The first half of the 2013-14 boys' basketball season held several highs, and even a few lows, for the Laguna Beach High Breakers.
So thought Coach Bret Fleming, whose team ended nonleague play Jan. 3 on a high note.
Laguna completed the first half of its schedule, the nonleague portion, by taking part in the two-day, 10-game 15th annual Orange County North/South Challenge at El Toro High. Playing in the opening game of the event, and in their first outing of 2014, the Breakers pulled away down the stretch to defeat Brethren Christian, 64-48.
Laguna outscored Brethren Christian, 21-5, in the final six minutes after the Warriors had pulled into a 43-43 tie.
Breakers senior forward Josh Adams led the scoring with 20 points. Senior guards Alec Wulff and Noah Blanton (nine rebounds) both scored 14 points, senior guard Bryan Ludloff had 10 points to go with seven assists, and senior guard Matt Jones had six assists.
"It was a good win for us heading into league play," said Fleming whose team, preseason No. 10 in CIF Southern Section Division 4A, improved to 11-5.
The loss was only the second in 13 nonleague games for Brethren Christian, the third-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division 5AA. Sophomore forward Cameron Griffin and junior guard Brandon Bryson both scored 15 points for the six-time defending Academy League champions.
"After [playing] 13 games in 25 days, we looked like we got physically and mentally tired at the end of the game, but it was still a good effort against a very talented Laguna Beach team," BC Coach Jon Bahnsen said.
Laguna is idle this week. A 12-day layoff ends Wednesday, when the Breakers open up Orange Coast League play on the road at Saddleback. Game time is 7 p.m.
During nonleague play, Laguna competed in three tournaments (Godinez, Irvine World News, Torrey Pines), and only played three, single nonleague games (Dana Hills, Irvine, Brethren Christian).
"The preseason was a little up and down for us, we lost a couple games that we should have won," Fleming said. "We also played really well at times. We just missed beating El Toro, the No. 2 team in [Orange County], after leading most of the game.
"It's crucial for us to stay healthy and continue to get better in hopes of making a run in CIF.
Laguna has captured seven-straight league championships and has won nine titles, overall, under Fleming.
The Breakers have won two consecutive games, and three of their last four, heading into the league opener at Saddleback.
"Our focus in league is to continue to get better, grow our chemistry and prepare for the [CIF] playoffs," Fleming said. "I think our best basketball is still ahead of us."
Following Wednesday's league opener, Laguna finally plays a home game, its first of the season, Jan. 17 hosting Estancia at Dugger Gym.
The Breakers will complete their nonleague schedule Friday, when they play host to St. Margaret's at 5 p.m. Dugger Gym.
Laguna has been idle since finishing play Dec. 30 at the MaxPreps Holiday Classic. They went 2-2 in the Open Division at the tournament.
The Breakers enter the New Year with a 9-6 overall record.
They start their Orange Coast League season Tuesday with a 6 p.m. road game at Saddleback.
Laguna also plays host to Estancia in a 6 p.m. league contest Thursday.
"We had a busy December playing in three tournaments, finishing 2-2 in two of them (Oxford Academy, MaxPreps), and 3-1 and in third place in the Ocean View Tournament," Coach Mark Lewis said. "We will be working hard in the coming weeks in both practice and games as we seek to move our way up in the league race, from our third-place finish of a year ago, to compete for a league crown."