At this stage of the season, it's all about one game, winning, and advancing for the Laguna Beach boys' basketball team.
The Breakers stepped into the postseason Wednesday for their opening game of the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs at home against Rosemead Don Bosco Tech. They overcame a slow start by steadily pulling away to a 58-42 victory over the visiting Tigers at Dugger Gym.
The 22nd win of the season sent Laguna, the No. 6-seed in the tournament, onward to a second-round clash Friday against 11th-seeded La Habra Whittier Christian. Laguna won a coin toss Thursday, and will play host to Friday's game at 7 p.m. at Dugger Gym.
The Breakers (22-5) fell in a 16-11 hole after one quarter but regrouped in the second quarter and went on to take a 28-22 lead at halftime. They went out to outscore the Tigers (9-18), an at-large playoff entry from the Camino Real League, by 10 points in the second half.
"We came out pretty lackadaisical at the start and really didn't 'D-up' on them," Fleming said. "They were probably a little better than we expected. They have a 6-foot-8 kid [Amir Kamgar], who is pretty good. and another player who normally shoots the three, knocked down a couple of three-pointers. "
Kamgar, a junior, led the Tigers with 16 points.
Senior Noah Blanton of the Breakers led all scorers with 21 points. Senior Matt Jones hit three three-point shots and finished with 15 points. Seniors Alec Wulff and Bryan Ludloff both scored eight points, junior Isaac Wulff had four points, and senior Josh Adams, hindered by early foul trouble and limited to floor time, scored two points.
"Matt Jones really stepped up for the second game in a row for us," Fleming said. "He knocked down a couple of threes that were big. Noah [Blanton] had a terrific second half, Isaac Wulff stepped in and played a good role for us off the bench, and Samiar Therani gave us some good minutes, as well."
Whittier Christian (17-9) finished third in the Olympic League. The Heralds boast a tall lineup that includes 6-foot-6 forward Jake Rivera, who is averaging 12.8 points per game.
The Heralds advanced to the second round by easily handling visiting Templeton, 43-19, Wednesday.
"They are a solid, big team that I think is well-coached and fundamentally sound," Fleming said of the Heralds. "They have some kids who are 6-8, 6-6, and 6-6, and they're big across the board. That No. 25 [Rivera) is a good player."
Friday's winner moves on to the division quarterfinals which are 7 p.m. on Tuesday (Feb. 25). The Whittier Christian-Laguna winner will face either No. 3-seed San Luis Obispo Mission Prep (Freelance) or Inglewood Morningside (Ocean League at-large).
The division is down to a final, 16 teams, undefeated and top-seed Sherman Oaks Buckley (27-0), among those remaining.
"I think there's probably a legitimate four or five teams that can win it (division title)," Fleming said. "I don't think there is one dominant team but there are some teams that have really good size. Whittier Christian's one of those teams with a lot of size.
"Right now, the season is about trying to stay alive and move on. That's every team's goal."
Laguna began postseason play Thursday when the Breakers played host to Los Angeles Archer in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division 4A playoffs.
Laguna is the No. 13-seed for the tournament and the Orange Coast League runner-up hosted Los Angeles Archer. The score from the first-round game wasn't available at press time.
Archer, an all-girls school, finished third in the Liberty League.
Laguna has won 18 of its last 23 games after opening the season with an 0-3 start. Heading into the postseason, sophomore guard Jackie Cenan leads Laguna in scoring (20.4 ppg.), assists (3.5 pg.) and steals (4.2 pg.). Senior center Jane Wallin is the second-leading scorer with 11.4 points per game and also averages 6.8 rebounds and a team-best four blocker per game. Sophomore guard Alexandra Lewis is averaging nine points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.8 assist and 2.4 steals per game, and lead the Breakers in three-point shots made with a school single-season record of 52 heading into the Archer game. Sophomore forward Francesca Cecutti averages 5.7 points a game and is the team's top rebounder per game with a 7.3 average.
"We are taking this one game at a time, but certainly a win [Thursday] would put us into the second round likely against a very good Cantwell team," Laguna Coach Mark Lewis said. "This would be a home game for us as we have won the coin flip [with Cantwell Sacred Heart], so having an opportunity to play in the second round at home would be great.
"We are pleased with our draw and excited about the opportunity to play hard and hopefully enjoy some success in this season's CIF tournament, one game at a time."
Laguna took an 18-8 record into postseason play and needed one more victory to tie the school single-season record for victories (19) set by last year's team.
The winner of Thursday's game advances to face the winner of another Thursday first-round game between No. 4-seed Cantwell Sacred Heart (16-10, Camino Real League tie-No. 2) and Desert Christian/Lancaster (14-4, Desert Mountain League No. 2), in a 7 p.m. second-round game Saturday.
The division quarterfinals are 7 p.m. on Wednesday.