Laguna joins playoff party

The Laguna Beach boys' and girls' basketball teams are CIF playoff bound.

The Breaker boys on Monday earned their fifth consecutive Orange Coast League title and in the process sewed up a trip to the postseason.

On Wednesday, the Breaker girls punched their reservation to the postseason party by winning their season finale.

The CIF will release pairings for the boys' and girls' basketball playoffs Sunday.

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Girls' Basketball

Laguna earned a CIF playoff berth on the final day of the regular season Wednesday by rolling past host Saddleback, 52-34. The Breakers grabbed control of the game early, taking a 17-5 lead in the first quarter. They led 31-20 at the half, had the lead trimmed to 39-32 after three quarters, then put on the defensive breaks in the fourth quarter by holding the Roadrunners to just two points.

Emily Writer led all scorers with 18 points. Lola Cowie and Holly Battle also scored in double figures with 15 and 10 points, respectively. Cowie got her points on five three-point shots. Center Sam Garner, who Coach Jon Hendrickson said "wasn't feeling her best," still managed to grab 15 rebounds and block seven shots.

With the win, Laguna finished league play 6-4, good for third place. The Breakers take a 12-9 overall record into next week's playoffs. The Breakers are heading to the playoffs for the second time in four years.

Hendrickson, who said that the 12 wins are the second most in the program's history, called Wednesday's victory "a great win for our program."

"It was a great night of celebration for our team, especially for Sam and Emily capping off two outstanding careers," he said.

In two previous league outings, Laguna defeated Costa Mesa and Godinez to put itself in contention for a coveted playoff berth.

"The girls are to be commended for showing a lot of heart and sticking it out through some tough moments, both on and off the court," Hendrickson said. "I couldn't be more proud of my team than I was after these two hard-fought victories."

Laguna on Monday picked up a crucial road victory by winning, 49-38, at Godinez. Writer had a high temperature before the game and Battle sprained a finger in the first half and didn't play in the second half, Hendrickson said. With two starters ailing, other Breakers stepped up to deliver strong performances, including Cowie, who hit three three-point shots and finished with 13 points. Garner again came up big, this time with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

The Breakers and Grizzlies split their two league meetings. Godinez won the Jan. 18 battle, 56-41.

In a league game Feb. 3, Laguna played its final home game and had a successful Senior Night by handling Costa Mesa, 51-36. The win allowed the Breakers to avenge a 51-44 loss to the Mustangs in their first league meeting Jan. 20.

"The whole team played inspired basketball, but especially Sam," Hendrickson said of Garner, who recorded a triple-double with 13 points, 19 rebounds and 13 blocks.

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Boys' Basketball

One discussion at a recent practice turned the tide for the Breakers.

It came a day after a stunning loss at home to Saddleback. At that Jan. 27 practice, Coach Bret Fleming laid it on the line for his squad.

"Things seemed to be going downhill that previous week," he said. "We had real poor performances in games against Godinez and Costa Mesa, and then a full collapse against Saddleback. Then we changed our mentality at the Thursday practice. We talked about the consequences there would be if we weren't giving a full-out effort.

"Since that practice, we've beaten everybody pretty handily. It's a sign we're on the right track."

Since the 42-39 loss to Saddleback, Laguna has won four straight. In the process, the Breakers took a key battle from Estancia on Feb. 2 that gave Laguna sole possession of first place. Two days later, a win over Costa Mesa, coupled with Estancia's loss to Calvary Chapel, gave the Breakers a two-game cushion on their league foes heading into the final week of the regular season.

On Tuesday, Laguna (15-8) clinched an outright title by scoring a 56-33 victory at Godinez. The Breakers raced to a 14-6 first-quarter lead and then shut out the Grizzlies in the second quarter to expand the advantage to 31-6 at halftime.

Nine Breakers broke into the scoring column, with Jake Dalke leading the way with 13 points. Brandon Lewis had nine points and Tyler Masukawa eight points.

Tuesday's outcome was much different from the first meeting between the teams, a Jan. 19 game in which Laguna had to rally in the fourth quarter — where they shut out the Grizzlies in the final eight minutes — to come away with a 36-32 win.

This time, there was no such drama.

The Breakers also completed a season sweep of Costa Mesa on Feb. 4 by pulling away from the Mustangs, 56-40, at Dugger Gym. Dalke led three Breakers in double figures with a game-high 21 points. Lewis and Cole Kesler had 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Again, a much different result than the team's first meeting last month where Laguna needed a last-second three-point shot by Jack Pillsbury on Jan. 21 to pull out a 37-36 win at Costa Mesa in a game that originally had given the Breakers the league lead.

"The kids went into the Godinez game with a little bit of an attitude that they were embarrassed by the way they played against them in that first game and then had that same thought process against Costa Mesa,' Fleming said. "The kids did a real nice job in both of those games and there was no doubt about the outcome."

The two wins put Laguna at 8-1 in league. But the Breakers had unfinished to take care of Thursday night: a league and season finale at Saddleback, the team that had handed them their only loss. The score wasn't available at press time.

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