It may be December, but the Taft Toreadors are thinking about March; and it’s because of January.
Anthony January scored 22 points and Brandon Perry had a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds as Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.) routed Torrey Pines Wednesday, 56-39.
“Every year we’re after that [CIF] State title, and this year I think we’ve got a good shot,” Perry said.
The Toreadors look like a frontrunner to emerge from the CIF Los Angeles Section in the spring’s playoffs, but first they are emerging as a team to beat in the Holiday Classic.
The excitement in the program has been palpable through its first two National Division games. Taft is quickly gelling with the recent addition of January, a transfer who had previously played at Compton High. His presence has helped elevate the Toreadors to legitimate contender’s status.
Against Torrey Pines, the quick slashing January was the lightning to the strong post presence Perry’s thunder. Together, they were too much for the host Falcons to weather.
“I’m a big body, and since they didn’t have big players I was just trying to use my body to bang with them, get some rebounds and put-backs,” Perry said.
The strategy worked. Perry immediately established himself in a first half that Taft dominated, 27-14. When he wasn’t putting in one of his six successful field goal attempts, Perry was getting to the foul line. There, he sank all five of his attempts.
Meanwhile January put on an offensive show certain to go down in Holiday Classic lore. Six of January’s second half points came off highlight reel dunks. Two of those three throwdowns came on Torrey Pines defenders.
A third became an instant candidate for the play of the tournament. January beat Torrey Pines’s Joe Rahon to a loose ball, dribbled behind his back to evade Rahon, then finished with a leap just a few steps beyond the foul line and one-handed slam.
Throngs of grade school-aged attendees horded January after the game’s conclusion for autographs.
Not to be overshadowed amid the theatrics, Torrey Pines wing Garrett Galvin continued his outstanding week. Galvin netted his third 20-plus-point game in as many nights, scoring 23.
His tenacious drives against Taft defenders helped the Falcons keep pace through the third quarter, before the Toreadors blew the game open via a 23-14 final period.
The win pushed Taft into Thursday’s semifinals, where it will face Windward. Windward earned the right to play on for the championship in a wild, overtime defeat of Archbishop Mitty. The Falcons face the Monarchs of AMHS.