Room to grow. That is what nonleague play has afforded the Laguna Beach High boys’ basketball team.
The Breakers concluded their nonleague schedule Tuesday by hosting Irvine at Dugger Gym. They led from the start, pushed the lead to 18 points in the second half, fended off a mini Irvine rally in the fourth quarter and settled for a 55-46 victory.
The win was the 12th in 17 nonleague contests for Laguna which, in the first 1 1/2 months of the season, revealed a lot to head coach Bret Fleming. There was a growth spurt.
“I think we did two things in nonleague play and that is that we’ve grown and also learned a lot,” Fleming said. “I think early on, our guys didn’t think that they were good enough to compete with some of the teams we faced and sometimes, we didn’t go into games as confident as we should have been. That was something we needed to work on.”
Fleming, though, said a two-game swing in the Century tournament over the holiday break brought his team to a realization.
“We beat a Tustin team that is really good and really talented,” he said. “I think that game woke us up and got us thinking that we can be pretty good. Then the next night, we beat a good Glendora team. I think that those two games have been a big boost to our confidence.”
In Tuesday’s win over Irvine, the Breakers had solid contributions across the line-up, although they didn’t have senior guard John Palfreyman, who missed the game due to illness. One key element, Fleming said, was starting 6-foot-5 Christian Kesler at center to contest Vaqueros’ 6-6 junior center Kirill Sergeyev, who had scored 14 or more points in five of Irvine’s last six games. He still scored in double figures, getting 14 points, but Kesler’s effort didn’t go unnoticed.
“Christian did a real nice job of containing him,” Fleming said. “That was one reason we were able to control things from the start.
“Overall, I thought the kids played pretty well.”
Senior guard Dylan Roley led all scorers with 23 points and senior guard Ryan Lawler, had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Junior Adam Selevan scored eight points, senior wing Cody Duplisea had six points, sophomore guard Chris Paul added five points and Kesler scored three.
The night before they defeated Irvine, the Breakers dropped a 63-58 nonleague game to visiting University. Laguna pulled to within two points late in the game, but could get no closer.
“We came out kind of asleep and didn’t match their intensity at the start of the game,” Fleming said. “University’s a good, solid team, but I think if we played the way we are capable of playing, it could have been a different ballgame. So in that regard, that’s what was disappointing to me.”
Lawler led three Breakers in double figures with 17 points. Selevan was next with 14 points and Roley netted 12.
Duplisea and Paul had eight and five points, respectively, to complete Laguna’s scoring.
Fleming said the Breakers worked to limit the outside shooting of University three-point specialist Jed Borovik, but the junior still managed to hit three baskets from behind the arc by the early stages of the second quarter. Borovik, however, wouldn’t score the remainder of the game.
Beginning today, Laguna has the Orange Coast League race to focus on. The Breakers begin league action with a pair of road games, starting at 7 p.m. at Godinez. A big test awaits Wednesday, when Laguna plays at Calvary Chapel.
The Breakers will attempt to win a third straight league championship in 2009.
“I think this league is improved from last year,” Fleming said. “Calvary Chapel is talented and always plays us tight, and we have developed a fierce rivalry. Estancia is playing well and is improved and Costa Mesa pretty much has all of its starters back from last year. Godinez is a young team that is new to the league. It should be an exciting race.”