June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Laguna Beach turns back Irvine’s late comeback for victory at Estancia Coast Classic

Zane Rogers of Laguna Beach pressures Irvine’s Jaesang An Thursday night. (Photos: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

Laguna Beach High School’s boys basketball snapped a four-game losing streak Thursday night, holding off a late challenge by Irvine for a 61-57 victory in a pool play game of the Estancia Coast Classic gold division.

The Breakers (9-7) led by five points in the fourth quarter before the Vaqueros (8-8) rallied in the final minutes.

Irvine junior center Cooper Stearns, who recently returned after being out with a shoulder injury, scored 11 of his team’s 13 points in the final quarter and wound up with a game-high 23 points. But Laguna Beach was able to make key shots down the stretch.

“Irvine is a good ball club, we had a tough time guarding number 40 (Stearns),” said Laguna Beach Coach Rus Soobzokov. “Cooper Stearns played great tonight, but it’s a good win for us to try and get back on track after a four-game losing streak. We’re happy about this right now.”

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Laguna Beach had a number of players step up offensively, led by junior guard Ryan Cheng, who had 22 points and six 3-pointers.

“Ryan has been hurt all year …. it’s his third game back and he had a good shooting night tonight and we’re lucky we had him tonight,” the coach said.

Dylan Mceachern, a 6-4 senior forward, added 15 points for the Breakers.

“Dylan has been solid for us all year,” Soobzokov said. “He’s been our leading scorer.”

Senior center Sam Burchi also played well with 10 points and a solid defensive effort.

“He did a great job defensively trying to contain Cooper,” the coach said. “His rebounding and his presence for blocking shots really helps us.”

Irvine jumped out to a 16-10 lead after one quarterbut Laguna Beach held a 33-32 lead at halftime.

The Breakers extended their lead to five in the fourth quarter before Irvine battled back to tie it with about four minutes left. However, a 3-pointer by Cheng put Laguna Beach ahead 58-55.

Mack Thompson sank four free throws in the final minute to seal the win for the Breakers.

Taewon Kim had 12 points and Jaesang An nine points for Irvine.

“We fought hard and executed our defensive game plan,” said Irvine Coach Harry Meussner. “We are working to stack good days going into league and this was another good day despite the loss.”

Both teams continue pool play on Friday.

Laguna Beach meets Heritage at 3 p.m. and Irvine faces San Clemente at 4:30 p.m.

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com