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Are Crusaders, Cougars a slam-dunk for league boys basketball titles? Phillip Brents | Fri, Feb 08 2013 02:46 PM

If current form holds true, it appears as if the Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders and San Ysidro Cougars boys basketball teams are a lock for league titles in 2012-13.

San Ysidro improved to 9-0 in South Bay League play following Wednesday’s 58-55 victory at Chula Vista High School while Mater Dei Catholic upped its Mesa-leading record to 7-0 after topping host Otay Ranch, 65-42, also on Wednesday.

The Crusaders (19-5 overall) tipped off the second round of league play last Friday just the way they started it — with a victory against the defending league champion Eastlake Titans.

MDC prevailed on the Titans’ home court this time by a score of 56-45.

The game started off well for the hosts as 2011-12 Mesa League Player of the Year Aaron Baltazar sank three treys to launch Eastlake to an early 14-11 lead. But the Crusaders had an answer for that.

Iman Chatman-Dixon ignited the MDC fans with three slam-dunks in the game and the visitors erased a 25-20 Titan lead in the early moments of the second half. The Crusaders finished the game with five crowd-pleasing dunks overall — and a lot of timely defense under the EHS hoop.

MDCHS coach Kenny Caesar said his team’s goals haven’t changed since floating to the top of the league standings.

“We’re still trying to get better,” Caesar said. “We just need to keep working hard, play our game and let things take care of themselves.”

Three Crusaders finished in double figures: Chatman-Dixon (18 points), Lorenzo Eribez (12 points) and Israel Seales (10 points).

Six-foot-six forward Spencer Vering was ill and it was evident in his play but he still contributed six points — and had more than ample support from teammates.

“We play as a team — if one of us is down, we are together to get it going the right way,” Vering said. “It was a big win for us. It shows that (in) the first half of the league we weren’t messing around.”
Chatman-Dixon soared with 23 points in Wednesday’s game, followed by Robert Harris with 16 points and Seales with 12 points.

Nikko Paranada led the Mustangs (4-3 in league, 10-14 overall) with 11 points.

The Crusaders have three regular season games remaining: Friday at home against Olympian, next Tuesday against visiting Hilltop and next Thursday at Bonita Vista.

Mater Dei Catholic has the second-best record among Division IV teams in the San Diego Section behind Army-Navy (20-4).

The section playoffs tip off Feb. 19 for girls teams and Feb. 20 for boys teams. Championship games are set for SDSU’s Viejas Arena.

Meanwhile, the Cougars’ success isn’t hard to determine: five players are currently scoring in double digits. San Ysidro (19-6 overall) is averaging 67 points per game.

The team’s gunners are led by Ronald Steward (16.4 points per game), Lynard Steward (12.1 ppg), Orlando Quinones (11.9 ppg), Keeko Sinegal (11.1 ppg) and John Crowder (10.1 ppg).

Justin Johnson tops the Cougars with 206 rebounds and also led the team with 93 blocked shots while Lynard Steward ranked as the team’s assist leader with 109.

The SBL leaders are averaging 32.5 rebounds per game.

San Ysidro closes out league play with games at Mar Vista this Friday, against visiting Southwest next Tuesday and at Castle Park next Thursday.

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