Crusaders top Barons to advance to Division I boys hoops final


At 6 feet, 10 inches tall, it's relatively easy for Mater Dei Catholic High School's Christian Ubuchi to keep the ball away from opponents. Photo by Phillip Brents

Montgomery High School will serve as the host venue for Saturday’s San Diego Section Open Division and Division I basketball championship games.

The top-seeded Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders punched their ticket to the Division I boys game following Tuesday’s 81-55 semifinal victory against the Mesa League rival Bonita Vista Barons, who were seeded fourth in the division playoffs.

The Crusaders (14-4) will meet the seventh-seeded La Costa Canyon Mavericks (11-9) in Saturday’s championship game at 11 a.m.

The Mavericks, aided by 10 treys by senior Jack Norrbohm, defeated third-seeded Mission Bay (17-10) by a score of 76-65 in Tuesday’s semifinals.

The second-seeded Cathedral Catholic Dons (17-2) will take on top-seeded Torrey Pines (28-0) in Saturday’s Open Division final at 8 p.m.

The Dons defeated the third-seeded (and previously undefeated) San Marcos Knights, 58-48, in one half of Tuesday’s semifinals while the Falcons, braced by 25 points from senior Nick Herrmann, remained undefeated by topping fifth-seeded St. Augustine (14-6) by a score of 84-59 in Wednesday’s semifinal matchup.

San Marcos had entered Tuesday’s contest riding the crest of a 25-0 record.

Mater Dei Catholic, the reigning Mesa League champions, were meeting Bonita Vista, the Mesa League runner-up, for the third time this season after the teams split their two league encounters.

The Crusaders (9-1 in league play) defeated the Barons (8-2 in league play), 85-74, in a home court game on April 21 while Bonita Vista returned the favor with a 65-58 home court win on May 14.

Mater Dei Catholic took a four-game winning streak into the playoffs while Bonita Vista saw its chance to tie the Crusaders for a league co-championship fail via an 86-83 loss at San Ysidro in the teams’ final regular season game.

Fast forward following two playoff wins by the Crusaders and Barons and the third matchup between the teams would be the last on the season — and the last game for the loser.

The Crusaders owned a decided height advantage in Tuesday’s matchup.

Senior center Christian Ubochi stands 6-10 while classmate Dexter Stratton stands 6-7. Senior Mauricio Reyes is 6-6 while classmate Mello Sanchez is 6-5.

With players of such height —and corresponding arm spans —defense comes naturally.

“We use it to our advantage in rebounding and getting deflections,” explained Stratton, who tallied 10 points in Tuesday’s elimination game. “Our height should disrupt the offense of the other team.”

Mater Dei Catholic coach Jason Bryant said defense was one of the strong points of this year’s team as well as its ability to set the pace in a game.

The Crusaders used both elements to quickly gain separation from their opponent on the scoreboard.

The hosts led 16-8 at the end of the first quarter, 35-21 at halftime and 58-37 at the end of three quarters.

Ubochi topped the Mesa League champions with 20 points while Sanchez poured in 17 points. Senior Kailon King, who stands 6-1, dropped in 16 points while Reyes had seven points in the win. Sophomore Dominic Nankil (6-3) contributed six points.

Bonita Vista had difficulty driving to the hoop from the onset. The Crusaders forced the visitors to run out the shot clock at one point in the first half because they couldn’t find an open man to shoot the ball.

The hosts also excelled in the rebounding department.

“Last time we played them, they beat us, so we knew what they were capable of,” Bryant said. “There was a sense of urgency all week in practice. We were focused to make sure we would not lose to this team.”

Mater Dei Catholic capped Tuesday’s semifinal victory against visiting Bonita Vista with three slam dunks, this one by senor Dexter Stratton. Photo by Phillip Brents

Height also has its advantages on offense.

Ubochi recorded two slam dunks while Stratton had one slam dunk.

Mater Dei Catholic has won the league title in two of the three years Bryant has coached the team.

“This year’s team is a result of what we started in Year One,” Bryant said. “We have six seniors. We were young in those first two years. This year is when it is all coming together.”

The team’s six seniors this season include Sanchez, a two-time league player of the year, Reyes, King, Stratton, Ubochi and Matthew Fitts.

The Crusaders last won a CIF championship in 2014 (Division II) after finishing runner-up in the Division IV final in 2013.

Mater Dei Catholic lost to second-seeded St. Augustine in the opening round of last year’s Open Division playoffs. Sanchez led the Crusaders in that game with 25 points while Stratton had 21 points.

Mater Dei Catholic defeated the ninth-seeded San Diego Cavers, 74-61, in last Friday’s quarterfinals while Bonita Vista, which ended its season 14-7, used a late momentum swing to eliminate the fifth-seeded Francis Parker Lancers, 64-59.

The Crusaders tipped off the playoffs with a 96-32 first-round win over 16th-seeded Rancho Buena Vista (7-13) on June 1 while the Barons defeated the 13th-seeded Helix Charter (12-11) by a first-round score of 68-55.

San Ysidro (20-7, 7-3 in Mesa League) received the No. 6 seed among Division I boys teams and eliminated 11th-seeded Foothills Christian, 100-63, in the opening round while 15th-seeded Otay Ranch (1-12, 1-9 in Mesa League) fell, 88-46, at second-seeded La Jolla Country Day.

San Ysidro saw its playoff run abruptly end with a 78-76 loss at Mission Bay in last Friday’s quarterfinals while La Costa Canyon bounced the second-seeded Torres from the tournament with a 58-38 upset win.

Mission Bay ended the season for the Montgomery Aztecs (7-9, 4-6 in Mesa League) with a 66-51 win in the opening round.

Eastlake (13-9, 10-1 in South Bay League) earned the No. 14 seed in the Division II playoffs but failed to advance past the first round following a 66-53 loss at third-seeded Canyon Crest Academy.

Mar Vista, the South Bay League leaders with a 9-0 record, was unable to finish the season because of COVID-19 protocols and was not included in the section playoffs.

Southwest (Division III), Hilltop (Division IV), Victory Christian Academy (Division IV) all dropped opening round playoff games. Southwest defeated Mission Vista, 61-59, in a play-in game.

Bayfront Charter (12-3) and High Tech High Chula Vista (7-8) both ended their seasons with setbacks in the Division V quarterfinals.

CIF finals
The Open Division girls final will pair top-seeded Cathedral Catholic (18-3) and third-seeded Bonita Vista (24-3) Saturday at 5 p.m.

The Division I girls final will pit second-seeded Westview (17-6) against fourth-seeded El Camino (14-5) at 2 p.m.

The Division II finals will take place Friday, June 11, at St. Augustine High School. The boys game between top-seeded Orange Glen (23-5) and second-seeded Coronado (20-5) tips off the action at 4:30 p.m., followed by the girls game between third-seeded Eastlake (15-8) and fourth-seeded San Dieguito Academy (14-6) at 7:30 p.m.

The Division IV finals are scheduled Friday at Serra High School. The boys game tips off the championship double-header at 4:30 p.m., followed by the girls game at 7:30 p.m.

The Division III boys final is scheduled Saturday at St. Augustine at 1 p.m.

The Division III and Division V girls championship games are scheduled to take place Thursday at St. Augustine and Serra, respectively.

The Division V girls final is set to pair top-seeded Victory Christian Academy (12-6) against second-seeded High Tech High North County (12-3). Tip off is 3 p.m. at Serra High School.

Victory Christian Academy, which is based in the Rancho del Rey community, advanced to the championship game following Tuesday’s 68-24 semifinal victory against fifth-seeded Kearny (10-11).

The Lady Knights defeated ninth-seeded Central Union (5-7) by a score of 48-30 in last Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Victory Christian finished 4-4 in Citrus League play. Junior Salma Youngblood keyed the Knights with a 20.6 scoring average in 17 games. She also led the team with 7.9 rebounds per game.


Bonita Vista’s D.J. Sanders looks for a shooting lane in last Friday’s quarterfinal encounter against visiting Francis Parker. Photo by Phillip Brents

Late rally carries Barons to quarterfinal victory

The fourth-seeded Bonita Vista Barons appeared on the verge of elimination from this year’s San Diego Section Division I boys basketball playoffs after trailing the fifth-seeded Francis Parker Lancers by nine points with time running down in the teams’ quarterfinal-round matchup last Friday.

However, a late spurt allowed the hosts to not only bounce back in the game but engineer a dramatic 64-59 win to advance to Tuesday’s semifinals.

The Barons, who surrendered a 30-28 lead after the first quarter, outscored the visitors 19-9 during the fateful fourth quarter to post a comeback five-point win.

“Going into the game we knew it was going to be tight,” BVHS coach Don Dumas said. “We knew if we could stay within striking distance in the fourth quarter that we had a chance. But we had to stay poised.

“Our guys did execute the game plan we wanted.”

The hosts started their dramatic comeback on a three-point shot by sophomore Michael Barragan with 3:48 to play to trim the deficit to 56-50. A pair of steals, finished off by senior D.M. Sanders, tied the game, 56-56, with 3:22 to play in regulation.

The Barons finally regained the lead at 59-56 on a trey by Sanders with 2:35 to play and never looked back. Another successful trey, this time courtesy of senior D.J. Sanders, moved the hosts ahead 62-59 with 55 seconds left. A pair of free-throws by senior point guard Morris (MoMo) Stokes with 11 ticks left on the clock capped scoring.

Stokes led the victors with 20 points while D.J. Sanders had 18 points. D.M. Sanders recorded 15 points, including three treys.

Junior Camden McCormick led the Lancers (10-8) with 18 points while classmate Vinny Ferrari dropped in 17 points.

Bonita Vista’s MoMo Stokes keyed his team with 20 points in last Friday’s dramatic come-from-behind quarterfinal-round victory. Photo by Phillip Brents
Clutch plays from Bonita Vista’s D.M. Sanders paved the way for the Barons’ victory. Photo by Phillip Brents
Camden McCormick keyed Francis Parker with 18 points. Photo by Phillip Brents


Eastlake, Bonita Vista power their way to CIF girls basketball finals

Thirteen South County teams received bids to this year’s San Diego Section girls basketball playoffs.

Two of them were still in action in Wednesday’s division semifinals.

Bonita Vista, which finished as this year’s Mesa League champion with a 12-0 league record, received the No. 3 seed in the Open Division playoffs and defeated sixth-seeded Bishop’s, 66-57, in last Saturday’s quarterfinals to advance to meet second-seeded La Jolla Country Day in Wednesday’s semifinal-round.

It took overtime but the Lady Barons (24-3) roared to a 61-56 triumph to advance to meet top-seeded Cathedral Catholic (18-3) in Saturday’s championship game at 5 p.m. at Montgomery High School.

Senior Sylena Peterson, who leads Bonita Vista with a 14.5 scoring average, said her team had to use its skill to prevail.

Eastlake, which finished fourth in the Mesa League standings with a 6-6 record, received the No. 3 seed in the Division II playoffs and overcame a low-scoring first half to eliminate sixth-seeded Helix Charter, 42-25, in the quarterfinals to advance to Wednesday’s semifinals at second-seeded Grossmont.

Alana Byler drives to the basket for Eastlake. Photo by Jon Bigornia

The Lady Titans, buoyed by the play from senior Eva Belaguer, won 52-45 over the Lady Hillers (17-6) to advance to Saturday’s championship game against fourth-seeded San Dieguito Academy (14-6) at St. Augustine High School. Tip-off is 10 a.m.

The championship game had originally been scheduled Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

The Lady Titans take a 15-8 record into the championship game against the Lady Mustangs, who toppled top-seeded Academy of Our Lady of Peace, 46-26, in Wednesday’s semifinals.

Mater Dei Catholic, which finished 10-2 in Mesa League play (17-9 overall), joined Bonita Vista in the Open Division playoffs, dropping a 61-54 quarterfinal-round decision to top-seeded Cathedral Catholic.

Other local playoff qualifiers included Otay Ranch (Division I), Chula Vista (Division II), Olympian (Division II), Castle Park (Division III), Hilltop (Division III), Sweetwater (Division IV), San Ysidro (Division IV), Victory Christian Academy (Division V), Southwest (Division V) and Bayfront Charter (Division V).

Victory Christian Academy (12-6) advanced to Thursday’s division championship game against second-seeded High Tech High San Diego (12-3) following playoff wins over ninth-seeded Central Union (48-30 in the quarterfinals) and fifth-seeded Kearny (68-24 in the semifinals).

Fifth-seeded Olympian (16-13) ended its season with a 36-29 loss to San Dieguito Academy in the quarterfinals.

Sixth-seeded Hilltop (12-8) ended its season with a 60-37 loss to third-seeded Liberty Charter (16-8) in the quarterfinals.

Sixth-seeded San Ysidro (12-6) dropped a 35-23 decision to third-seeded Classical Academy (16-9) in the quarterfinals.

Crusaders top Barons to advance to Division I boys hoops final