TUSTIN — Wooosh .
Another three for Tustin's Robert Griffin, hanging out on the wing. Point guard Doug Gottlieb draws the double team, kicks the ball to Griffin and it's money.
Raffi Lalazarian, free for his shot, a baseline jumper. He lays low in the corner, taking a break from smothering an opponent on defense. Gottlieb sees him from mid-court, drives and dishes. Two.
David Lalazarian, the Tillers' lanky junior center, sinks another jump hook. He loiters on the block, waiting for Gottlieb to penetrate. He does and Lalazarian moves. An easy bucket.
Aaron Kraus loves to dunk after doing the grubby chores every game. Gottlieb sees him on the break and the 6-foot-2 Kraus shows off that vertical leap.
This is the Tustin basketball team, through Gottlieb's eyes.
Rarely has a high school point guard had such options. Rarely has a team had such a point guard. They mesh and mash together--just ask the 24 teams they have mauled thus far.
The Tillers are 24-1, losing only to Mater Dei. They are ranked second in Orange County and are the top-seeded team in the Southern Section II-A playoffs and will open Tuesday against Chino Don Lugo. Gottlieb, who has signed with Notre Dame, deserves to take the bows for all that. But Gottlieb knows who got him--and the Tillers--here. Those four points on the court, the guys on the wing, in the corner, down low and on the move.
"When our offense is moving, everything seems to click," Gottlieb said. "Oh it's stoppable, but it's sure difficult to stop. Each of us knows his role and accepts it."
Gottlieb's bit is finding them. He does that regularly, averaging 10.1 assists--tops in the county.
The Tillers will occasionally rag the 6-foot-7 David Lalazarian. He takes the ribbing with good humor. Sure, he might forget a play or two, but he also makes one or two.
"I look for David on the break," Gottlieb said. "He doesn't understand that you have to run wide to be in a lane. So he just runs down the middle of the court, kind of meanders. I'll take on the big guy and dish it off. David has those big, huge hands. I'll hit him in a seam."
Last season, Lalazarian would drop that pass as often as he would catch it. Now, he has developed into a solid inside player.
He's the team's second-leading scorer, averaging 18.4, and leading rebounder, averaging 9.4. He is shooting .668%.
"He's a lot tougher this year," Gottlieb said. "He was slight and still maturing last year. He still is, but he really responds to the challenge."
On the first play of last week's game against Sonora, the Raiders went inside to Craig Clark, their 7-foot, 250-pound center. Lalazarian, who weighs 190, blocked the shot.
"The weird thing is, you got to get him going early," Gottlieb said. "He gets a basket or blocks a shot right away, then he plays well the whole night.
Lalazarian had 17 points and 12 rebounds against Sonora. In the Tournament of Champions, he had a 28-point, nine-rebound game against Los Angeles Westchester, a top L.A. City Section team.
"He's learned how to get the big board in the big game," Gottlieb said. "He's not afraid to bang. He used to shoot this little fade shot, now he takes it right at guys."
TURNING THE CORNER
Raffi Lalazarian, a 6-3 senior, usually watched from the sideline while his brother, David, played last season. He got some time off the bench, but wasn't satisfied. So he added 25 pounds and now weighs 190.
"Most guys would said, 'OK, I'll be the sixth or seventh man,' and accepted it," Gottlieb said. "Raffi took it personally. He worked in the weight room and shot a ton of jumpers. He has a sweet jumper."
So Gottlieb looks for him in the corner, where Lalazarian gets most of his points.
"He's learning to get out on the break, so I can get him some layups," Gottlieb said. "He takes the right wing and we get out and run."
But Lalazarian's offense is a bonus. What he does best occurs at the other end.
David Downs, Servite's 6-6 forward, scored 13 points in the first half against the Tillers last month. He didn't score again because Lalazarian shut down Downs.
"At the start of the game, Downs came up to Raffi and said, 'Who are you?' " Gottlieb said. "By the end of the night, he'd figured it out.
"I bet Raffi a lunch that he couldn't hold Downs under 15 points. Downs had 13 by halftime. I still have to take Raffi to the Olive Garden."
Food comes in handy as a motivation. Before Tustin played Ocean View, Gottlieb gave Lalazarian a drawing referring to the Seahawks' Dan McDonald, who averages 24 points.
"It was a picture of 'McDonald's House, over 24 points scored," Gottlieb said.
McDonald scored nine the first meeting, six after Lalazarian left the game, and 14 last week.
Still, Lalazarian, is averaging 6.9 points, does find moments on offense.
"We played Mater Dei and their guy came up to Raffi and said, 'You're going to have to show us you can shoot,' " Gottlieb said.
Lalazarian hit back-to-back three pointers.