots made, was limited to two three-pointers and finished with 25 points.
Prior to taking on Dana Hills Wednesday, Laguna finished play Saturday at the Grizzly Invitational at Godinez High. The Breakers went 3-2 at the event and ended with a 52-36 win over Western in Gold division bracket play. Three Breakers scored in double figures led by Kesler with 16 points. Dalke, who went on to be named all-tournament, scored 15 points and Adams scored 11.
Laguna started the tournament with wins over Savanna (58-44) and Orange (65-36), then dropped consecutive games to Cypress (50-34) and El Dorado (60-38). El Toro won the Gold division title.
The Breakers return to Dugger Gym Friday for a 7 p.m. nonleague game against Irvine. On Monday , they start play at the Beckman/Irvine World News Tournament. The tournament runs through Dec. 15.
A year after going winless, Laguna is off to a 4-0 start to the new season.
The Breakers collected their fourth victory Tuesday by routing Bethel Baptist of Santa Ana, 57-6, Irvine, in a second-round game at the Oxford Academy Tournament in Cypress. Jackie Cenan led the scoring with 14 points and Jane Wallin scored 10 points to lead 11 Breakers in the scoring column.
In its tournament opener Monday , Laguna whipped host Oxford Academy, 51-16. Cenan poured in 26 points, Wallin had seven points and Kylie Even and Alexandra Lewis scored six and five points, respectively.
The two wins advanced Laguna to the semifinal round on Thursday . Results from the semifinal game weren't available at press time.
In a nonleague game Nov. 30, the Breakers scored a 48-21 nonleague win over visiting Sage Hill. Cenan led the way with 19 points, Lewis scored nine points, Kyra Humphries eight points and Wallin seven points.
"The girls have begun the season on a very positive note," Laguna Coach Mark Lewis said of the 4-0 record. "These past four games have been good for the team from the standpoint of gaining confidence in our ability to win. Along the way, everybody on the team has been able to log some minutes as well.
"As we go forward from here, our schedule will get tougher requiring our focus and level of play to increase. As a team, we look forward to the challenges that lay ahead and welcome the opportunity they present to measure our progress."
The Oxford Academy tournament continues Friday and concludes Saturday with both consolation and championship placement games. Next week, Laguna plays a 4 p.m. nonleague game Wednesday at Anaheim.