The next step in a historic season: LBHS Boys Basketball to face Twentynine Palms in Second Round of CIF Playoffs tonight at home

Led by six seniors and a standout freshman, the LBHS Boys Basketball team (26-3) has shattered just about every team record in school history this year, including the most regular season wins at 25. The team also went undefeated in league play.

After posting a decisive 63-47 victory over Santiago in their CIF Playoffs opener on Wednesday, the team will now face Twentynine Palms (21-8) in the Second Round of the CIF D3AA Playoffs tonight, Friday, Feb 16 at 7 p.m. at home.

Coach Bret Fleming, in his 23rd year as LBHS Boys Varsity Basketball coach, attributes this year’s historic run to “chemistry and defense”.

“I think it probably starts with chemistry. The kids generally really care about each other, they love each other and it shows. Everybody’s kind of learned what each other’s qualities are and how to play together, the teamwork and stuff. That type of thing really shows with the seniors,” said Fleming in an interview.

The “senior six” includes Blake Burzell, Charlie Rounaghi, Owen McMurray, Grady Morgan, Adam Armstrong, and Blake Lusk. A number of them have been playing together since grade school at Boys & Girls Club. And that, says Coach Fleming, has made the world of difference with this group. 

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Photo by Ali Rounaghi

Senior Blake Burzell has been known to “sky high” throughout the season

“I first met Charlie (Rounaghi) and Owen (McMurray) at my basketball camp when they were in third grade. They were two little kids that were just absolutely basketball crazy. They just loved it; they couldn’t get enough. I had a little bit of an inkling they were going to be varsity players one day.”

Burzell is averaging about 21 points per game and is leading the team in rebounds, and Charlie Rounaghi is second in the county in assists at 6.8 per game. “The thing that’s been so incredible about Charlie is he’s averaging about 4 1/2 assists to turnovers per game. He’s really been a key for us this year,” said Fleming.

The team also has four players averaging between eight and 11 points per game (Grady Morgan, Charlie Rounaghi, Owen McMurray, and freshman Nolan Naess), which makes them very well-rounded and difficult to defend.

Coach Fleming also commends senior Adam Armstrong for taking on the role as Sixth Man this year, after starting for the Breakers last year as a junior. “We felt like if he was going to come off the bench, we’d be so much stronger. Just being such a great teammate, he’s accepted that role and I think it’s made us a lot better.” 

The next step for the team in continuing its historic run comes tonight against a very athletic and physical team in Twentynine Palms. The Wildcats come in with a 21-8 record (9-1 in league play), despite losing their coach at the end of the year in a dramatic resignation.

Coach Fleming, who was up until about two a.m. studying film on Wednesday night, says he likes his team’s chances tonight. “I think we understand what we need to do to compete. I know the guys are really looking forward to it.”

On the sidelines, the community has also come out in record numbers to support the boys, says Barbara McMurray, whose son Owen is a senior on the team. “It’s so great to see the whole community coming out together to support the team. This is our Laguna.”

Show your Laguna pride by showing up tonight (Friday) at 7 p.m. at Dugger Gym.

--Shaena Stabler