Posted On: 02/28/18 12:02 PM
The eight best teams in San Diego this season comprise San Diego’s Open Division. And after one round, four semifinalists are left standing: Foothills Christian, Torrey Pines, Mission Bay and Mater Dei Catholic.
The teams won their quarterfinal games in different ways: Torrey Pines and Foothills Christian blew out their opponents, Mission Bay gutted out a one-point win, and Mater Dei scored a road upset.
Which of the four teams will advance to the finals, held at 8 p.m. Friday at Viejas Arena? Prep Hoops explores the matchups.
How they got here: Foothills Christian defeated (8) St. Augustine 88-55. Mater Dei Catholic defeated (4) San Marcos 57-42.
Starters for Foothills Christian: Yassine Gharram, PG; Jaren Nafarette, PG; Dorian Blue, G; Derrick “DJ” Carter-Hollinger, F; Taeshon Cherry, F
Starters for Mater Dei Catholic: Beon Riley, G; Reggie Jackson, PG; Josh Tawhiao, G; Melo Sanchez, F; Trey Anderson, F
The skinny: These two teams met before in the final game of the three-game Torrey Pines Showcase in December, with Foothills winning a 79-73 decision. Since that game, the teams have combined to lose only four games: Foothills lost to Mission Bay during the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic, but returned the favor in an OT thriller at the Battle At The Bay. The Crusaders three losses were to two top Washington teams, Lincoln and Franklin, and So-Cal powerhouse Rancho Christian. Both teams made impressive undefeated runs through their respective leagues, and took care of business in the first round of the Open Division playoffs.
Cherry has had a stellar senior season after abruptly transferring from St. Augustine to start the year. He is surrounded by a talented supporting cast, including breakout stars Carter-Hollinger, Gharram and Nafarette, the latter duo were impressive in the opening round win over Saints. Anderson – who is one of Cherry’s best friends – has had an All-CIF First Team season, and Beon Riley has continued his strong play from his freshman year. The Crusaders stifle teams with an active 3-2 zone look and are disciplined on offense. Tawhiao and Jackson have emerged as major factors on both ends during their final season.
The ex-factors: For Foothills Christian, it’s combo guard Dorian Blue. He’s had an up-and-down season, but if he is locked in from the perimeter, Foothills Christian is almost unbeatable. For Mater Dei, can they keep the Knights off the foul line. In the first matchup, Foothills shot 37 free throws, compared to 20 for Mater Dei. Trey Anderson also needs to be a bigger factor on the boards for the Crusaders. In the loss, he had 28 points, but only 3 rebounds.
Who wins: I think that this game will be a very physical matchup and one that will take until the fourth quarter for the team to gain separation. In the end, I think the Knights return to the Open Division finals after a one-year hiatus.
Prediction: Foothills Christian 72, Mater Dei Catholic 65
How they got here: Torrey Pines defeated (7) La Jolla Country Day 92-66; Mission Bay defeated (6) Vista 45-44
Starters for Torrey Pines: Finn Sullivan, PG; Bryce Pope, G; Michael Pope, G; Kevin Kampfer, F; Noah Viera, C
Starters for Mission Bay: Boogie Ellis, PG; Jay Norton, G; Andre Scott, G; Savaughn Davis, G; Ronnie Latting, C
The Skinny: For Torrey Pines, it’s the same song, different verse. They find themselves in the semifinals of the Open Division for the fourth straight season, looking to finally claim the Open Division title that has eluded them in the most heartbreaking of ways. On paper, this team would seem beatable: they only get consistent offense from three sources and their interior play has been pedestrian at best. But this is a John Olive-coached team, and those three scoring options are perhaps one of the three best guard triumvirates in the county. Sullivan and the Pope twins have been a puzzle that teams have not been able to solve this year, and Olive’s Wisconsin Swing offense is perfect to amplify their gifts as players.
Mission Bay is having the best season in program history. They won the always-tough Western League for the first time in 29 years, went 4-0 against St. Augustine and Cathedral Catholic for the first time in school history, and took 3rd place in the National Division of the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic. They’re led by Boogie Ellis, who emphatically established himself as the top junior prospect in the class this year, and arguably one of the top prospects in the state. And this team is primed for a two-year run. All of their starters and key bench guys are either juniors or sophomores.
The ex-factors: For Torrey Pines, it is the play of center Noah Viera. The junior has had an up-and-down season, but he has to come ready to contend with Ronnie Latting, arguably the strongest player in the section and the best rebounder. If Viera can come close to a draw in that matchup, the Falcons have the advantage.
For Mission Bay, it is the play of the supporting guard cast, namely Davis (brother of Ga Tech guard Justin Moore), Scott and wing Michael Barcia off the bench. In games where Mission Bay has been tough, those guys are involved in the offense and solid with the ball. They will need all of them to be on their A game defensively.
Who wins: The winner will be determined by pace. If Mission Bay can slow the game down and force Bryce Pope and Finn Sullivan to work hard for their offense, they win. The higher the score climbs, however, Torrey’s infamous crowd will start to play a big factor, and the Falcons will get the win. I am picking the former, as I believe Jay Norton and Andre Scott will play tough enough defense, Ronnie Latting will be a force on the boards and Boogie Ellis will provide enough scoring to do the unthinkable: knock off Torrey Pines in a home playoff game.
Prediction: Mission Bay 56, Torrey Pines 53