Posted On: 02/20/18 6:50 PM
Mount Miguel has been here before.
A year ago, the Matadors were in the Division 3 finals against Sage Creek. But it was the Bobcats, in their second varsity season, which won the title.
After graduating three starters from that team, Coach Jay Rowlett has done it again, getting the Matadors to the Division 3 playoffs.
But this time, the Matadors are in the position of being the hunted. A huge 26-4 season has the Matadors as the top seed in Division 3, leaving many to ask the question: “Who can beat them?”
Prep Hoops looks at the 16-team field and gives you our take.
The Matadors have the most complete team in the division, and can beat you in any number of ways. They have steady point guard play with James Allen, potent shooters in Marquis Neal and Mikeece Dunbar, a capable scorer in Daron Traylor, great athleticism on the wing with Marquise Edwards and a solid glue guy in Justice Chima. And off the bench, the Matadors bring 6-6, 235-pound manchild CJ Jackson, who improves every game in his first season of organized basketball. It will be tough for any team to hang with the Matadors in this division.
The Longhorns just completed the best season the program has seen since a guy named Johnny Dee was putting up 50-point games. Coach Aaron Abrams in his second season has given the program an identity: this team plays hard, scores in a variety of ways and is tough on defense. Spearheaded by Pittsburgh-area transfer Patrick McLachlan, the Longhorns were the only team in the Avocado East to beat league champs San Marcos. That says something.
Head Coach Don Dumas has the Barons back in a nice position in Division 3, which the team won in 2015. Led by senior guard Anthony Mendoza, one of the hardest playing kids in the section, the undersized Barons play hard and scrap for baskets. Look out for junior wing Adrian Wade, who is at 6-2 is a mismatch for most teams’ bigs, and junior shooter Skylar Nelson, who shoots a high-arch shot that usually finds the net.
This Cardinals team is not quite the Angelo Chol or Damonte Holiday-led Hoover, but they play with the same physicality. Led by an underrated trio of guards – Jalnn Harrington, Jalen Jeanty and Chris Modica – a behemoth of a post in 6-6, 260 James Malveaux, and reliable junior wing Andrew Peters, this is a Hoover team that can score the basketball, and beat you up on the defensive end.
Carlsbad is the only Division 3 team to hand Mt. Miguel a loss this year, a 68-62 win early in the season. The Lancers are scary because they are playing their best basketball at the right time. After a bad league loss to Sage Creek, the Lancers have won five of six, including triumphs over Canyon Crest and La Costa Canyon, to get to 5-5 in the ever-tough Avocado West League. This team features no fewer than six contributors taller than 6-3, including 6-5 wing Carter Plousha, who is coming off of an all-league caliber season.
Jeff Deyo’s group comes into the playoffs winners of six straight games, and has players who have been in big playoff games. Leading scorer Jonathan Zarate was a starter on last year’s CIF Division 4 champion team. This team has the capability of stringing together big threes and play hard, a signature of any Deyo-led team.
The Mustangs aren’t very deep, but thy have as good of a starting five as any team in the division. Guards Ron and Yarin Arbib and Connor Miller are undersized but solid, and the frontcourt of Baylor Brimmer and Travis Snider has come up big this season. With rotations shortened during the playoffs, San Dieguito Academy could be a team that steals a game in the playoffs.
16th seed San Ysidro got into the final field of 16 after having to travel to Palo Verde Valley on Monday for a play-in game.
According to CIF rules, if a team wins its league title and is out of the field of 16, they force a playoff game with the lowest seed, and get to host the game. So, that meant San Ysidro had to load the bus and drive all 223 miles – roughly four hours – to get the 75-65 victory.
Their prize for the win? A date with No. 1 seed Mt Miguel.