An overpowering start Wednesday put the Laguna Beach High boys' basketball team on course for a big victory.
Laguna jumped all over visiting Saddleback in the opening quarter of the Orange Coast League game at Dugger Gym and ran away with a 72-36 victory. The win kept the Breakers alone in first place in the league standings, two games ahead of the rest of the league pack with three games remaining.
The Breakers had raced to a 29-9 lead by the end of the first quarter.
"I thought we came out in the first quarter and took care of business," said Laguna Coach Bret Fleming whose squad improved to 7-0 in league, and 18-5 overall.
The Breakers are ranked eighth in this week's CIF Southern Section Division 4AA poll.
"We did a real good job of sharing the ball and basically ended the game in the first quarter," he said. "I think Noah [Blanton] had 17 points in that first quarter. It was a really good start for us."
Blanton, who has averaged 13.6 points per game, went on to lead all scorers with 23 points. Senior forward Josh Adams, who carries a 14.4 points per game average, again had a double-digit game with 15 points. Senior guard Alec Wulff (15.7 ppg.) scored 11 and Isaac Wulff, a sophomore guard, had eight points.
Laguna began the second half of league play Jan. 31 and faced a key road challenge at Estancia. The Breakers rose to the occasion and walloped the Eagles, 76-42. Another big, opening quarter, this one resulting in a 26-11 advantage for the Breakers, triggered the victory.
Blanton scored 23 points and hauled in 13 rebounds. Adams and Alec Wulff scored 13 points apiece, and senior guard Matt Jones scored seven points and dished out eight assists."
"He's just a really good passer," Fleming said of Jones. "He did a really good job finding open people all game.
"This was a real good win for us. The kids were focused and played hard. I knew the kids weren't real happy to have let them [Estancia] back in the game when we first played them (Laguna won the Jan. 17 meeting, 53-47). We kind of let the foot off the pedal in that game. This time, the kids played solidly throughout."
The Breakers can sew up the OCL title in the coming week. They host Godinez at 7 p.m. Friday. They close out league and regular season play next week with 7 p.m. games Tuesday at Calvary Chapel, and Thursday at Costa Mesa.
Friday's game with Godinez is Senior Night for the Breakers who end their regular-season home schedule.
It will only be their fifth home game of the season. If they win the OCL title, they'll be assured of at least one more home game when the CIF-SS playoffs start in less than two weeks.
"I expect them to change things up a bit Friday," Fleming said of Godinez. "I think we might see something different from them in terms of defense, like the zone. The first time we faced them, they pretty much played us man-to-man. I also think they'll take the air out of the ball, try to slow things down a bit.
Despite getting off to a slow start and later allowing Saddleback to get within striking distance, the Breakers were able to put a 54-34 defeat on the visiting Roadrunners at Dugger Gym Tuesday.
Laguna led, 27-16, at halftime and had led by 16 points before turnovers and defensive lapses by the Breakers allowed the Roadrunners to close to within nine points (heading into the fourth quarter. The Breakers reestablished control by starting the final quarter with a 12-0 run."
"It took us a while but we found our groove and secured the victory," Laguna Coach Mark Lewis said.
Sophomore guard Jackie Cenan scored 22 points to lead three Breakers in double figures. Sophomore guard Alexandra Lewis, who last week became the program's all-time leader for three-point shots made in a single season, hit three three-pointers en route to 15 points. Senior center Jane Wallin scored 11 points.
Sophomore forward Francesca Cecutti had four points and freshman guard Nicole Davidson two points to complete the scoring for Laguna which improved to 5-2 in league, good for second place, and 15-8 overall.
The Breakers had an opportunity Jan. 30 to take over first place in the OCL standings, but dropped a 51-37 road game to co-league leader Estancia. Cenan topped Laguna with 15 points and Wallin recorded a double-double with 12 points and 16 rebounds. Cecutti added eight points.
"We didn't play as relaxed and confident as I know we can," said Mark Lewis whose Breakers committed 29 turnovers. "To Estancia's credit, they played loose in their home gym where role players have a tendency to step up and they did."
The Eagles, who led the league through Wednesday with a 6-1 record, hit eight three-point shots. Guard Stephanie Garcia, scoreless in the team's first meeting Jan. 16, hit three of the three-pointers including one where she was fouled and completed a four-point play.
Laguna took on Godinez Thursday. The score wasn't available at press time. The regular season comes to a close next week for the Breakers who complete league play with a pair of 6 p.m. games starting with a Monday home matchup with Calvary Chapel. They play at Costa Mesa Wednesday.
Godinez and Costa Mesa both took 4-3 league records, and were tied for third place, into Thursday's action.
"The next three games are all important as we control our own destiny," Lewis said. "We are taking it one game at a time."
CIF Weekly Rankings
Boys' Basketball: Laguna Beach (No. 8, Division 4A).