LA North: Woodland Hills Taft 83, Clovis West 45

WOODLAND HILLS -- The size advantage the Woodland Hills Taft boys' basketball team had over Clovis West was pretty evident.

Taft’s biggest player is center Kevin Johnson at 6 feet 10.

West’s biggest player is guard Denzel Johnson at a generous 6-3.

The game plan for the first-round game of the CIF State Division I playoffs was fairly obvious for Taft coach Derrick Taylor. Feed the ball to Johnson and take advantage of the mismatch in the paint.

Taylor’s strategy worked almost too well. Taft beat Clovis West, 83-45, as Johnson was one of four Toreadors who scored in double figures. He scored 12 and had 10 rebounds. Teammate Stephen Maxwell scored a team-high 17 and had nine rebounds. Spencer Dinwiddie scored eight points and had 12 assists.

“We wanted to establish [Johnson] inside and take advantage of our size,” Taylor said. “This team can attack in a variety of ways. There’s a lot of versatility. We wanted to take advantage of that.”

Despite the blowout win, Taylor told his players in the locker room after the game not to make plans to play for the state championship in Sacramento just yet. Too many times in the past his teams have slipped up in the state playoffs and were eliminated in the early rounds.

Taft was in control from beginning to end against West. In the first quarter, Taft jumped out to a 12-0 lead. West cut the lead in half by the end of the quarter, but still trailed by 13 points, 26-13.

Taft increased its lead to 21 points in the second quarter. CJ Blackwell’s basket at 3:16 gave Taft a 38-17 edge. West went on an 8-2 run before halftime to cut the lead to 15 points, 40-25.

Taft really put it away in the third quarter, outscoring West, 22-5. Maxwell and Khiry Williams sparked a 15-0 run to end the quarter and put Taft up, 62-32.

West’s Johnson scored a game-high 20 points on 8-for-19 shooting from the field. Charlie Thompson scored 10 points for West.

“We exceeded a lot of our expectations,” West coach Tom Orlich said. “We were in a lot of two- and four-point games. The size difference really hurt us.”

Brandon Perry scored 10 points off the bench for Taft. Williams also scored 10 points for Taft.

In addition to taking advantage of his team’s size, Taylor showed off his team’s depth. With the game well in hand, he emptied his bench in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Michael Thomas made his varsity debut for Taft and scored the first three points of his career.

“He’s super talented,” Taylor said. “He’s going to be really good.”