They have reached the halfway point, but the Laguna Beach High Breakers know now is not the time to rest on their laurels.
The Breakers established themselves as the team to beat — a label the boys' basketball program has worn the past several years, Wednesday by picking up an important win. Their 81-53 victory over visiting Costa Mesa gave the Breakers a 5-0 finish to the first half of Orange Coast League play. It also allowed them to open up a two-game lead on their league foes with five games remaining.
As far as Laguna Coach Bret Fleming is concerned, the only thing that matters is the next game, which, for the Breakers, is the start to the second round of league play at 7 p.m. Friday at Estancia.
"We don't think too far ahead," he said. "For us, we play at Estancia Friday, and that's our only concern. We're 5-0 now but that doesn't mean anything if we lose the next game. It's all about Friday's game. That's our only approach."
Fleming said the goal throughout the season for the Breakers, ranked ninth in CIF Southern Section Division 4AA, has been to come out focused and play with intensity at the start of each game. He was very pleased with his team's effort from the get-go Wednesday.
Behind the scoring of Josh Adams, who netted 15 of Laguna's first 17 points, the Breakers were able to take a 20-13 lead after one quarter. They upped their lead to 37-25 at halftime and still held a double-digit lead in the third quarter before Costa Mesa rallied to trim its deficit to nine points.
Laguna was able to stretch the lead in the fourth quarter and pulled away to win for the 16th time in 21 games.
Costa Mesa (14-7, 3-2), ranked No. 16 in Division 4AA, had a chance to climb into a first-place tie Wednesday with a win.
"Josh Adams opened the game huge for us," Fleming said of the senior forward who, he added, came in averaging more than 20 points in league play, and ended the night with 19 points. "He got us going. I thought Noah [Blanton] played a great game and really pounded the offensive boards.'
The Mustangs keyed early on Blanton and senior guard Alec Wulff, but Blanton still went on to lead all scorers with 25 points, and Wulff scored 14. Senior guards Matt Jones and Bryan Ludloff scored nine and eight points, respectively, and senior guard Max Brown and sophomore forward Darin Richardson closed out the Laguna scoring with three points apiece.
"We came out prepared and I thought we followed our game plan really well," Fleming said. "We shared the ball and hustled. It was a good team win."
Laguna had picked up another big league win Jan. 24 when it went to Godinez and came away with a 44-29 victory. The Breakers ripped off the final 13 points of the first quarter to take a 14-3 lead and establish control, then fended off the Grizzlies the remainder of the game.
Godinez (16-6, 3-2) rallied in the opening minutes of the second half to twice tie the score, but a three-point play by Blanton gave Laguna the lead (24-21) for good.
Adams scored 16 points and Blanton had 15 to lead Laguna which never trailed in the game. Wulff, whom the Grizzlies keyed on, finished with eight points and Ludloff added five points.
Jones didn't hit the scoring column, but his defensive play and offensive rebounding were keys to the victory. He fed a wide open Blanton in the lane with 3:19 to play, and Blanton flew to the basket for a dunk to make it 39-28 as the Breakers continued to pull away.
"This was a huge win," Fleming said. "We've won this [league] a couple of times and we have a target on our back. Teams get up to play us. I've watched Godinez play a few times this year, and this is the best I've seen them play."
The Breakers begin the second round of OCL play Friday at Estancia. In the first meeting between the teams Jan. 17, Laguna scored a 53-47 victory. Next week, Laguna plays host to both Saddleback at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Godinez Feb. 7.