A halftime challenge led to a second-half explosion Tuesday by the Laguna Beach High boys’ basketball team in its Orange Coast League encounter with visiting Costa Mesa.
Breakers Coach Bret Fleming said he didn’t yell at his players, who started out lethargic and went on to trail the Mustangs, 28-22, at the half. Instead, Fleming simply laid out his challenge.
“They were waiting for someone to step up and I just told them, that it was up to them to do it,” he said. “I thought we came out real tentative and weren’t aggressive on offense or defense. It was time for someone to take charge.”
One player in particular whom Fleming challenged was Brian Delino and the senior wing responded by scoring 21 of his game-high 26 points in the second half to ignite Laguna. The Breakers eventually pulled away from the Mustangs to record a 57-42 victory.
Laguna turned up the notch both offensively and defensively in the third quarter where it outscored Costa Mesa, 19-3.
The 26 points were a career-best for Delino, Fleming said. Ryan Lawler scored 15 points and had eight rebounds and Bob Monroe had nine rebounds.
The win was sweet for the Breakers in that it not only improved their league record to 3-1 and overall mark to 19-4, but it also atoned for a 59-58 loss at Costa Mesa on the opening night of league play on Jan. 12.
“The kids really responded well to that challenge and Brian really did a nice job in taking control,” said Fleming whose team is tied with Calvary Chapel for first-place. “We wanted to be more aggressive offensively and try to create some things in that second half, and we did that.”
In its previous outing last Friday, Laguna held on to hand visiting Calvary Chapel its first league defeat, 48-47. The Breakers held the lead for most of the game yet fell behind late in the fourth quarter. A three-point shot by Delino tied the score and a tip in by Ryan Lawler off a missed free throw in the closing seconds of the game gave the Breakers a two-point lead.
Delino led all scorers with 18 points. Nathan Pickett scored eight, Charley Bowman seven and Lawler six to go along with a team-high 11 rebounds.
Laguna has won three straight games without its leading scorer, Cheyne Martin (29.2 ppg.), and four, overall. Martin suffered a wrist fracture in a Jan. 15 victory over Glendora, a win that put the Breakers on its current four-game streak.
As the league race tightens, Laguna will have to prove its meddle as the Breakers play their next three games on the road, beginning tonight at Estancia. They also travel to Calvary Chapel on Tuesday and play at Costa Mesa on Feb. 2.
“Three-straight road games will be a big challenge for our team,” Fleming said. “We have a great opportunity to finish what we started and we believe that we can win a league championship.”
In girls’ basketball
Laguna dropped its fourth game of the Orange Coast League season Tuesday when the Breakers fell to visiting Costa Mesa, 66-39.
Laguna, which trailed 38-20 at the half, had a one-two scoring punch in guards Emily LaRose and Brittany Clark who finished with 20 and 18 points, respectively.
Laguna also fell last Friday to visiting Calvary Chapel, 73-36. LaRose hit four three-point shots en route to a game-high 22 points, Clark scored 10 points and Dana Wheeler scored the other four.
Laguna is now 0-4 in league and 0-19 overall.
“The kids are staying positive and working hard to the very end of every game, and I’m happy with that,” Breakers Coach Keith Clarkson said. “Our scoring is getting better each time out but we still need work on defense.”
Laguna continues league play tonight at Estancia, then plays at Calvary Chapel on Tuesday.