It wasn't a thing of beauty, but no matter how Laguna Beach boys' basketball Coach Bret Fleming looked at Wednesday's game against Godinez it was a victory.
"It was about as ugly as it gets," said Fleming, whose team finally overcame the Grizzlies midway through the fourth quarter and held on for a 36-32 win.
The triumph lifted Laguna to 3-0 in Orange Coast League play and kept the defending champion Breakers atop the league standings with Costa Mesa, which needed overtime Wednesday to defeat Calvary Chapel. Both the Breakers and Mustangs are 3-0 in league.
Laguna also improved to 10-8 overall but didn't impress Fleming for much of the game.
The Breakers trailed throughout against a Godinez team that made them work for every point they got. Laguna didn't take the lead until junior point guard Tyler Masukawa hit from three-point range to put his team in front for good.
Laguna had a chance to extend the lead late in the game but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Godinez (10-9 overall, 0-3 league) then missed a three-point shot in the closing seconds that would have tied the score. The Breakers rebounded and Masukawa sank a free throw with a second left to clinch the game.
In addition to Masukawa's big points down the stretch, another big reason the Breakers were able to pull out the victory was that they didn't allow the Grizzlies a point in the fourth quarter.
Laguna entered the quarter trailing, 32-30.
"We started to play a little better defense in the second quarter and they didn't score on us in the fourth," Fleming said. "I thought the guys did a nice job in that regard.
"This was one of those grind-it-out type of games. I thought Godinez pretty much outplayed us in every aspect of the game. We didn't come ready to play and were impatient and had a lot of careless turnovers. I'm glad we were able to pull a win out of this, but this is probably as frustrated as I've been all year."
The Breakers received two wake-up calls immediately. The first came when Godinez jumped out to a 7-2 lead. The second came when Fleming pulled his starting lineup and sat his starters the remainder of the first quarter.
Laguna did rally to within 9-7 at the end of the quarter but still trailed, 21-16, at the half.
"I pulled them hoping to make an impact," he said. "We got a little better in the second quarter and then shut them out in the fourth quarter."
Masukawa scored nearly half of Laguna's points, finishing with a game-high 17. Tyler Kesler scored eight points and Jack Pillsbury had five points, Derek Reigel scored four and Luke Barker had two points.
Sole possession of the league lead is on the line today when Laguna travels to face Costa Mesa at 7 p.m. The teams met in the first week of the season in the consolation semifinals of the La Quinta Tournament on Dec. 2. The Breakers won that game going away, 50-26.
Fleming watched game film from that contest, which he said was a thing of beauty.
"We played really well in that one," he said. "We came out and went up, 8-0, on them, hit our first two three-point shots and had three three-pointers overall in the first quarter. We were sharp throughout. We probably played as well a first half as we have this entire season in that game.
"I think Costa Mesa is playing better right now. They have a big kid (Andrew Albers) who we need to contend with. One of their guys (Matthew Dimson) had five threes Wednesday against Calvary Chapel. For us, it's a matter of taking care of the ball, getting good shots and coming back down and setting up on defense. We need to play hungry."
Albers, who the Breakers limited to six points in the Dec. 2 meeting, had 14 points and Dimson 16 points against Calvary Chapel.
Laguna had picked up its second league win Jan. 14 by pulling away from visiting Calvary Chapel in the second half to score a 62-49 victory.
The Breakers outscored the Eagles by 11 (34-23) over the final two quarters. Masukawa scored a game-high 18 points and Kesler poured in 17 points to pace the Laguna offense.
Following today's game at Costa Mesa, the Breakers play a pair of league contests next week, starting with a 7 p.m. Wednesday home game against Saddleback. They'll start the second-round of league play Jan. 28 at Calvary Chapel.
Laguna, hoping to build on momentum gained after winning its first Orange Coast League game late last week, fell to a barrage of three-point baskets by Godinez in the second half of Tuesday's affair and dropped a 56-41 game to the Grizzlies.
Playing what Coach Jon Hendrickson called a "solid first half," the Breakers took a 22-21 lead into the locker room. In the second half, however, the Grizzlies hit some big three-point shots and went on to outscore Laguna, 35-19, to get their first league win.
"The girls battled hard all night, but Godinez just made shots," Hendrickson said.
Prior to taking on Godinez, Laguna had earned its first league win of the season by routing visiting Calvary Chapel, 45-21. The Breakers turned in an "excellent" first quarter of play, Hendrickson said, where they took an 18-4 lead and extended their advantage to 26-6 at the half.
Center Sam Garner scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds with six blocks in a performance that Hendrickson said was the "best game of her career."
"We continued to feed her the ball and she executed," he said.
The Breakers face a busy week next week, with three games in three days. First, they'll host league foe Saddleback at 7 p.m. Tuesday. On Wednesday, they'll travel for a 6 p.m. nonleague game at St. Margaret's and again hit the road Thursday for a 7 p.m. league game at Calvary Chapel.
"It will be a tough week, but one I believe we can come out with a winning record," Hendrickson said. "We just need to trust each other and keep working hard on defense. The execution on offense will come if we stay patient and get everyone involved."