LA North: Taft 65, La Costa Canyon 43

WOODLAND HILLS – Taft boys basketball coach Derrick Taylor calls CJ Blackwell a “matchup nightmare.” At 6 feet 5 and 225 pounds, there aren’t many small forwards in high school who can match his size.

After his performance against La Costa Canyon, add agility and anticipation to that nightmare.

It was Blackwell’s hustle and quickness that sparked Taft to a 65-43 win over La Costa Canyon from Carlsbad in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Regional state playoffs at Taft High School on Thursday night.

He scored a team-high 20 points and had 17 rebounds. Most of his points came on put backs of missed shots by his teammates. He had eight offensive boards and spent the game tracking down loose balls and scrapping for rebounds.

“We didn’t run a lot of plays for him,” Taylor admitted after the game.

The game was surprisingly low-scoring. La Costa Canyon came into the game averaging 74.1 points in the playoffs. Taft is scoring 85.8 points per game in the playoffs.

The way the game started, it looked as if it was going to be another high-scoring affair. La Costa Canyon built a slight 8-4 lead in the first quarter and held it until the final minute. Blackwell hit a 3-pointer and put back a missed shot at the end of the first quarter to give his team a one-point lead, 16-15.

Taylor made a slight adjustment just before the end of the first quarter. He took his 6-foot-10 center Kevin Johnson out of the game and went with a smaller lineup. With a slightly smaller, but quicker unit in the game to start the second quarter, Taft went on a 10-0 run to widen its lead to 11 points.

Taft point guard Spencer Dinwiddie scored four of the 10 points in the run.

“We wanted Spencer to be more aggressive,” Taylor said. “We wanted him to attack the basket.”

La Costa Canyon went five minutes without scoring a point in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Taft poured in 17 points and led by 11 points, 33-22, at halftime.

“They’re a team of spurts,” La Costa Canyon coach Dave Cassaw said. “We knew what we needed to do: Limit those as much as we could.”

Once the Taft scoring machine was started, there was no slowing it down.

Taft outscored La Costa Canyon, 19-7, in the third quarter to take a 23-point lead. Ajon Jefferson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, his only points of the game, to give Taft a 52-29 lead.

Taft outrebounded La Costa Canyon, 53-22. Taft grabbed 21 offensive rebounds to La Costa Canyon’s eight.

Stephen Maxwell had 11 rebounds and scored nine points. Johnson ended up with nine points and eight rebounds. Dinwiddie scored 16 points and had eight assists for Taft (29-2).

Zach Berry scored a team-high 12 points for La Costa Canyon (28-5). He was the only player from La Costa Canyon to score in double figures. Jeff Van Dyke made three 3-pointers and scored nine points.