LA North: CIF State Division I playoffs No. 3 Taft vs. La Costa Canyon

CIF Boys Basketball State Division I playoffs

No.3 Woodland Hills Taft (28-2) vs. Carlsbad La Costa Canyon (29-4)

Second round

Woodland Hills Taft coach Derrick Taylor describes the La Costa Canyon boys' basketball team as “free-spirited.”

“They can really shoot that basketball like no tomorrow,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s players can shoot too. They put on quite an overpowering display against Clovis West in the first round of the CIF State playoffs on Tuesday night. Taft shot 55 percent from the field in an 83-45 blowout. The Toreadors were 19-for-28 from the field in the second half, making nearly 68 percent of their shots.

Stephen Maxwell hit 8-of-12 shots from the field for a team-high 17 points. Center Kevin Johnson was 6-of-8 from the field, mostly easy layups and dunks, and scored 12 points.

La Costa Canyon might shoot the ball with reckless abandon, but so does Taft at times. Taylor said he expected an up-tempo game, a style he would prefer.

“They just play,” Taylor said. “It’s easy to get uptight. I just want to compete. With talent and a willingness to compete, you always have a shot.”

Here are the five keys to the game for Taft:

1. Pick your poison: La Costa Canyon has three players who are averaging double figures in scoring. Senior Drew Kitchens leads the team with 19.2 points per game. Junior Matt Shrigley averages 18.7 points per game. Junior point guard David Travers is scoring 10.6 points and averaging 4.7 assists per game.

2. Don’t blink: La Costa Canyon is averaging 74.1 points per game in the playoffs. Taft is averaging 85.8 points per game in the playoffs. This will not be a game for fans of defensive basketball.

3. Stay focused: Taylor reminded his players after their first-round win over Clovis West not to look too far ahead. Taft teams of the past have fallen victim to overconfidence and lost in the early rounds of the CIF State playoffs.

4. It’s a team effort: Taylor touts the versatility of his team. A perfect example was the performance of Maxwell against Clovis West. He came in as the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.3 points per game. But he clearly had the hot hand in the game and his teammates recognized that. It seems to be a different player every game for Taft.

5. Think big: La Costa Canyon has some size. Kitchens is listed at 6 feet 5. Shrigley is 6-6. Three other players on La Costa Canyon are 6-6. Dominating the paint, like Taft did against Clovis West, won’t be nearly as easy against La Costa Canyon.