Senior Michael Pope poured in 24 points and three other players scored in double figures as No. 3-ranked (CIF) Torrey Pines defeated host San Marcos, 70-60, Friday night, Feb. 1, to clinch at least a tie for its third consecutive Avocado West League boys basketball title. With the latest victory, the Falcons, 20-6 overall and 7-1 in league play, sit two games ahead of San Marcos, Carlsbad and La Costa Canyon with just two games to go. Eighth-ranked San Marcos fell to 15-9 / 5-3.
Torrey Pines, undefeated in three match-ups with San Marcos this season, is used to taking every opponent’s best shot and faced a motivated home team supported by a raucous crowd Friday. Unfazed, Coach John Olive’s charges took quick control with a 5-0 run from the opening tip and had a dazzling first 16 minutes—hitting 55 percent from the floor, canning seven treys and carrying a nine-point edge into halftime.
“We shot the ball well,” said Olive afterward. “One of the things we’ve talked about and focused on all year long is the fact that we’re too good not to get great shots.
“The longer we’ve been playing now, the more often we’re getting great shots.” And no one hit them more consistently than Michael Pope. The 6-3 sharpshooter drained 6-of-8 from beyond the arc in the first half, then he and his teammates made sure they came out ready for the final two quarters.
“Things went well in the first half but we know all good runs come to an end—we lost a tough road game at Carlsbad last week and wanted to make sure to lock things down tonight with our defense,” he said. “Defensively, it feels like we’re improving every day in practice. We’re working hard, listening to Coach Olive and just taking pride in playing the right way.”
Pope’s twin brother, Bryce, and junior Brandon Angel each chipped in with 14 points and versatile senior post man Noah Viera sank 4-of-5 to finish with 10. The Falcons were plus-3 on the boards with Michael Pope and Angel snagging seven apiece. Freshman guard Devon Arlington topped San Marcos with 20 markers and sophomore Chris Howell wound up with 17 after netting 13 in the first half. Following the game, Knight Head Coach Dante Carey explained what makes beating the Falcons so difficult.
“They have size, they’re fundamentally sound, well-coached, shoot a high percentage and don’t turn the ball over,” said Carey, whose team is on the bubble for a CIF Open Division invite. “We had some success pressuring them more in the second half and had opportunities to make the game close but just couldn’t knock down open shots in key spots.
“All that said, I thought we shared the ball well, played like a team and battled. Going into the CIF Playoffs, no matter where we’re at, if we play like that, we’ll be OK.”
Although his team will no doubt get one of the highest seeds in the upcoming CIF Open Division bracket, Olive understands the significance of each step in the journey and is not one to get ahead of himself. Finishing strong and winning the Avocado West outright is an accomplishment he values.
“It’s huge,” he said, in reference to the Avocado League West championship. “We’ve still got two regular season games left and we can’t stumble if we want to win it outright.
“League titles are absolutely important. It’s the one thing you know you’ve got every year. The teams know each other and the competition is fierce. It’s really, really important.” The Falcons close up the regular season with two games next week, at home Wednesday against Canyon Crest and on the road Friday vs. La Costa Canyon.