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Is it the Lancers time? A FTH Open Division Preview

The top 8 Division 1 teams prepare to square off in the Open Division playoffs, and this year could be the most intriguing one we've had in a while.

The No. 1 seed has lost to the No. 3 seed and beat the No. 2 seed by a single point in the regular season.

This year is anyone's guess who emerges on top.

Will it be Carlsbad, who lost once all season to San Diego competition, the team that beat them, Montgomery, or could it be the two-time defending Open Division champions, St. Augustine? Or could we see a lower seed emerge, which hasn't happened since No. 3 Torrey Pines upset Foothills Christian in the 2019 title game?

Here's a quick primer on what to expect when action tips off Saturday.

Who is the favorite: Carlsbad

The Lancers are a different team than the one who dropped the game against Montgomery at the Holiday Classic Tip-Off in December. In fact, you could argue they were a different team three days later, when El Camino transfer Euan Davis became eligible. His play as the sixth man has been a huge boost for the Lancers down the stretch, as they have taken care of business in the uber competitive Coastal League. In order for the Lancers to deliver on the wire-to-wire No. 1 ranking, they will need their star trio of junior Jake Hall and seniors Tony Duckett and Jael Martin to be dominant at the same time.

Who are the contenders: Montgomery and Saints

Montgomery had moved into the 2 seed after a statement win over Torrey Pines, but slipped behind St. Augustine after beating 1-24 Hilltop, which hurt their strength of schedule. The Aztecs are the only team in San Diego that can say that they have beaten Carlsbad, and just blew out Torrey Pines while holding them to just 19 points. If there's a team that I'd say is the co-favorite, it's the Aztecs.

But that slip behind Saints means they will have to beat Mike Haupt and crew inside Dougherty Gym, and that's not an easy task. And this Saints team is playing their best basketball at the right time. Does Montgomery exact revenge from last year's Open Division title game blitz, or does St. Augustine defy pundits and advance to their third straight Open Division title game? That will be the question.

Again, provided both teams can get past their first round matchups.

Who is the dark horse: La Jolla Country Day

If there's a lower-seeded team capable of springing an upset, it's the Torreys. They get a Torrey Pines team that will be bigger at every position. But If the Torreys - who are led by all-CIF candidate Chris Carrillo - can neutralize that size difference, which they've done so far this season, they will be dangerous.

What will be the best first round matchup: St. Augustine vs LCC

Sparks have flown when these teams have met in the Open Division before. The Mavs gave the Saints its toughest contest in 2022, when they took the top seed to overtime in the semifinals in a game that was an instant classic. While this Mavs team doesn't have the top-end star power of that team, they do have a starting five that has some of the best chemistry among any of the Open teams not named Montgomery. Will that be enough to knock off a St. Augustine team whose only loss at home since the start of 2022 was to Carlsbad by two points? We will see.

Players to watch:

Jake Hall, Jr. SG, Carlsbad - The 6-4, 2,000-point scorer continues his assault on Carlsbad and CIF record books.

Tony Duckett, Sr. G, Carlsbad - The 6-5 unsigned senior has had a monster year, averaging 21 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.

Jael Martin Sr. W, Carlsbad- The 6-8 Pepperdine commit has game-changing offensive and defensive versatility.

JJ Sanchez Jr. F, Montgomery - The 6-5 junior point forward has dominated games in the paint and perimeter and with his tremendous court vision.

Alek Sanchez Jr. G , Montgomery- 6-4 junior guard takes and makes big shots and has elite vision.

Xair Mendez Jr. G, Montgomery- 6-2 junior guard can score it with the best of them.

Devin Hamilton Jr. G, Montgomery- The 6-5 junior defensive ace can guard all five positions on the floor and is an effective slasher on offense.

Lolo Rudolph Sr. G, St. Augustine- Two-time All-CIF first team selection has blazing speed, uncanny court vision and creative scoring off the bounce.

Ian De La Rosa Sr. G, St. Augustine - The 6-4 "do it all" guard has expanded his scoring repertoire to complement his "glue guy" traits.

Jaiden Bailes So. G, St. Augustine- The breakout star of the year, the 6-2 sophomore is a professional scorer.

Matin Madadkar Sr. W, Torrey Pines - The 6-4 late-bloomer wing can slash and score it from midrange. Vastly improved defensively.

Zach Jackson Sr. F, Torrey Pines - The Falcons anchor, the 6-5 undersized post can step out and hit the three and rebounds it prolifically.

Dylan Kail Sr. G, Torrey Pines- 6-3 senior sharpshooter fills the stat sheet on the boards and as an underrated playmaker.

Cody Shen, Jr. G, Torrey Pines - Steady game manager has become an indispensable two-way player and a steady third scorer for the Falcons.

Drew Clevenger Sr. G, La Costa Canyon- 6-0 "microwave" scorer can get hot from three and has an underrated first step to score it off the bounce.

Jasper Buck Jr. G, La Costa Canyon - 6-2 lefty is one of the section's top shooters, much improved as a ball handler and midrange scorer.

Trevor Ladd Sr. F, La Costa Canyon -6-5 senior is headed to Virgnia for football, gives the Mavericks toughness on the interior.

Chris Carrillo Jr. PG, La Jolla Country Day- 5-11 junior point guard has become a impactful scorer to pair with his impressive playmaking.

Ely Elegado Jr. G, La Jolla Country Day - The 6-1 sharpshooter provides defensive scrappiness and timely scoring.

Wyatt Tilson So. F, La Jolla Country Day- Big-bodied 6-3 "basketball player" scores it from three levels, creates and exploits mismatches and is an underrated rebounder.

Jack Jillson Sr. G, Mission Hills- The 6-0 heart and soul of the Grizzlies is a tough competitor and scores it from deep and off the bounce.

Jake Bishop Sr. G, Mission Hills- The 6-2 senior is a lights-out shooter off the catch with a deadly midrange pull-up.

Bradley McGlothin, Sr. F, Mission Hills - The consummate glue guy, the 6-5 forward's defense, passing, rebounding and timely scoring elevates the Grizzlies squad.

Patrick O'Brien, Jr. G, Cathedral Catholic (pictured) - 6-5 junior lead guard fills the stat sheet as a rebounder, playmaker and improved scorer, lifting his team after the season-ending injury to Ty ingram.

PJ Jourdain , Jr. SG, Cathedral Catholic - 6-4 junior wing has all the pieces to be a college two guard: feathery touch, solid athleticism and slashing.

Ryan Enos, Sr. C, Cathedral Catholic - 6-9 senior anchors the defense and is one of the county's top shot blockers. Headed to Grand Canyon University for volleyball.


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