The season has come to an end for both the boys' and girls' basketball teams at Laguna Beach High, each just a few points shy of keeping their respective seasons alive, one a few steps shy of reaching the semifinals, the other, of moving on to the quarterfinal round.
The boys' team journeyed Tuesday to San Luis Obispo for a quarterfinal date with Mission Prep in the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs and a second-round matchup that pitted two of the division's highest seeds. In a game where the teams were separated by just one point heading into the final quarter, it was the host and third-seeded Royals who were able to come away with a 59-52 victory over the sixth-seeded Breakers.
The win sent Mission Prep (24-4) on to a Friday semifinal game against No. 2-seeded Westlake Village Oaks Christian.
Laguna, champion of the Orange Coast League, had its season come to a close at 23-6.
The Breakers streaked to a 16-6 lead in the first quarter but Mission Prep outscored the Breakers, 21-9, in the second quarter to grab a 27-25 halftime lead.
The Royals were up, 40-39, through three quarters.
"I thought we were ready to play, were well-prepared and game plan-wise, we had the right mix," Laguna Coach Bret Fleming said. "We had the right idea coming into the game, but we just kind of broke down on defensive fundamentals and offensively, we had some opportunities that we didn't take advantage of."
The Breakers put three players in double figures led by senior guard Noah Blanton, who topped all scorers with 19 points. Senior forward Josh Adam was right behind Blanton with 18 points, and senior guard Alec Wulff scored 11 points.
Junior guard Quinton Adlesh paced three Royals in double figures with 17 points.
"He's a really good point guard and a Division 1 prospect, and I thought we did a pretty good job on him," Fleming said of Adlesh. "We held him to 17 and I think he was averaging 28-30 points a game."
Laguna, which started postseason play with a 58-42 victory Feb. 19 over Rosemead Don Bosco Tech, picked up its second playoff win Feb. 21 by overtaking 11th-seeded Whittier Christian in the second half en route to a 67-55 home court win. The Breakers trailed, 26-21, at the half, but outscored the Heralds, 27-14 in the third quarter, to go in front for good.
"We played well and in the second half I thought we were a little quicker, and we were more athletic than they were," Fleming said. "We got our transition game going, and I thought Alec Wulff had a huge game for us. He's been the focus of many teams, and it was nice to see him be able to break free in this game."
Wulff led the scoring with 26 points, 18 coming on six three-point shots. Blanton scored 12 points and senior guard Bryan Ludloff had 10 points.
Adams, Blanton, Wulff, Ludloff and guards Matt Jones, Garrett Wong and Max Brown belong to a senior class that helped create back-to-back 20-win seasons and 45 victories (45-13).
Laguna has won all eight of the OCL title since the league's inception.
"We've had terrific back-to-back senior classes," Fleming said. "This group put in the time and effort, and I think it paid dividends for the kids. They had a great run."
The 13th-seeded Breakers won their Division 4A opener against Los Angeles Archer, then played No. 4-seed Montebello Cantwell-Sacred Heart to the wire Saturday before falling, 49-45.
In a game where neither team would lead by more than five points, Laguna held a one-point lead, 44-43, with under two minutes to play but the Cardinals (18-10, Camino Real League tie-No. 2) hit a big, three-point shot to go into the lead to stay. The Breakers missed several shots and committed a couple of turnovers down the stretch.
Sophomore guard Jackie Cenan scored a game-high 23 for Laguna. Senior center Jane Wallin scored 16 points in her final game, and sophomore guard Alexandra Lewis and sophomore forward Francesca Cecutti had five points and one point, respectively, to close the Laguna scoring.
Cantwell-Sacred Heart has since defeated No. 5-seed Pasadena Maranatha, 57-48, to move on to Saturday's semifinals where it will face top-seeded Brentwood.
Laguna started postseason play Feb. 20 and overcame a five-point halftime deficit to take a 66-59 victory from Archer (Liberty League No. 3). Cenan kept the Breakers in the game in the first half by scoring 18 of her team-high 36 points. After the half, Cenan continued on her torrid scoring pace matching her first-half output. Wallin came alive in the second half, scoring 13 of her 21 points and dominated inside.
Laguna withstood a standout performance by Archer point guard Maia Barnett whom Mark Lewis said was "one of the best points guards" his team has seen this year. Archer's leader in scoring, rebounding and assists, Barnett hit seven three-point shots, was 14 of 15 from the free-throw line, and poured in a game-high 41 points.
The win marked the first time in seven seasons that the Laguna girls' basketball program has won a CIF Southern Section playoff game. It also tied the program single-season record for wins (19).
Laguna finished the year 19-9, took second place in the Orange Coast League, and reached the second round of the playoffs.
"Considering the rocky start we had to our season, going 0-3 out of the gate, navigating our way through some off-court distractions, we did quite well," Laguna Coach Mark Lewis said. "We had a goal to win league. We almost did that coming up just short. We had a goal to do well in the regular season, to improve our ranking and get a good seeding and draw in CIF. We did that, giving us the ability to win our first-round game and put ourselves in a great position to advance."
In addition to tying last season's team for most wins (19) in a season, the Breakers also tied the school record for most wins (eight) in league play. Four players scored more than 100 points for the season: Cenan (589), Wallin (333), Alexandra Lewis (242), and Cecutti (154). Two Breakers set individual school records. Cenan set a single-season scoring record (589 points; previous record, 533), and Lewis broke the single-season record for three-point shots made (53; previous record, 42).
"This season, we tied our win total at 19, improved our standing in league by one, from third place to second, improved our depth in CIF, from first round to second round," Mark Lewis said. "I am excited to see us work to continue that trending. Perhaps next year we can up our win total to 20 or more, win league, and go deeper in CIF.
"We are still young but we have a number of girls with some great varsity and big-game experience, and other girls whose roles will be increasing next season and beyond as we look to add depth to our roster."