Big Wednesday at Torrey Pines as boys capture Avocado West basketball, soccer championships

Senior Bryce Pope helped the Falcons to a title-clinching win over CCA.
(Ken Grosse)

It was judgement night Wednesday, Feb.6, in the Avocado West League as outright champions were officially determined in both basketball and soccer divisions with the Torrey Pines boys snagging back-to-back titles in both sports. On the girls’ side, Mission Hills and Carlsbad confirmed their season-long dominance in basketball and soccer respectively.

On the boys’ basketball front, the one-point loss to Carlsbad 12 days back may have provided a well-timed reminder for Torrey Pines (21-6/8-1) with the post-season looming. Always reliable for a good effort, the Falcons have been sharp in winning their three games since, the last being Wednesday’s 71-46 romp over Canyon Crest. The senior trio of Michael Pope, Bryce Pope and Noah Viera combined for 39 points on Senior Night.

That outcome put Coach John Olive’s squad two games up on second place San Marcos and Carlsbad with Friday’s regular season finale remaining at La Costa Canyon. The Falcons figure as one of the top three seeds when the CIF Open Division Playoffs start next week and have the tools to win it.

Ali Demiralp
Cade Kronemeyer of CCA and Torrey Pines' Andre Torteli battle for the ball Wednesday night. Ken Grosse

Coach Andy Hargreaves’ boys soccer team entered the week needing one win to clinch the Avo West title and wasted little time solidifying their claim to the top spot. In an aggressive, sometimes chippy contest that featured seven yellow cards, the Falcons did all the scoring in their 2-0 triumph over third place Canyon Crest in the first 15 minutes. The senior duo of Denzel Zepeda and Ali Demiralp hooked up for both scores, Zepeda putting the ball in via corner kick and free kick and Demiralp heading both home from the middle of a maze in the goal front.

The Falcons (12-2-6/7-0-2) close the league campaign at second place La Costa Canyon Friday. They are ranked No. 1 in the section and will probably be joined in the eight-team CIF Open Division bracket by both LCC and Canyon Crest.

“The league’s been tough, we had a lot of new faces in the lineup this year and surprisingly, we had a lot of good consistency,” said Hargreaves. “That’s what we were shooting for and it’s worked. I’m pretty happy.

“As far as our final league game (vs. LCC), it’s not in my nature to not play to win and we’re going to be out there trying to take it to our rivals,” he continued, while admitting a few guys that are banged up might have their minutes shortened. “It’s important for us to come out, execute and get a result—that’s what the playoffs are going to be about.”

Mission Hills (17-10/9-0) has been a girls’ basketball power locally for years but in its first year as part of the Avocado West League, Coach Chris Kroesch’s club reinforced its reputation, storming through the first nine games of league play undefeated and outscoring opponents to the tune of nearly 36 points per game on average. They iced their solo spot at the pinnacle of the standings by knocking off Carlsbad, 73-36, Wednesday with league MVP candidate Kathryn Neff racking up 25 points.

“I’m very proud of this group—they dealt with adversity, played a very difficult schedule and kept getting better every week,” said Kroesch. “We’re not a perfect product but are peaking at the right time and I feel they are 100% capable of competing with anybody we meet in the CIF Playoffs.”

Coach Dean Balent’s Carlsbad girls ruled the Avocado West soccer race in much the same way Kroesch’s Grizzlies did girls’ basketball. The Lancers are 19-4-1 overall, undefeated at 8-0-1 in league and left no doubt in securing full control of the championship with a 6-0 landslide over Mission Hills Wednesday. Sophomore Lexi Wright turned in a three-goal hat trick, tying Summer Mason’s school single season record of 31 goals in the process. It was the second consecutive crown for Carlsbad which dictated things on both ends of the field this season, scoring a league high 24 goals (the other five teams combined for 42) and giving up just two (the other five teams averaged 12+). No. 2 in the latest CIF power rankings (Torrey Pines and Canyon Crest were third and fifth), it would be no surprise if the Lancers were hoisting the championship trophy in two weeks.

“Winning the league back-to-back for the first time is pretty exciting and shows the determination and focus our girls had this season,” said Balent who is in his second year at the helm. “Our goal was not only to win the league but advance in CIF so we still have work to do—but I’m confident in this team’s capabilities and resolve.”

Ali Dem
All in a night's work--senior Ali Demiralp scored both Torrey Pines goals vs. CCA. Ken Grosse
Kathryn Neff
Kathryn Neff recorded 25 pts. in Mission Hills' victory over Carlsbad. Ken Grosse
Kathryn Neff
Carlsbad sophomore Lexi Wright has scored 31 goals for the Lancers. Ken Grosse