For most coaches, silver linings are hard to find in 39-point losses.
Carlsbad High School varsity boys’ basketball coach Clark Allard looked back on the Lancers’ Nov. 18 opening game molly-whopping against defending CIF Open Division state champion Harvard Westlake as the catalyst to a nearly three-month hot streak the team continues to ride.
“After the game, we told the team we are always a better team in February than we are in November,” Allard told The Coast News. “The reason we wanted to play that game was to see how far we had to go and if we wanted to compete against the best, how to do it.”
The elite Los Angeles private school got up early against Carlsbad, controlling the game for an easy 83-44 victory under the leadership of Christian Horry, the son of former NBA player Robert Horry, and a lineup as big as some current pro teams (four players above six-foot-seven and two at six-foot-five).
“In the moment, it was obviously a little frustrating,” Allard said with a chuckle. “We didn’t play our best game and they shot really well. They are so well-coached and play really solid on both ends of the floor. We tried to double-team and put pressure on them, and they made you pay for those things. So it kind of snowballed after getting in a hole in the first quarter.”
The loss wasn’t surprising; how the Lancers responded was.
“Before the season, looking at our schedule, I thought we had 15 games we had a chance to lose,” Allard said. “One of the best games that we played [so far, all season] was the game right after Harvard Westlake. Against Pacifica Christian in Orange County — a very good team – we were up by 40 when we took our starters out. In comparison to Harvard Westlake, we seemed more confident and it felt like a drop in talent level.
“We like our guys to be battle-tested,” he added. “We think that helps in the playoffs when it really matters. Our main goals are to win a league championship and a CIF championship. The tougher the schedule you play the more games you get that reflect the environment of the big games.”
Since the opening-night loss, the Lancers have gone 20-1, including winning the Tarkanian Classic tournament in Las Vegas and the Holiday Classic tournament at Torrey Pines.
Currently, Max Preps has Carlsbad as the ninth-ranked team in the state.
“We still feel like there is a decent amount of meat on the bone where we can get better,” Allard said. “I think we are one of the best transition teams in the state. If we can get stops, steals, and long rebounds, we are hard to guard in transition. We are versatile defensively; we can switch and not lose much. We have shotmakers, and the main thing is that we are just now starting to mesh as a team.”
Six-foot-three junior Jake Hall and senior Tony Duckett, 6-foot-4, lead the Lancers’ scoring attack at 20 and 18 points per game, respectively.
“They have both improved a ton,” Allard said. “Jake has been a prolific scorer, scoring 21 as a freshman, but now he is getting face-guarded and double-teamed every game, and he has turned into an exceptional passer. He has also become a much better defender; he can guard one through five. On top of that, he has become a much better leader. The last two years, he took a backseat to the upperclassmen. This year, he has taken on a leadership role.”
On Duckett, Allard said, “Tony is the most improved player in all of San Diego. On top of growing a couple of inches, he has really developed a complete scoring package where he can score at all three levels: off-ball screens, catch and shoot, and going to the basket. It makes us really hard to guard, where if a play breaks down, we can just get it to Tony and expect him to put it in the basket.”
Allard called senior transfer and Pepperdine commit Jael Martin the team’s “missing piece.” At six-foot-nine, Martin has been unrelenting under the basket on both ends of the floor.
“Both of our last two teams were very good, but it was hard for us to get stops in the paint,” Allard said. “He’s arguably the best rim protector in the state and he cleans up a lot of our defensive breakdowns. He’s averaging close to four blocks a game, is our leading rebounder and is shooting close to 70% from the field.”
The Lancers won the 2022 CIF San Diego section championship. This year’s team might just be better.
“To be 19-2 at this point is better than what we expected to be,” Allard said. “It’s a testament to our guys being super talented and learning how to win in a lot of different ways.”
A playoff rematch against Harvard Westlake is possible, but Allard doesn’t think it would be the same game.
“If we played Harvard Westlake, I am very confident we wouldn’t lose by 40,” he said. “We would have to play our A-plus game to beat them; that’s why they are the defending champions. I do think we can compete with anyone in the state and we have proved that with some of our wins.”