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Crown still fits

SANTA ANA — At times, it was an extremely trying season for the Laguna Beach High boys’ basketball team.

When it comes to league titles, though, the Breakers are downright greedy.

Laguna Beach surged in the fourth quarter Wednesday night at Godinez High to take a 48-38 victory over the host Grizzlies. The win, coupled with Estancia’s 46-43 upset loss at Costa Mesa, clinched the fourth straight outright Orange Coast League title for Laguna.

The Breakers finished 6-2 in league; Estancia and Calvary Chapel finished tied for second at 5-3. It’s the 11th league title in the program’s history.

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Laguna Beach has won league every year since the league was formed in 2006-07. Yet this year, with just one significant returner in senior Adam Selevan, was supposed to be a “down” year.

Yet after the Breakers lost at Irvine, 47-16, in early January, things turned around.

“We came in and I told the kids that they had no enthusiasm for the game and no work ethic for the game,” Coach Bret Fleming said of practice the next day. “We spent an entire week on just enthusiasm and working hard, and I thought that kind of turned the corner for us.

“It’s a great feeling [to win league again]. This one was a little unexpected, but it’s a credit to the kids. They kept working and kept fighting.”

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The Breakers had also rallied to beat Estancia, 54-43, on Feb. 5 to keep their title hopes alive. On Wednesday night, though, Godinez (11-15, 3-5 in league) gave Laguna all it could handle in a game that was nothing like the Breakers’ 63-23 romp over the Grizzlies at home.

Behind some early offense from Selevan and fellow senior Alex Matsukawa, Laguna (10-13, 6-2) took a seven-point lead into halftime. Matsukawa and sophomore Derek Reigel each scored 10 for the Breakers.

“In warmups I felt really good, and last time we played them I did the same thing,” Matsukawa said. “The coach told me to shoot the ball because I was open at the high post most of the time. My shot just felt good.”

Yet that 25-18 halftime advantage was cut to two, at 35-33, when Godinez guard Edgar Rios drained a three-pointer from the corner early in the fourth.

“We knew it was going to be hard at their place,” said Selevan, who finished with a game-high 14 points. “We’ve had some trouble in away games, so we had to keep up our intensity and play solid [defense] to shut them down.”

The Breakers went on a 8-0 run, though, to put the game away. Reigel hit a jumper, then Selevan made a three-point play and Reigel nailed a three-pointer of his own. Suddenly, it was a 43-33 game with four minutes to go.

“Coach called a timeout, and we really realized that this is our championship,” Reigel said. “We really decided to stop their run there.”

Sophomore point guard Tyler Matsukawa and freshman center Jake Dalke each scored seven for the league champion Breakers. Senior guard Izzet Demircioglu scored 13 to lead Godinez.

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Laguna Beach will await its first-round opponent when the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A brackets are released Sunday; as a No. 1 team in league Laguna will have a first-round playoff game at home.

Fleming, who has been coach for five of the 11 league titles in the program’s history, knew teams would be gunning for his young team this year.

“We only lost one game in the last two years in league,” Fleming said. “It’s just a credit to our kids, that they decided they didn’t want to be the ones who broke that streak. I’m proud of them.”

Yet, Selevan said the team knew what it had to do.

“Our program always has high expectations,” Selevan said. “Our alumni take pride in our program. We wanted to show them that we’re just as good, that we’re going to keep it up and keep the streak going.”


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