LAGUNA BEACH – The Laguna Beach girls' water polo team came into Wednesday's first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs as a solid favorite against Beckman.
Throughout the game, the third-ranked Breakers played the part with relish and, in the end, came away with a 23-9 victory over the visiting Patriots.
The victory sends the Orange Coast League champions on to Saturday's quarterfinals. Laguna will host No. 7-seeded Santa Barbara at 4 p.m. at the Laguna pool, Breakers Coach Ethan Damato said.
The Dons defeated Edison, 10-3, in a first-round game on Wednesday.
"I thought it was a good win today and I thought we played well offensively," Damato said. "I thought we shared the ball really well and we played great early, especially in the second quarter. But we had some defensive lapses which we can work on.
"It was Senior Day for us and maybe, we were a little emotional out there. But the bottom line, we played a great first half."
Laguna (22-6) never trailed but it took a while for the Breakers to get going. They posted their first goal when Lexie Del Toro scored off a feed from freshman Makenzie Fischer 2:20 into the contest. Senior co-captain Yoshi Andersen came up with a steal a minute later and scored at the other end of the pool to make it 2-0. Forty seconds later, Mackenzie Baldridge gave up an open shot for an unselfish dish to Del Toro who scored for the second time. Before the quarter was up, Fischer scored and Laguna was off and running at 4-0.
The Breakers then took charge. After Beckman's Rachel Emami scored the first of her four goals of the game, Del Toro and Andersen both scored twice to pad the lead to 8-1. Late in the half, Andersen scored on a sweet back-handed shot, Del Toro skipped in a one-bounce shot and Fischer scored off a steal by Del Toro.
Laguna closed out the second quarter, scoring-wise, the way it did the first quarter with the Andersen-Del Toro-Fischer trifecta.
Andersen and Del Toro had five goals by halftime, when the Breakers held an 11-2 advantage.
"We moved the ball around really well and found some good, quality, open shots," Damato said. "I was real pleased with our ball movement in the first half."
Fischer scored the first two goals of the second half and goals by Sydney Saxe and Melena Masson followed. Within the first three minutes of the third quarter, Laguna expanded its lead to 16-2. The Breakers led, 18-3, heading into the fourth quarter.
Damato substituted freely in the second half. Beckman (20-9), which finished second in the Pacific Coast League to Corona del Mar, was able to outscore the Breakers, 6-5, in the final quarter. The Patriots had defeated Esperanza, 9-3, in a wild-card game on Tuesday to advance to face Laguna.
Fischer finished with a game-high six goals and had two assists, Andersen scored five goals with three assists and three steals, Del Toro had five goals, Masson scored four goals, Saxe scored twice and had four assists and Alia Manetta scored once. Jenna Knott had seven saves.
The Breakers honored their three senior players, Andersen, Masson and Marley Donenfeld, after the victory.
"They have led this team," Damato said of the senior trio. "I think we're playing for Yoshi, Melena and Marley these last couple of games. That's been our motto."
Saturday's quarterfinal match has the makings of a good one, as Laguna and Santa Barbara are no strangers to each other this year. The teams played twice during the regular season and the Dons have won both games: a 4-3 nonleague game in December and an 11-7 game at the Santa Barbara tournament in January.
"We're excited to be playing them," Damato said. "They are a deep team that swims really well and they have seven or eight field players who can beat you. We just need to be ourselves in the game and come out fast. One thing we need to do, for sure, is play better defense. Our defense has to be at its best from here on out."
CIF Boys' Basketball
JSerra 48, Laguna Beach 33
Laguna never led in Wednesday's first-round game of the Division 4AA playoffs and was held to a season-low in points in losing to the visiting Lions.
JSerra, the No. 10-seed, used defensive pressure and took advantage of a cold-shooting night by the Breakers to open take control early. The Lions, an at-large playoff entry from the Trinity League, turned an 11-6 first-quarter lead, into a 26-14 halftime advantage. They increased the lead to 21 points in the third quarter on a three-point play by senior guard Reece Lemon that put the score at 35-14 midway through the quarter. The Breakers could get no closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
"I thought we had a pretty off-night," Laguna Coach Bret Fleming said. "We couldn't knock down the open three, for the most part. On the defensive end, if you told me that we'd hold them to 48 points, then I wouldn't think we'd lose by 15. We just couldn't get things going tonight."
Brandon Lewis knocked down four three-point shots and led Laguna with 14 points. The senior guard set a new school single-season record for three-point shots with 85. Travis Hanour (1999-2000 season) held the previous record at 80. Senior Derek Reigel had six points and senior Tyler Masukawa and junior Cole Kesler both scored four points.
Lewis, Reigel, Masukawa, Luke Barker, Bryce Blanton and Jack Pillsbury played their final game for Laguna which won the Orange Coast League championship for a sixth-straight year and ended its 2011-12 campaign at 16-11.