Playing on the edge finally caught up with the Laguna Beach boys' basketball team Wednesday night.
The Breakers, who flirted with defeat in their last two outings but managed to escape its pitfalls, fell at home to Saddleback. Just one win away from completing a perfect — well, in the win-loss column, anyway — first-half of play in the Orange Coast League, Laguna came out on the short end of a 42-39 score against a Roadrunners team that had been winless in league play.
Laguna ended the first half of its league slate with a 4-1 record, which ties them with Estancia, a winner Wednesday over rival Costa Mesa, for first place. The Breakers fell to 11-9 overall.
"This is kind of the culmination of us not playing well the last two or three games," Laguna Coach Bret Fleming said of Wednesday's defeat. "We played poorly against Godinez and probably should have lost that game. We played poorly against Costa Mesa and should have lost that game.
"I think [what] has hurt us pretty much has been a lack of composure on offense. If we get an opener shot, the kids pretty much shoot with confidence. But at other times, we go to the basket when we shouldn't and give up the open shot inside by kicking it out when we should shoot. It's backwards."
Laguna trailed Saddleback, 15-10, after one quarter and managed just six points in the second quarter, trailing, 24-16, at the half.
The Breakers did hold Saddleback (1-4 league) to just three points in the third quarter and pulled to within 27-25 going into the fourth.
Brandon Lewis was the lone Laguna player in double figures with 13 points.
Laguna hasn't scored more than 39 points in each of its last three league games. They beat Godinez, 36-32, on Jan. 19 and edged Costa Mesa, 37-36, last Friday.
Yet the defending league champs still held sole possession of first place heading into Wednesday's game.
"I will say that Godinez and Saddleback are kind of ball-control [teams] that don't push it up the court," Fleming said. "But really, it's been a lack of us not making plays."
Despite a porous showing on offense, Laguna was able to sneak out of Costa Mesa with a huge league win that temporarily put the Breakers in control of the league race.
Trailing by four points with just 37 seconds remaining in the game, the Breakers rallied back behind two three-point shots by Jack Pillsbury. The junior guard's final trey of the game, launched from the left corner with four seconds left, gave Laguna a 37-36 victory. The two treys were his first baskets of the game.
Cole Kesler and Tyler Masukawa also hit critical threes in the final 2:50 to spark the comeback.
The Breakers, who won despite scoring just 14 first-half points and had only 16 by the end of the third quarter, hit their final four three-point shots of the game. The Mustangs had taken an eight-point lead (24-16) into the final eight minutes in a game that determined the early league leader.
"Jack has hit some real clutch shots for us in league," Fleming said. "He really did a great job down the stretch."
Cole Kesler led Laguna with nine points. Masukawa had eight points, Pillsbury and Jake Dalke six points each and Tyler Kesler and Derek Reigel both had four points.
Laguna begins the second round of league play at 7 tonight at Calvary Chapel (2-3 in league). Next week, the Breakers host Estancia at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a key clash and Costa Mesa on Feb. 4 (7 p.m.).
The Breakers defeated Calvary Chapel, 62-49, on Jan. 14 and opened league play Jan. 12 with a 59-52 comeback win at Estancia.
"I would say when you don't look at the record but how people are playing, Estancia has to be the frontrunner," Fleming said. "They've been beating teams handily. We have been squeaking by."
Laguna stepped away from Orange Coast League play for one night Wednesday to take on St. Margaret's, and the host Tartans outscored the Breakers, 15-3, in the final quarter to take a 49-41 victory.
It was the final nonleague game of the season for Laguna, which got 17 points from both Emily Writer and Sam Garner. Mandi Wisbaum had seven points.
The Breakers had taken a six-point lead in the fourth quarter before the Tartans came back.
In an Orange Coast League game Tuesday, Laguna rallied in the second half to defeat visiting Saddleback, 45-39. The Breakers fell behind, 10-0, early, but pulled to within four (22-18) at the half. Garner had a big game, finishing with 22 points and 18 rebounds. Emily Writer had 18 points and six rebounds and Holly Battle and Diana Necula scored three and two points, respectively.
"During finals week, it's tough to play," Laguna Coach Jon Hendrickson said. "The girls put school first and would rather be home studying, which is a good thing.Not our best performance, but a win is a win."
In another league game Jan. 20, Laguna dropped a close game at Costa Mesa, 51-44. Writer led the scoring with 23 points, to go along with eight rebounds, five steals and four assists. Garner had 14 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks and Lola Cowie had six points.
"We lost by seven points, but I believe we are the better team," Hendrickson said. "Sam Garner fouled out in the third quarter but we continued to fight and claw with all we had. It was close throughout, but they were just better in the end."
The Breakers, who are 2-3 in league after splitting games against Costa Mesa and Saddleback, host Estancia at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Costa Mesa at 7 p.m. Thursday.