THOUSAND OAKS - - Dominique Lanier used a one-bounce dribble to his right, followed by a head-and-shoulders fake to temporarily freeze the defender in front of him and a quick crossover back to the left to create separation and get to the basket during the first half of Wednesday night's Southern Section boys' basketball playoff game.
The series of moves was so successful, in fact, the 6-foot-3 senior guard from Lakewood High decided to go back to the well time after time in the second half. And why not? Thousand Oaks, after all, never figured out a way to shut him down.
Lanier was seemingly unstoppable from start to finish and nearly had a triple-double before ending up with 22 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists to guide visiting Lakewood to a 66-57 victory in a first-round game of Division 1AA play.
“Dominique was fun to watch tonight, I can say that much,'' Lakewood coach Matt Ruiz said. “He kept attacking and attacking, what a game.''
The fact Lanier & Co. did so well shouldn't come as a major surprise. Remember, the Lancers (17-10) play in the same league, the Moore, as the divisions top-seeded team, Long Beach Poly. Lakewood is a battled-tested bunch, no doubt about it.
Thousand Oaks (22-5), on the other hand, came in with momentum after finishing in a tie for first place in the Marmonte League, with Simi Valley.
Nevertheless, Lakewood opened up the game with a sense of urgency and Lanier's put back gave the Lancers a 15-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Victor Jones had his way with Thousand Oaks defense in the second quarter. He scored 10 points over the course of a three minute stretch to extend lead to 10 points with 5:23 left in the first half of play. And teammate Zach Puling knocked down a three-pointer just before the buzzer sounded to give Lakewood a 32-24 advantage at intermission.
Lanier got back to work after the break. He scored six consecutive points to give Lakewood a 13-point lead with 2:15 left in the third quarter.
“I don't know if Thousand Oaks thought they were going to come out and run over us, or what, but we took it to them all night,'' Lanier said. “Once we got up, got a lead, we never looked back. We stepped up the intensity and stepped on their throats.''
In the fourth quarter, Lakewood managed to keep its distance, due in large part to Lanier hitting some timely free throws down the stretch. Thousand Oaks was unable to find an answer and the lead ballooned to as many as 19 points.
“I can tell you this, we didn't take them lightly, Lakewood is a good team,'' Thousand Oaks coach Rich Endres said. “I wasn't happy with the final result, but we played hard. Bottom line is, we didn't come out here and take care of business at home.''
Jones scored 14 of his 22 points in the first half, 12 in the second quarter alone. He added 11 rebounds. Pulig finished with 15 points of his own.
Things appeared to be heading in the right direction for Thousand Oaks early as Austin Kegley was fouled on a three-point attempt, made the basket and the free throw to complete a rare four-point play. Minutes later, he was left open on the outside and made another three-pointer to give his team an 11-6 lead with 3:40 left in the first quarter.
The highlights were few and far between thereafter. Kegley finished with 10 points. Anthony Jacques had 12 points and Evann Hall ended up with 19.
“We came out and played hard and that's a testimony to how good this team is,'' Jones said. “Our record might not look the best because we play in a tough league, but records are deceiving. Bottom line, we proved that we can play with anyone out there.''
It appears as if Lakewood can indeed play with anyone out there, particularly if Lanier is on top of his game similar to the way he was on Wednesday night.
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.