CARLSBAD It’s easy to pick the girls basketball players out of a crowd at La Costa Canyon High.
Whether it’s 6-foot-5 senior center Savannah Irwin — whose height is a dead giveaway — or 5’-6” senior guard Esther Wofford, it’s the T-shirts with the words “ONE TEAM, ONE DREAM” emblazoned in big, bold letters across the back that make them stand out.
Those four words are more than just a motto.
After winning CIF San Diego Section Division I championships during the 2008-09 and 2010-11 seasons, the Mavericks lost in the D-II semifinals as the No. 1 seed last year, and their singular focus has been on regaining their championship form.
“It has become an expectation for us,” LCC coach Mario Flores said Tuesday after a 67-41 victory over Mt. Carmel in the Matador Classic. “We can’t shy away from it — we embrace it.”
The Mavericks are off to a good start. They opened the season with three victories in their first four games and have displayed exceptional offensive balance while improving defensively.
Irwin, the Mavericks’ leading returning scorer, poured in 20 points Tuesday, mostly on inside moves against a team whose tallest starter was 5-10. She also collected six rebounds, and her presence in the post complemented Wofford’s perimeter game, as LCC’s offensive sparkplug scored 18 points on a combination of midrange jumpers and slashes to the basket. Sophomore guard Taylor Pierce added 14 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
“It’s definitely a huge advantage for us to have outside shooters and good people inside,” Wofford said. “If one’s not having a good game, the other one can pick it up.”
Mt. Carmel had no answer for LCC’s two-pronged attack Tuesday. Trailing by two at halftime, the Mavericks went on an 18-0 run to start the third quarter, with Irwin, Wofford and Pierce combining for 16 points during the 5 1/2-minute stretch.
“I was always taught to play as a team, and if I’m getting doubled, there’s a lower chance I’m going to make that shot, so I’m not going to take it,” Irwin said. “We’re blessed with great balance.”
After allowing an average of 59 points in their first three games, the Mavericks hunkered down on defense Tuesday, working harder to contest 3-pointers in particular.
“It used to be (that) one of our pregame goals was to hold teams to 40 and under,” Flores said. “We’re 20 points above that, and we did that a lot last year. I told my team tonight about two kids who (averaged) one point and two points a game last year, and how much we missed them because they played great defense.
“We want that to be a trademark.”"