IRVINE — Who's the most underrated boys' basketball player in Orange County? Irvine High School guard Jado Lee is a prime candidate.
Lee opened the season as the second-best guard on his own team behind returner Brian Boothroyd, and played in the shadow of Capistrano Valley's three-point specialist, Tom Airey, in the South Coast League.
But Friday night, Lee stepped up to prime time, scoring a career-high 32 points to lead Irvine to a 79-45 rout over visiting Cerritos in the opening round of the Southern Section 1-A division playoffs.
Irvine (22-5) will meet Los Alamitos (18-9) in the second round Tuesday with the site to be determined today by a coin flip. Cerritos, which upset Edison, 61-54, in a qualifying game Tuesday, finished 8-18.
Lee finished among the county leaders in every statistical category except assists and the six-foot-two senior showed he's a deft shooter against Cerritos. Lee made 13 of 17 shots and also added six rebounds before retiring to the bench with 4:54 remaining to play.
"I got a lot of good screens and was wide open the whole game," Lee said.
Lee was at his best in the second quarter when he scored 14 points to help Irvine take a 37-23 lead at halftime. When Lee hit a three-point shot and made a subsequent free throw after being fouled, Irvine opened a 29-17 lead.
Lee finished the quarter by making a three-point shot with two seconds remaining. He added nine more points in the third quarter.
"If you saw Jado Lee in the first three weeks of the season and then now, you wouldn't recognize him," said Steve Keith, Irvine coach. "He's a senior playing with optimum confidence."
Lee's accuracy seemed to be contagious among his teammates. Irvine made 24 of 35 shot attempts through three quarters before Keith began clearing his bench.
"That's one of the better teams in the division," Cerritos Coach Jim Chapel said. "They're well-schooled. The don't make mistakes, set good solid picks for open shots, show a lot of patience and they play solid defense."
Cerritos' best player, Scott Williams, was the focus of Irvine's defense. Williams, who scored 33 points in the championship game of the Canyon Tournament earlier this year, finished with only 12 points.
Keith rotated Erik Ambrozich, Ryan Evans and Brian Hink on Williams and the committee approach to defense seemed to tire the big guy.