LCC boys post solid first round triumph in D-1 state hoop playoffs
A mere six days after dropping a heartbreaking 66-65 decision to St. Augustine in the championship game of the San Diego CIF Open Division Playoffs, the La Costa Canyon boys’ basketball team got back on the court and answered any questions there might have been about its strength and resilience.
Led by 21 points from senior Brayden Hendricks, the seventh-seeded host Mavericks turned away perennial CIF Southern Section power and 10th-seeded St. John Bosco, 67-55, in the first round of the Division I CIF Southern California Regional Playoffs Tuesday night.
For 23rd-year Head Coach Dave Cassaw, his LCC team’s performance was reflective of what he’s seen all season.
“I really liked the approach of our guys, they weren’t overwhelmed by the moment but just went out and played like they’ve played all year,” said Cassaw. “There’s always a couple of ways a game like this can go.
“Facing a great team from a well-known conference and all of that, sometimes guys can come out with stars in their eyes. But we just stayed calm and did what we do—it showed a lot of character.”
The game see-sawed throughout, but LCC led after each quarter and had pulled ahead by five when a pivotal moment occurred with just over six minutes remaining. The 6-4 Hendricks, clearly the man the Mavericks depend on in key situations, was called for a charge, his fifth personal, and fouled out of the contest. The situation presented a potentially critical test for the home team.
The responses came from a pair of somewhat improbable sources. Cassaw turned to Trevor Ladd as a replacement for Hendricks and the 6-1 sophomore more than met the challenge. Almost immediately, he took a slick feed from point guard Ty Hendler and scored on a twisting baseline lay-in. Ladd was fouled on the play and after converting the free throw put the Mavs on top by eight, 50-42. He followed that with a trey.
“When Brayden fouled out, I was concerned in a big way,” said Cassaw. “It was a big moment in a state level game and I can’t say enough about how Trevor responded. “He had the and-one play, hit a three, battled on the boards and had a bunch of rebounds That was huge.
“And 13 (Vinny Berlucchi) hit a huge three. He’s kind of hung his hat on being a defensive player all year but his offensive game has woken up. I’m so proud, so happy for him.”
Berlucchi, a senior who has struggled at times offensively over the course of the season, actually drilled a pair of clutch fourth quarter three-pointers, the second of which pushed LCC’s lead to 12 at 56-44, culminating a 12-4 run and providing a solid cushion for the final few minutes.
“I’ve been working on it (shooting) all year,” said Berlucchi, . “My teammates keep telling me to just keep shooting.
“I started feeling it in the section championship game against Saints and tonight I just said ‘I’m going to play and take the shots when they’re there.’ And they just went in.”
Versatile 6-5 junior Christian Brown finished with 12 points for LCC, followed by Hendler with 10, senior Gabe Tawfilis (9), Ladd (8) and Berlucchi (7).
The victory improved La Costa Canyon’s record to 21-7. Cassaw and Co. will now travel to Irvine to face Crean Lutheran, a 63-60, first round winner over Cathedral Catholic. The Mavericks were the only one of four North Coast teams in the D-I bracket to emerge unscathed. Torrey Pines was eliminated by St. Anthony (Long Beach), 64-52, and San Marcos was knocked off by Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks), 75-50.
Berlucchi, for one, is excited about what lies ahead. “I think we’re definitely a team on the rise, really clicking right now,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, we didn’t understand how to play that well with each other but the chemistry started to build and build and we’re getting better and better. I hope we can continue to improve and make a deep run in the state playoffs.”
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