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By Steve Breazeale
In his six years of standing courtside calling the shots for the San Clemente boys basketball team, head coach Marc Popovich has never seen a team that can score like this year’s squad.
The Tritons (14-10, 4-1 league) are averaging just over 69 points per game, with five different players averaging double digits in scoring. The high scoring, up-tempo style the Tritons have embraced as their trademark has resulted in win after win, which has them eyeing the school’s first boys basketball league title since 1975.
If the Tritons can win the three remaining Sea View League games on their schedule, they will be alone at 7-1 in the league standings and accomplish a goal that has evaded other Triton squads for over three decades.
“We know we control our own destiny so we are still pretty optimistic…We know it’s been 38 years since the last league title so we are all pretty fired up,” senior guard Jimmy Bankson said.
The squad also has the opportunity to become the highest scoring team in Triton basketball history. As of January 30, the Tritons were averaging 69.3 points per game, which stands a mere 0.2 points above the current school record of 69.1.
A large part of the Tritons scoring onslaught has been a result of their up tempo offense and the ability to fill the floor with shooters who can knock down all kinds of shots.
Aggressive drives initiated by guards like Bankson and senior Brock Eissman have been drawing extra opposing defenders, which frees up shooters like senior Cody Bean, and emerging sophomore Sam Darnold, to knock down open 3-pointers. Bean is shooting a team-high 49 percent from 3-point land and tied a school record on January 4 when he made eight 3-pointers in a win over Woodbridge.
Darnold, a 6-foot-4-inch guard/forward helps spread the floor for the Tritons and has come on as a scorer late in the season. He broke out for a 32-point performance against Trabuco Hills on January 14, where he shot 65 percent from the field.
Darnold and Bean aren’t alone on the scoring front. Bankson (13.6 points per game), senior Jake Terkoski (10.7 ppg) and Eissman (11 ppg) have all been big contributors on offense.
“If I’m not shooting the ball so well I know that Cody or Sam or Jake, they can step up and have a big game,” Bankson said. “It really takes the pressure off when we find whoever has the hot hand going.”
“This year we have five legitimate 3-point shooters on the court sometimes. That’s something we’ve never had before so we are trying to expand the court and use that to our advantage as much as we can,” Popovich said.
The Tritons now prepare for a February 2 matchup against last place Laguna Hills. The Tritons defeated the Hawks 76-62 on January 18.
San Clemente currently stands in a tie for first place in league, sharing the top spot with Trabuco Hills (12-9, 4-1). The Mustangs will play against Dana Hills (17-7, 4-2) on February 2 in a game that is sure to shake up the standings. The Tritons last game of the season is slated to be against Trabuco Hills on February 7.
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