Before tip-off of Wednesday's first-round CIF Southern Section Division 4A boys' basketball game against Carpinteria, Laguna Beach Coach Bret Fleming felt that his team was ready to go.
But it actually took the Breakers a little more than one half to truly get going.
Laguna came out sluggish against the visitors from up north, trailed big after the opening quarter and was still down at the half, but righted its ship over the final 16 minutes and navigated its way to a 54-43 victory over the Warriors.
"They came out and jumped on us right away," said Fleming, whose team struggled in the first quarter and found itself in a 17-7 hole. "I thought we really were well-prepared and ready to play. The kids did play hard, but it wasn't our best effort in the first half."
Laguna, which last year was eliminated in the first round in an overtime loss to JSerra, advances to a second-round game today. The ninth-ranked Breakers, who improved to 17-9, won a coin flip and host eighth-ranked Whittier Christian at 7 p.m. at Dugger Gym.
The Heralds on Wednesday turned in a 57-41 first-round win over Workman.
"It should be a good game," Fleming said. "Whittier Christian has beaten two good [Orange] county teams in San Juan Hills and La Habra, and I think they should be ranked higher. They are a guard-oriented team and have this kid, Miller Brown, who is averaging 22 points a game. They also have a couple of kids who are 6-3 and 6-4, so it'll be a challenge for us.
"It's nice to get a home game for the second round."
The Breakers had to play catch-up from the start Wednesday against Carpinteria. After finding themselves down by 10, they fought back in the second quarter, where they held the Warriors to just five points. The defensive effort allowed Laguna to pull to within 22-19 at the half.
Orange Coast League champion Laguna outscored Carpinteria, an at-large entry from the Frontier League whose roster includes 13 seniors, by 14 points (35-21) in the second half.
"We basically couldn't make a shot and missed free throws in the first half," Fleming said. "I think we missed six free throws in the first half. And we didn't defend well or we were set back on our heels. But in the second half, we started transitioning and pushing the ball more. I thought Tyler Masukawa played a real solid game. He did a nice job of taking care of the ball for us and got us going in transition."
Masukawa was one of four Breakers in double figures with 12 points. Junior Jake Dalke had 14 points to lead all scorers and senior Tyler Kesler and junior Derek Reigel both had 11 points.
Sophomore Cole Kesler and junior Jack Pillsbury rounded out the scoring with four and two points, respectively.
"I liked our balance and that's something that we've been known for all year," Fleming said. "We have five kids who average eight-to-10 points per game, and that's nice to have."
In Whittier Christian's 57-41 win over Workman Wednesday, Brown dropped in a game-high 17 points. The Heralds (21-6, Olympic League No. 2) also had two other players, Mario Zamarano and Chris Joseph, in double figures with 14 and 13 points each.
"Friday's going to be a much tougher game for us," Fleming said. "This is the part of the season where you win, you advance; lose, you go home. It all comes down to being prepared and ready to play."
The Whittier Christian-Laguna Beach winner moves on to Tuesday's quarterfinal round, where it will meet the winner of today's second-round game between top-ranked Oaks Christian and Big Bear.
Laguna, the No. 3 team from the Orange Coast League, played a first-round CIF game Thursday at second-ranked St. Anthony's (Santa Cruz League No. 2). The score from the Division 4A first-round game wasn't available by press time.
The winner of the Laguna Beach-St. Anthony's game will play the winner of Thursday's game between Costa Mesa and South Pasadena, in a second-round game at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Girls' quarterfinal-round games are at 7 p.m. Wednesday.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun