Mission League champions eliminated from CIF Playoffs

Mission League champions eliminated from CIF Playoffs

Wing Brase Dottin ’20 (left) shoots over a defender in the Wolverines’ game 66-61 loss to Loyola High School on Jan. 11. Credit: Ryan Albert/Chronicle

Boys’ basketball finished its regular season and lost in the third round of the CIF SS Division I tournament to Santa Margarita High School. Despite early season struggles, the team ended with a 21-9 overall record and won the Mission League title for the first time since 2011.

Program head David Rebibo said that although the squad’s CIF loss was difficult, he is proud of the team’s strong work ethic throughout the entire game.

“Losing is never fun or easy, especially with an opportunity at the championship on the line,” Rebibo said. “I was very pleased with our effort and defensive execution of the game plan.Sometimes shots just don’t fall, and that’s what happened on Saturday. I am proud of our guys and the effort they put forth. We are extremely excited that the season is not over yet.”

The Santa Margarita Eagles defeated the Wolverines on Feb. 16 in the semi-finals of the CIF tournament, 50-45. Guard Johnny Juzang ’20 led the team in scoring with 19 points. Throughout the game, the Wolverines trailed the Eagles due to an inability to convert on offensive opportunities. Wing Holden McRae ’20 said the team struggled to make shots down the stretch.

“Our biggest problem is that we couldn’t really get into a rhythm offensively,” McRae. “We held a pretty prolific offense to 50 points on the defensive end, but our shots just were not falling.”

In addition to not being able to get in a groove offensively, guard Cameron Thrower ’22 said the team did not play like its usual self.

“As a team, we did not hit shots we normally make,” Thrower said. “Also, we did not have the same confidence and swagger we have always had throughout this playoff run. Lastly, we became more and more selfish as the game got tighter, and we tried to do everything by ourselves.”

Several members of the team said they were disappointed with the outcome of the game. Forward Trumann Gettings ’21 said the loss stung more, knowing the team’s potential was much greater than the way it played. 

“The loss was very rough,” Gettings said. “The worst part about losing that game was that we all knew that we should have won. There is almost no room for error once you start playing higher level teams and are in big games.”

Despite exiting earlier than the team expected, McRae said that he is proud of his team for being resilient and winning the Mission League title. He said he hopes the same resiliency can carry through to CIF Regional Championship Playoffs.

“I am most proud of our ability to bounce back,” McRae said. “We had two tough losses in a row heading into the Mission League Tournament and left with the championship. I know that we are capable of bouncing back from this game and competing for a state championship.”

After a long season with a difficult schedule, the team commented on its most important lessons throughout the year. Forward Mason Hooks ’20 said constant concentration was his biggest takeaway.

“You need to be focused no matter what to win,” Hooks said. “All the time, for every game.”

McRae said he is proud of the persistence of the team and learned that competitive basketball requires consistency and competitive spirit.

“Every team has its ups and downs, but the great teams overcome whatever they have gone through to get the job done,” McRae said. “We have faced a fair amount of adversity at times this season, but we have responded fairly well so far. I am hoping that continues throughout the rest of our season. To compete at the highest level, one must bring the same mindset, energy, and effort into every game. Every day, play and moment of ‘resting’ on the court will show when that final buzzer sounds.”

Heading into the CIF Regional Championship Playoffs, Rebibo said he believes the team is ready to work hard after overcoming hardships early in the season.

“We were faced with a tough start to the season between injuries and illness and continued to work and get better,” Rebibo said. “We are Mission League champions and will be working very hard to become State champs.”

The team’s first game of the CIF Regional Championship Playoffs is on Feb. 26.

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