LAGUNA BEACH — Laguna Beach senior forward Sophie Marriner can still vividly remember how last year ended.
“We came so close,” she said.
The Breakers walked away from a 53-50 loss at Desert Christian Academy in the CIF-Southern Section semifinals.
Now, one year later, Laguna Beach returns to the CIF-SS semifinals, but with some more experience and higher expectations. On Saturday night, It host Oakwood High School from North Hollywood as it looks to make its first CIF final in school history
“They are determined to not let history repeat itself,” Laguna Beach coach Matthew Dietz said of his team. “It’s something we talk about. The girls know how close they were.”
The Breakers have seen much growth over the last six years.
They didn’t win one game during the 2017-18 season. Six years later its six playoff wins over the last two seasons have been more than any prior season combined.
“We have come a long ways,” Tietz said with a smile. “They work so hard to improve.”
Along with having to improve on the court, Laguna Beach has never been seen as the biggest team. Its tallest player stands at a whopping 5-foot-8 but the players don’t matter. It just fuels more determination.
“We are a family. We play for one another,’ Marriner said. “We know our strengths and weaknesses but we play through them.”
Marriner as already etched her name in school history finishing third all items with 1,272 points and is the program’s all-time rebounding leader with 1,402 and counting.
That’s not to say she hasn’t had help.
Seniors Kenna Rudolph and Sabrina Yang have been right along side her. Sophomore Kate Cheng is also contributing 9.6 points per game.
“The core of this team has been together for years now,” Teitz said. “They work really hard to improve and every year we have scheduled tougher and tougher games.”
Laguna Beach started the year winning its first eight games. Although it struggled with just two wins over Huntington Beach and Marina in the Sunset League’s Wave Division, it was grated an at-league bid into the Div. 4 AA bracket.
“We play against six footers every single game. We know we have to fight,” Tietz said.
But after three double-digit road playoff wins against Dominguez, Quartz Hill and Canyon Springs, no one is looking down on Laguna Beach anymore.
“We aren’t well known when it comes to girls basketball,” Marriner said of her school. “A CIF championship would be amazing. I know I’ll never have this opportunity again.”
But first the Breakers have to get by Oakwood.
Tipoff is at 6 p.m.