When the 49th edition of the North-South 12th-Grade All-Star Basketball Games gets underway Saturday, there will be a Laguna Beach High presence at the annual event.
Laguna Beach senior Noah Blanton is a selection to the boys' South team roster. The South will take on the North in the second of two games Saturday at Concordia University in Irvine.
The annual spring games, featuring some of the top senior players in Orange County and sponsored by the Orange Coast Optimist Club, opens with the girls' game at 5 p.m. The boys' game follows at approximately 7:30 p.m.
Additionally, the event names a boys' and girls' coach of the year selected from among county teams each year, and Laguna Beach girls' head coach Mark Lewis was named the 2014 Orange County Girls' Coach of the Year.
The Boys' Coach of the Year honor went to Joseph Aihara of Western.
The players selected for the game, coaches of the North and South teams, and the county coaches of the year, were recognized by the Orange Coast Optimist Club during a banquet celebration April 2.
Blanton had a big year for Laguna, which again repeated as Orange Coast League champion. In his senior season, he averaged 14.4 points and 10 rebounds per game during the Breakers' 23-6 campaign that included a trip to the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA quarterfinals.
Blanton, who ended his career as Laguna's No. 2 all-time rebounder, was named MVP of the OCL, and also made the All-CIF Southern Section boys' Division 4AA First Team.
He is the 15th player under Laguna Coach Bret Fleming to play in the Orange County All-Star Game.
"It's always an honor for kids to be selected to play in the Orange County All-Star Game," Fleming said. "It recognizes them as one of the top seniors in the county. Noah was very deserving of this honor."
Mark Lewis completed his third year as head coach at Laguna Beach this past winter. Following what he called a "rough," 0-3 start to the 2013-14 season, the Breakers went on to turn in a 19-9 season. Along the way, they took third place at the Ocean View Tournament and finished in second place in the Orange Coast League, their 8-2 league record tying the school record for most league wins in a season. The 19 wins for the season, also tied the program record for victories in a season, set last year by Lewis' second Laguna team.
"Receiving the Coach of the Year award is certainly an honor," Lewis said. "I am humbled by the recognition and honored to be considered for the award with so many good coaches in Orange County. I am proud of the recognition for the Laguna Beach girls' basketball program. In just two seasons, we have gone from 0-18, to back-to-back 19 win seasons and a consistent force in league and earning respect in the county."
The Breakers finished the regular season ranked No. 13 in CIF Southern Section Division 4A, went on to win their opening round game in the CIF Southern Section playoffs, then had their season come to an end in the second-round loss to the tournament's No. 4-seed, Cantwell-Sacred Heart.
"Like many individual awards, this recognition reflects a team effort from the coaching staff, Clayton Olivier, to the players and to the administration," Lewis said. "It means a lot that there is recognition in the county for the work we have done in building this program, the way we have done it, and the respect we are earning in our ability to be competitive. While there are certainly a number of programs that are winning league titles and competing deep into the CIF playoffs year in and year out, it is gratifying that the Orange County basketball community recognizes the hard work and dedication it takes to build a program from literally nothing (0-18).
"I think receiving this award recognizes this effort and our accomplishments to date."
The Orange County Coaches of the Year again will be recognized during Saturday's All-Star games. Lewis said previous vacation plans will prevent him from attending the game.
2014 North-South 12th-Grade All-Star Basketball Games
(Girls' game: 5 p.m.; Boys' game: 7:30 p.m.)
Boys' South Roster: Noah Blanton, Laguna Beach; George Buaku, El Toro; Sean Comer, Costa Mesa; Brandon Fagins, Trabuco Hills; Sean Harman, El Toro; Jelani Jackson, Westminster; Isaiah Juarez, Mater Dei; Devonte Klines, Santa Margarita; David Nissenoff, St. Margaret's; Zach Pierce, Northwood; Nic Sargeant, Newport Harbor; Michael Scarlett, Woodbridge; Miles Seward, Saddleback Valley Christian; James Taylor, Dana Hills; William Thomsen, Westminster. Coach: Jesse Miramontez, Westminster.