There are games where the stat sheet tells only half the story. Wednesday’s was not one of them.
Thirty assists, 22 steals, 62.5 percent shooting from the floor, and 45 rebounds articulated Irvine Valley’s routing of visiting Palomar College in numerals. They shared. They stole. They shot. They stormed.
Even the 100-67 final score was conclusive enough to sum the entire season opener up in one accurate word: dominating.
“It was a great start,” Lasers coach Jerry Hernandez said. “We did a lot of things right tonight. I really liked how we shared the ball, got out and played defense and were able to beat their pressure and attack the basket.”
IVC took the game into its hands midway through the first half, breaking away from the narrow start with a 14-4 run led by forward Blake Wallace and guard Jason Toney. By the end of the half, the sophomore duo had 10 points each and the Lasers had a 55-34 lead.
Wallace and Toney, who finished the night with 18 and 13 points, respectively, were two of the six Lasers to score in double figures.
“It’s just one of those things where we have so many guys that score that we cover each other’s back, share the ball, and none of us are selfish,” said freshman guard Jeff Ledbetter, who finished with 12 points and five rebounds. “That’s what kicks us up a level – not being selfish and sharing the ball a lot.”
Irvine spent the second half finishing what it started in the first. With 7:30 left in the game, freshman guard Perry Webster nailed a three-pointer to push the Lasers lead past thirty points, 86-54. Less than a minute later, IVC’s lead grew to 89-56 courtesy of a lay-up by returning sophomore AJ Kapanoske. The game-high 33-point lead matched the win margin.
Webster finished with 12 points and six assists. Kapanoske had eight points and three steals.
IVC’s ability to dominate both inside and around the perimeter allowed the team to be more aggressive offensively and able to create shots while still keeping pace with Palomar’s fast-paced game.
“Some guys are drivers and slashers. Some are shooters,” Hernandez said. “Then you have the big kids. We have three big, so if we want to play big, we can. We’re a little more versatile and we play both ways.”
While a successful recruiting year is partly to account for the Lasers’ depth, the recent addition of assistant coach Andy Ground helped build the roster even more.
Ground carried guard Kashif Watson to the team and used his relationship with Utah State to bring 6’9″ center Bryce Webster to the lineup.
Watson finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals. Webster had eight points and three rebounds.
Ground coached the previous eight years at Saddleback College, the last of which he co-headed the team to a co-conference title and a run to the state semi-finals. According to Ground, he moved on searching for a new opportunity.
“I’ve been friends with Coach Hernandez for over 20 years and he’s been trying to get me to help him for a number of years,” Ground said. “I thought this would be a good time, a good change.”
The Lasers will return to their home court Thursday to play in the IVC-hosted Spectrum Bank Classic. They will open tournament play against Santa Monica at 6 p.m.