Mavericks advance to Regional Finals for first time in history
CARLSBAD – It its current run through the state playoffs, La Costa Canyon’s 2011-12 team has cemented itself as the best in school history. Tuesday night, the top-seeded Mavericks started fast and held off fifth-seeded Inglewood 74-68 in the Division II Regional Semifinals to reach a new state plateau.
“It’s crazy – we’ve never been here before. It’s great for our program,” said La Costa Canyon junior guard Jeff Van Dyke.
Ignited early by a standing-room only home crowd, La Costa Canyon (33-3) rode the momentum of a dominant first quarter throughout the entire game. The Mavericks raced out to an 11-2 lead and led 18-6 after an opening quarter in which Inglewood (23-11) looked completely unsettled on both ends of the floor.
“It was a great atmosphere tonight and we came out hot and with a lot of energy,” said La Costa Canyon senior forward Matt Shrigley. “Inglewood is a great team and we didn’t expect to come out like that against them.”
In the second quarter, La Costa Canyon scored the first seven points to build a 25-6 lead before Inglewood got its bearings. Junior guard Sean Keyes hit a trio of three-pointers in the second quarter to keep the Sentinels in the game, and at halftime the Mavericks led 36-27.
“We needed that cushion early on,” said La Costa Canyon head coach Dave Cassaw. “They kept chipping away and making runs at us – we were fortunate to have that start.”
La Costa Canyon quickly stretched its lead in the second half, as Van Dyke made threes on the first two possessions of the third quarter as part of an 8-0 run. Van Dyke finished with 17 points, and made four of his five three-pointers in the second half to keep the Mavericks in front.
“I was just feeling it. In the first half I wasn’t using my legs, but in the second half it was all legs and I held my follow through,” Van Dyke said. “My coach told me to keep firing away and I did – I was open.”
Inglewood cut the deficit to single digits late in the third quarter, but La Costa Canyon closed with an 8-2 run to take a 54-40 lead into the final frame. The Mavericks held the Sentinels to 13 points in the third quarter by slowing their up-and-down attack.
“We moved the ball better on offense and on defense we stopped the ball in transition,” Van Dyke said. “They were getting a lot of buckets in transition, so we stopped the ball and made them play half-court offense.”
Van Dyke opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer to give the Mavericks a 17-point lead that Inglewood would slowly chip away throughout the final quarter. The Sentinels came as close as six points in the final minute, but the Mavericks were able to make enough plays down the stretch to prevail.
“Our coach just told us to keep pushing the ball and we had open looks – they weren’t good at getting out on shooters,” Van Dyke said. “We just had to stick to the process.”
Senior guard David Travers scored 19 points to lead La Costa Canyon and Shrigley added 18. The Mavericks shot the ball well from outside throughout the game, and used motion offense to find holes in the Inglewood defense for a handful of easy inside baskets.
“We really ran our stuff and got good shots,” Cassaw said. “It wasn’t even so much designed plays – it was just our motion and taking what was there.”
La Costa Canyon’s victory sets up an all-San Diego matchup in the Regional Finals against third-seeded Lincoln (24-9) on Saturday at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, a rematch of the overtime thriller in the Division II section finals that the Mavericks won 58-54. The second meeting in 15 days between the top two teams in the section will determine who represents Southern California in the Division II state title game.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun. They are such a great team – so athletic and so strong. It should be another good game,” Shrigley said. “It’s great to have to teams from San Diego representing.”
La Costa Canyon’s trip to the Regional Finals is the first in school history, and comes as part of a record-setting season. The Mavericks are two wins away from their goal of a first state championship, and are enjoying a landmark season in the process.
“It’s huge – I’m very proud of the accomplishment of getting to this point,” Cassaw said. “I’m proud of the guys – they’re playing for each other and they’re playing with a will.”
For Inglewood, junior guard Randy Onwuasor led the team with a game-high 20 points. The Southern Section Division 2AA champions matched La Costa Canyon for stretches in the game, but ultimately the Sentinels couldn’t overcome their slow start.
La Costa Canyon – 74 (18-18-18-20)
Travers 19, Shrigley 18, Van Dyke 17, Beery 10, Magnuson 1 (starters) Sachrison 9
Inglewood – 68 (6-21-13-28)
Onwuasor 20, Randall 18, Smiley 15, Scott Jr. 3, Lockwood 3 (starters) Keyes 9
Pictured: La Costa Canyon guard Jeff Van Dyke fires a pass in midair between Inglewood forward Nicholas Smiley (left) and guard Sean Keyes