Thanksgiving joust Redux? A FTH Division 1 Playoff Preview
A few months ago, Carlsbad and Francis Parker played a pool game at the Bucs Thanksgiving Classic in a game that many thought was Parker's for the taking.
What unfolded was one of the best games of the year in which a freshman emerged as a rising star in San Diego, but the experienced Lancers from San Diego overcame the Lancers from North County.
Three months later, Francis Parker and Carlsbad are the top two seeds in the D1 playoffs, and on an apparent collision course. Can any of the teams in the field slow them down? Let's see:
The top seed:
The Lancers, by the standards of their senior leaders, are coming off of a slightly disappointing season. A long COVID-19 pause got them off to underwhelming start, but the Lancers put together a solid middle stanza before losing the Coastal League crown to Santa Fe Christian. For the first time in six years, a Coastal League team did not make the Open Division. But the Lancers have the top spot in D1, and it's because of their senior laden starting lineup that includes the criminally underrated Camden McCormick (the newly minted Coastal League Player of the Year) and fellow seniors Orion Samikoglu, Vinny Ferrari, Martin Rudolph and Tino Mededovic. The team doesn't have size, but they have precision, speed and multiple scoring options. Plus, they get after it on defense.
The Lancers are battle tested, finishing a more-than-respectable third place in the Coastal NC League, and were one buzzer-beating putback away from a second-place tie. Their leader comes in the form of 6-2 freshman Jake Hall, who has put together an offensive statistical season not seen by a freshman in SD since Mikey Williams in 2019, averaging 22.1 points per game. The undersized Lancers have potent shooters in senior Mason Bowers and Travis Mehl, and two Swiss Army Knife-type guards in 6-2 junior Cole Murray and 6-2 sophomore TJ Duckett. Much like with Francis Parker, these Lancers also make up for their lack of size with tough defense, team rebounding and hot outside shooting.
Santa Fe Christian
The Eagles won the Coastal League for a second straight season, and this time it was a shock. After graduating a senior group that included two college basketball players and a third who turned down a D2 scholarship, the Eagles were seen as a rebuilding group. But nobody told that to Chad Bickley and company, as they turned their season around after some early season losses and defeated Parker twice in league to win the outright title. Sophomore point guard Brycen Mackenzie is a star in the making, and seniors Garrett Poelman and Aiden Collins are tough competitors. When junior Drew Bickley (son of head coach Chad) is knocking them down from deep, the Eagles can hang with anyone.
La Jolla Country Day
The Torreys started off the year with two surprise performances, both losses, losing to San Diego and Mission Bay by a combined four points. They faded a bit down the stretch, losing 3 of 4 heading into the playoffs. But the third-ranked team from the Coastal League has solid guard play, shooting and a surprisingly effective big in the way of 6-5 junior Bito Bass-Sulpizio, who is also a highly-touted quarterback. Anthony Aruffo leads a team in scoring that saw five players score between 8 and 13 points.
Del Norte is arguably the deepest team in Division 1, regularly going 10 deep in their lineup. But this team goes as star senior guard Benjie Nudo goes. When he's on, he is as dynamic a playmaking guard as we have in the section. When he is off, the team is beatable, as evidence by a stunning late-season loss to Rancho Bernardo - at home. The steadying force is 6-5 senior wing Nico Peerenboom, who shoots it and gives teams matchup trouble when he plays small-ball five or four for the team. 6-8 senior post Jack Williams is a load in the paint and provides a phsyical presence, and the complimentary guards all play hard and provide timely baskets (junior guard Ben Lee is underrated)
Who is the Dark Horse?
The Cavers got off to a scintillating start, but injury, COVID-19 pauses and ineligibility issues dragged them down towards the middle of the year, and playing in a league with three Open Division qualifiers didn't help much either. But everyone is present and accounted for, and when that is the case, this team has as much talent as any team in the field. Junior sharpshooter Noah Marte blossomed into a star a year removed from the AJ Burgin era, and freshmen Gavin Guinn, Jayden Wade, Treyshawn Degrate and Davaughn Hueitt have all shown flashes of being high level prospects in their own right. If Baron Noble can return to the level he was playing before missing much of the season, expect the Cavers to spring some upsets of their own.
Mater Dei Catholic
Things didn't pan out the way the Crusaders had hoped this year. Between a long wait for football season to end, the disappointment when several key football players opted out of the season and general inconsistency bogged the group down to an underwhelming third-place finish in the Mesa League. But if they can figure it out, the Crusaders have two dynamic scorers in the Gonzalez brothers, junior Kristian and senior KJ, who give them a chance in big games.
Players to watch
Camden McCormick, 6-4 Sr. G, Francis Parker
Vinny Ferrari, 6-0 Sr. G, Francis Parker
Orion Samikoglu, 6-2 Sr. G, Francis Parker
Jake Hall, 6-2 Fr. SG, Carlsbad
Mason Bowers, 6-2 Sr. G, Carlsbad
TJ Duckett, 6-2 So. G, Carlsbad
Brycen Mackenzie, 6-1 So. G, Santa Fe Christian
Garrett Poelman, 6-5 Sr. W, Santa Fe Christian
Drew Bickley, 5-11 Jr. G, Santa Fe Christian
Anthony Aruffo, 6-2 Jr. G, La Jolla Country Day
Marc Begin, 6-3 Sr. G, La Jolla Country Day
Bito Bass-Sulpizio, 6-5 Jr. F, La Jolla Country Day
Benjie Nudo, 5-11 Sr. G, Del Norte
Nico Peerenboom, 6-5 Sr. G, Del Norte
Noah Marte, 6-1 Jr. G, San Diego
Miles Harris, 6-0 Jr. G, San Diego
Jayden Wade, 6-5 Fr. W, San Diego
KJ Gonzalez, 5-11 Sr. G, Mater Dei Catholic
Kristian Gonzalez, 6-3 Jr. G, Mater Dei Catholic
Noah Ahooja, 6-2 Sr. G, Orange Glen
Justin Torres, 6-1 Sr. G, Orange Glen
MJ Madore, 6-1 Jr. G, Orange Glen
Euan Davis, 6-1 So. G, El Camino
Jakari Carr, 5-11 Sr. G, El Camino
Markees Williams, 6-0 Sr. G, Helix
Justin Lubisich, 6-3 Jr. G, Poway
David Angulo, 6-0 Sr. G, Poway
Mikeal Pink, 6-3 Jr. G, Bonita Vista
Jesus Figueroa, 6-0 Jr. G, Bonita Vista
Cyprian Hyde, 6-10 Jr. C, Vista
Benji Hilstock, 6-3 Sr. G, Vista
Miguel Yniguez, 6-7 Sr. F, Canyon Crest Academy
Nick Hadge, 5-10 Sr. G, Foothills Christian
Joseph Hankins, 6-0 Sr. G, Foothills Christian
Ben Lee, 5-10 So. G, Coronado
Parker over Coronado
Orange Glen over El Camino
Del Norte over Bonita Vista
Country Day over Vista
SFC over Canyon Crest
San Diego over Poway
Mater Dei Catholic over Helix
Carlsbad over Foothills Christian
Parker over Orange Glen
Del Norte over Country Day
SFC over San Diego
Carlsbad over Foothills Christian
Parker over Del Norte
Carlsbad over SFC
Parker over Carlsbad