Torrey Pines boys close in on Avocado West hoop title with win over Carlsbad

Carlsbad's Jailen Nelson runs into a host of Torrey Pines' defenders
(Ken Grosse)

The 11th-ranked (Max Preps) Carlsbad boys’ basketball team held Torrey Pines’ stars Brandon Angel and Chris Howell to just eight points each Friday, Jan. 31, but it wasn’t enough as the No. 7 Falcons used a balanced attack to defeat the visiting Lancers, 59-48, in a rematch of the Avocado West League’s top two teams.

The win lifted Torrey Pines to 19-4 overall, kept them undefeated in Avo West play at 6-0 and put them comfortably in the driver’s seat in the league title chase, two games in front of Carlsbad with just four to go. Coach John Olive’s club, in search of its fourth straight Avocado West banner, has a glossy, 35-1, ledger since joining the league three years ago and extended its current win streak to eight. The Lancers are now 17-7 (4-2).

The winners got 14 points from junior guard Nick Hermann and 13 from junior wing Cameron Klein but four other players contributed seven points or more to a performance that fit the situation according to Olive.

“The scoring was well-balanced, the kids read what the defense was giving them,” said Olive. “They (Carlsbad) really tried to take away certain things we do and were willing to double and triple-team things at times so we had to make plays out of those situations. I thought we did a very good job of adjusting,”

Chris Howell (5) puts in a reverse lay-up.
(Ken Grosse)

In the first clash between these two clubs on Jan. 14 at Carlsbad, the Falcons cruised to a somewhat shocking 70-48 decision behind a 26-point/12-rebound effort from Angel. For a few minutes Friday it looked like a replay was in the offing. Spurred by Diego Campisano netting seven of its first 12 points, Torrey Pines bolted out to a 14-2 advantage.

This time, Carlsbad’s response was to run off 16 consecutive points of its own and grab an 18-14 lead. Torrey answered with a 10-point run. The Lancers’ mercurial senior guard Jailen Nelson then produced six points, a three-point shot followed by a three-point play, knotting things at 24.

After the break, Torrey Pines started to exert its will on Coach Sam Eshelman’s increasingly fatigued squad which turned in a game effort but got scoring from just four players and used its bench sparingly.

The hosts lengthened their lead to nine at 40-31 but a (Jailen) Nelson lay-in closed out the frenetic third quarter at 40-31. The Lancers hung tough and down five with 4:00 remaining in regulation got a wide-open look at a three but it didn’t fall. That seemed to signal the beginning of the end as the Falcons methodically increased their advantage.

Junior Nick Herrmann was the Falcons' top scorer with 14 points.
(Ken Grosse)

Although he accounted for just six points in the final two quarters, Howell took over the game, playing solid defense, demonstrating great court vision and delivering an array of stylish passes, all while exhibiting uncanny patience with the ball. The 6-5 junior wound up totaling 10 rebounds, nine assists and two steals. It was a gratifying night for the San Marcos transfer.

“Tonight we had great team ball movement, everybody got touches, everybody got looks and just had fun sharing the ball,” said Howell post-game. “Just being able to find everybody, seeing everyone else having fun and playing well together is great—it’s really like a family.”

Olive, for one, is ecstatic about having Howell in the Falcon backcourt. “We put a lot of pressure on Chris and we rely on him to do a lot of things,” Olive said. “He’s not in a rush out there and doesn’t get sped up by what’s going on around him. His instincts for passing and seeing the floor are second to none.”

For Carlsbad, Jailen Nelson had a game high 16, including 6-of-6 from the line, junior Caleb Nelson, playing just his ninth game since returning from a broken clavicle, chipped in with 13 and 6-1 junior Sam Hasegawa added 12, knocking down a pair of threes and doing a admirable job of helping hold the 6-8 Angel in check.

Lancer junior Sam Hasegawa netted 12 points.
(Ken Grosse)

Eshelman, one of the rising stars in the local hoops coaching fraternity, though disappointed at the outcome was pragmatic in analyzing what he’d seen, particularly in light of what transpired in the two sides’ first encounter.

“Torrey Pines is really good but the first time we played them, we really didn’t bring any energy on the defensive end,” said Eshelman. “Tonight, I thought we really played hard. Our transition defense could have been a lot better but when we were able to set our defense I thought we did a good job of forcing them into tough shots.

“A couple of rebounds here or there and it might have been a different story. We’ll get back to the drawing board offensively.” The way his team countered Torrey Pines’ opening, 14-2, burst didn’t surprise him.

“Every game we’ve played during our league season we’ve been faced with some kind of deficit and tonight was no different,” Eshelman said. “Our guys are resilient, they keep fighting, keep playing.

“It started on the defensive end of the floor and when we get locked into that we’re able to get out and run a little bit which opened up things offensively.”

Both teams are back in action on the road Tuesday night, Feb. 4, against opponents they beat in the first round of Avo West play. Torrey Pines goes to Mission Hills and Carlsbad faces a San Marcos team they edged, 60-57, in overtime.