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Division II: Mater Dei removes big chip

03/07/2014, 11:27pm PST
By Terry Monahan, Special to the U-T

Crusaders have been miserable since bowing in the finals last season

Mater Dei Catholic's Jaylen Hands, who led his team with 16 points, is congratulated after the Crusaders' win over San Marcos on Friday.

The last 12 months have been miserable for Mater Dei Catholic after losing last year’s Division IV boys basketball championship game to Army-Navy.

“We’ve had a chip on our shoulder every day,” said Mater Dei senior Israel Seales.

That chip is now gone.

The top-seeded Crusaders finally claimed their championship Friday with a 55-46 triumph over No. 2 Francis Parker in the San Diego Section Division II title game at USD’s Jenny Craig Pavilion.

Not even hitting just three field goals in the second half was going to deter this year’s champions (28-2) from winning their 22nd consecutive game this season.

“We came here with a little bit more experience and we didn’t panic when they started to make runs,” Mater Dei Catholic coach Kenny Caesar said. “What we do, we pride ourselves on playing good defense and rebounding.”

The Crusaders defense limited Parker (25-5) to a 15-for-51 effort from the field, caused 15 turnovers and outrebounded the Lancers by a 37-24 edge.

“We knew what was necessary after last year,” said Seales, who tallied 11 points. “I am so glad we’re going to finally get our rings and our banner.

“Maybe now we can all let last year go.”

Mater Dei Catholic, whose last loss was Dec. 14 to San Juan Capistrano JSerra in the Arizona Catholic Invitational, got a big lift in finally claiming a title from freshman guard Jaylen Hands, who came off the bench to lead the team with 16 points. He also had six rebounds.

Crusaders senior Robert Harris added 13 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.

“The kids wanted to get back from the day after last year’s finals,” Caesar said. “It was a long road and anything can go wrong.”

Not this time.

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