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Teams Reach Playoff Goals with Balance

Senior Jake Dalke joined Laguna’s 1,000-point club this season.

Senior Jake Dalke joined Laguna’s 1,000-point club this season.

It’s been a historic season for Laguna Beach High School basketball. For as far back as records show, the 2012-13 boys team is the first to have four players score at least 240 points, led by senior Cole Kesler’s league-leading 361. The other three—junior Noah Blanton (268), Dalke (264), and junior Alec Wulff (240)—finished among the league’s top eight, and the team’s fifth starter, junior Josh Adams (190) was 14th.

It’s that kind of a balanced attack that helped the Breakers go undefeated (10-0) in league play for only the third time in the program’s 79-year history. “To me that’s just kind of how the game’s supposed to be played, where, you know, kids share the basketball,” said Coach Bret Fleming.

Going into the first round of CIF against Brentwood High, the girls had won a school record 19 games, or 19 more than last season. Like the boys, they did it with a balanced attacked. All five starters scored more than 100-points, led by freshman Jackie Cenan, whose 398 are only 51 shy of the entire output of last year’s 0-18 squad.

A big difference between this year and last for the girls was an influx of eight talented freshmen that doubled the team’s roster to 16. But the main reason for the stark turnaround was, “they learned how to compete. They learned how to win. And once you do that, it just feeds on itself,” said second-year Coach Mark Lewis.

Freshman Jackie Cenan led Breakers to a record 19 wins.

Freshman Jackie Cenan led Breakers to a record 19 wins.

“We play off of each other’s strengths, and we’re able to work well together,” said senior captain Kylie Even.

Cenan’s 18 points per game average led the Orange Coast league, while the other four starters—junior Jane Wallin (213), freshman Alexander Lewis (145), junior Kyra Humphries (127) and Even (101)—finished among the league’s top 14 in total points scored.

All those points aside, keeping the other team from scoring has been job one for Lewis’ team this season. They had the league’s best defense, allowing an average of 33.3 points in 10 games. They also recorded nearly 17 steals and more than six blocks per game for the entire season. “We always try to build on our defense,” said Even. “First we focused on bringing [opponents] down in points, and then bringing us up.”

This year was also punctuated by several individual achievements. Dalke became only the 10th player in team history to score more than 1,000 career points. His 103 games played also put him in elite company, only three off Jeff Clark’s (’06) record of 106. “He’s just been a kid that’s real consistent and a hard worker,” said Fleming, who has coached half of the 10 players in the 1,000-point club.

“I just can’t thank Coach Fleming enough. He’s given me countless and countless opportunities for me to excel, said Dalke. “He’s like part of my family now.”

The four-year varsity starter was genuinely surprised to learn of his accomplishments after the season finale against Costa Mesa, but he doesn’t want to think about them just yet. “It will be cool to look back on it,” he said. “What I’m super stoked about right now is our record of 21 and six.”

Cenan was simply dominant for the girls. During winter break at the four-day, four-game MaxPreps Holiday Classic, she averaged 21.3 points, 12.25 rebounds and 4.7 steals to lead the Breakers to the title, the team’s second tournament win of the season.

After the break in the league opener against Saddleback, Cenan became only the fifth Laguna girl to score 30 or more points in a game. Two nights later against Estancia, she did it again.

With so many offensive weapons on both teams, it would seem that there wouldn’t be enough shots to go around. “Whoever’s open is allowed to shoot and is encouraged to shoot,” said Kesler. But, he conceded, “I don’t really think people care about scoring that much.” Everyone just tries to “share the ball, run up and down the court, and just get the easy pass and get the easy bucket,” he said.

Lewis said his team’s balanced scoring is a product of the system. “They just do what they’re supposed to do. When the girls execute the game plan, you know, good things usually happen for us.”

The best thing that happened for both teams was securing a post-season berth. “Going to CIF is just proof of what hard work gets you,” said Wallin.

A win against Salesian on Feb. 13 means the boys will play a second round game on Friday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. A victory over Brentwood on Feb. 14 will send the girls to a second round game on Saturday, Feb. 16.

 

Photos by Robert Campbell

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