CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad High School boys’ basketball team has been running and shooting its way to a league title and now has its sights set on a CIF Open Division championship.
The Lancers (23-5, 9-1) capped the regular season with a gritty 63-57 win over El Camino on Feb. 10 to win the Palomar League and grab the No. 2 seed in the CIF San Diego Sectional tournament.
Carlsbad hosts No. 7 Torrey Pines at 7 p.m. on Feb. 17 and looks to win its second consecutive CIF title.
The Lancers’ play is reminiscent of up-tempo college teams in the 1990s, similar to Nolan Richardson’s famed Arkansas teams and his “40 Minutes of Hell,” deploying full-court presses and trapping defenses leading to transition offense and a 3-point shooting barrage.
“They know what to expect and how to execute what I want them to execute,” Carlsbad head coach Clark Allard said. “Five of our top six are returners, and they’ve all played big minutes in big games and situations. We play fast. We don’t have a height advantage, so we try to turn people over before they get to the paint. We have really talented players.”
Leading the charge for the Lancers’ offense is the one-two punch of sophomore sensation Jake Hall and junior Tony Duckett. The two guards are the leading scorers and primary playmakers for an offense averaging 78.4 points per game.
Hall and Duckett average 26.4 and 18.3 points per game, respectively, senior Josh Shields averages 10 points per game, and senior guard Cole Murray runs the offense with 6.3 assists per game.
While opposing defenses focus on Hall and Duckett, the duo utilize the flow of the offense to create space and unleash their talents to light up the scoreboard.
“(Duckett and myself) both can get buckets,” Hall said. “We play super-fast, and I love playing like that. We’re all quick; we’re all super long.”
Carlsbad’s perimeter offense allows the Lancers to shoot from beyond the arc and capitalize on favorable matchups in the paint. Defensively, the Lancers play an aggressive, man-to-man scheme based on applying constant pressure and forcing turnovers to transition to offense quickly.
Allard said that without a height advantage, trapping and pressure defense helps negate an opponent’s size. Carlsbad’s defensive ferocity has been a signature all season, allowing just 61.8 points and 12 steals per game.
But now the team is focused on repeating as champs and making a serious run in the state tournament. All Open Division teams qualifying for CIF automatically make the state tournament, but the CIF committee ultimately determines the division.
Last year, the Lancers lost 96-95 to Foothill in overtime in the second round of the CIF Division II tournament. The Falcons lost to Elk Grove in the boys’ basketball state championship game.
Allard, Hall and Duckett said they are leaning on that experience to earn a better result this season.
“We just need to stay sharp, run all our plays, play well together and constantly get better every day,” Duckett said of the Lancers’ playoff prep.