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No. 1 Mater Dei Catholic cruises in 75-43 playoff win over Broncos Phillip Brents | Fri, Feb 28 2014 04:21 PM

Judging by Wednesday’s 75-43 opening round victory by host Mater Dei Catholic against the Rancho Bernardo Broncos, the top-seeded Crusaders may have the inside track to claiming this year’s Division II championship.

“We just play hard, we play for each other and we have fun doing it,” Crusader senior forward Spencer Vering said. “We don’t want anyone to underestimate us.”

The reigning Metro-Mesa League champion Crusaders (25-2) dictated the game to the No. 16-seeded Broncos (8-19) and the result was a mismatch on the scoreboard.

Jonathan Dutra led the hosts with 13 points while Israel Seales and Jaylen Hands each dropped in 12 points. The reserves played in the fourth quarter.

MDC recorded a runner-up finish in last year’s Division IV finals to the Army-Navy Academy Warriors. Both teams moved up to the Division II level in the new competition tier-based format but will not be in line for a semifinal rematch after the fourth-seeded Warriors dropped a 75-57 decision to 13th-seeded Mt. Carmel on Wednesday.

But there’s still plenty of competition remaining in the division, and Crusaders will next have to first worry about eighth-seeded Serra (17-11) in Saturday’s quarterfinals after the Conquistadors beat ninth-seeded La Jolla (12-16).

Other top-seeded teams advancing in the division include No. 2 Francis Parker (23-4) and No. 3 Steele Canyon (21-6).

Quarterfinal winners advance to semifinal games on Tuesday, March 4. The Division II boys championship game is slated Friday, March 7, at 6 p.m. at USD’s Jenny Craig Pavilion.

The Crusaders remain undefeated in section play.

Top dogs
Eastlake (Division I) and Sweetwater (Division III) also earned top seeds in their respective playoff divisions and both opened CIF play with victories on Wednesday.

Eastlake (24-5) eliminated 16th-seeded Scripps Ranch (9-18) in a close match-up, 50-42, while newly crowned Metro-Pacific League champion Sweetwater (26-0) topped Metro-South Bay League co-champion Montgomery (16-13) by a score of 79-53.

The Metro-Mesa League runner-up Titans held a one-point lead, 42-41, with a minute-and-a-half left when Arturo Torra sank a two-point jumper to put the hosts up by three points. Eastlake then went on a 7-0 run to close out the win.

The bucket by Torra proved to be the turning point late in the game.

Torra, Evin Shepherd and Justin Young each scored 11 points to lead the Titans.

Sweetwater closed out a magical 25-0 regular season campaign last Friday with a 79-33 win over visiting Castle Park. The Red Devils continued their hardwood rampage in 2013-14 with a 26-point win over the Aztecs in their playoff opener.

Spencer Mattox led SuHi with 20 points while Oscar Picazo dumped in 18 points and C.J. Cadua collected 13 points to offset standout performances by Montgomery’s DeAnthony Evans (30 points) and Charles Crawford (13 points).

The Devils advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals against eighth-seeded Valhalla (15-12) after the host Norsemen eliminated ninth-seeded Olympian, 61-59, in overtime on Wednesday.

“I’m excited about the playoffs,” explained junior Raven Middleton, who threw the game-winning touchdown pass in Sweetwater’s 7-0 victory over Monte Vista in December’s Division IV football championship game. “Everybody is out to beat us. We’ve got to show that we went undefeated for a reason.”

In other first-round CIF games on Wednesday:

Division II
Otay Ranch 59, Monte Vista 55

Nikko and A.J. Paranada combined for 36 points and Oscar Limon chipped in with 11 points to help lift the seventh-seeded Mustangs (16-12) past the 10th-seeded Monarchs (14-14). Otay Ranch advances to play at second-seeded Francis Parker (23-4) in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Division IV
Bonita Vista 63, SDJA 54

The 14th-seeded Barons (8-20) pulled off one of the more remarkable upset wins in the first round behind 16 points from Kevin McCann and 11 points from Daniel Barao in eliminating the fourth-seeded Lions (16-8). Bonita Vista advances to Saturday’s quarterfinals against sixth-seeded El Cajon Valley (18-10).

Division V
Lutheran 62, Vista Calvary Christian 40

The fifth-seeded Knights (17-7) scored a mild upset win over the fourth-seeded Lions (11-13) to advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals against top-seeded Escondido Adventist (19-6). Mohammad Al-Asady keyed Lutheran with 19 points while Jordan Brown, Miguel Valdez and James Watts each scored 10 points. Josh Powers added eight blocks for the Knights while Watts had five blocks.

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