CARLSBAD At halftime Tuesday night, despite holding a slim four-point lead, La Costa Canyon High coach Dave Cassaw told his boys basketball team it must meet the challenge or risk not clinching the Avocado West League championship outright.
Shooting just 28 percent to that point, the No. 3-ranked Mavericks couldn’t find their game.
At least not their offense.
So, the Mavericks raised the intensity on defense, leading to a 60-45 victory over No. 8 El Camino and sole possession of a third consecutive league crown and the fifth in the last nine seasons.
“These guys want to finish league undefeated for a second straight time,” said Cassaw, whose team was runner-up in the State Division II finals in 2012. “Then, we can go off to the playoffs.”
But first comes Carlsbad at home Friday on Senior Night.
“Our whole mindset is to win (San Diego Section),” LCC guard Jeff Van Dyke said. “League is great, but we have our sights on CIF and going on from there.”
The Mavericks (23-4, 9-0) were just 10 of 35 from the field in the first half before finding the range again in the third quarter.
From a 26-22 lead, La Costa Canyon outscored the Wildcats (22-5, 6-3) 24-14 in the stanza for the biggest lead thus far at 50-36.
Van Dyke led the third-quarter surge with nine of his game-high 18 points.
“The first half was not Maverick ball,” said Van Dyke, who meshed four 3-pointers, including two from NBA range. “That was not our normal kind of game.
“Our defense was solid, but we had no flow on offense. We decided to use our defense as our offense and it worked.”
The Mavs hit 9 of 12 field-goal tries in the third quarter. The rest of the game they were just 14 of 48 for 29 percent.
Besides Van Dyke, the Mavs got 15 points from point guard Tommy McCarthy and an eight-point, 16-rebound outing from center Kyle Sachrison.
El Camino was led in scoring by senior guard Imanni Sobers with 12 points.
“Offensive rebounds killed us,” El Camino coach Ray Johnson said. “And we knew they could do that.
“I thought we played very good defense, but we had to keep them off the boards. If we do that, we thought we’d have a chance to win.”