REGION — Coming off of a disappointing loss to La Jolla in the Grossmont Winter Classic, John Olive was interested to see how his Torrey Pines team responded in this week’s Under Armour Holiday Classic, which the school hosts.
His team responded well.
The Falcons raced out to a 20-point lead against local power La Jolla Country Day en route to a 71-61 win in an exhibition game to open the nationally recognized tournament, and defeated Los Angeles power Fairfax 64-51 to open bracket play in the tournament’s top field, the National Division.
“I’m pleased with how we responded,” Olive said after Monday’s game. “We came out and really competed.”
One of the big reasons for the turnaround was the return of senior guard Hayden Helfrich to the lineup. Helfrich, who transferred to Torrey Pines as a junior from nearby Canyon Crest Academy, had missed the La Jolla game with a hip pointer.
“People forget that we didn’t have Hayden last week, and he’s such a big piece of what we do,” Olive said.
He scored 18 points, second to fellow senior Jake Gilliam, who finished with a game-high 22 points.
Gilliam, the 6-foot-10 center, also turned in a strong performance against Fairfax, whose tallest player — 6-foot-7 Kirk Smith — gives up 80 pounds to his Torrey Pines counterpart.
Gilliam scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Fairfax, and missed three total shots over the two-game stretch.
“Jake has been big for us all year, he’s playing great,” Olive said.
A number of North County teams are participating in the Under Armour Holiday Classic, which boasts five divisions played a five high school sites. In addition to the National Division, Cathedral Catholic is hosting the American Division — the second-toughest division; Santa Fe Christian is hosting the Senators Division; El Camino is hosting the fourth division, the Governor’s Division; and La Jolla Country Day is hosting the Mayor’s Division.
La Costa Canyon and Santa Fe Christian have advanced to the Senators Division semifinals and play Thursday at 7 p.m. and 8:35 p.m., respectively. San Dieguito Academy has also advanced to the semifinals of the Mayor’s Division, and plays Thursday at 7 p.m. at La Jolla Country Day.