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No good deeds by Saints go unpunished

03/13/2014, 9:09pm PDT
By Craig Malveaux

St. Augustine's excellence results in having to play No. 1 Santa Ana Mater Dei

St. Augustine coach Mike Haupt will have the Saints prepared to play top-ranked Santa Ana Mater Dei.

“May the odds be ever in your favor,” St. Augustine.

Fitting, huh? It certainly appears so. Non-Hunger Games enthusiasts, bear with the analogy.

In the science fiction trilogy, two adolescents are selected as “tributes” via “lottery” to participate in a last-person-standing event. The host or hostess bids them well with the above phrase.

It’s gruesome. Downright horrifying.

The Saints’ high school basketball game tonight against Santa Ana Mater Dei isn’t a matter of life and death, but a parallel can be drawn.

Leading by eight points in the final period, top-seeded St. Augustine faltered in the San Diego Section Open Division final, losing to No. 2 La Costa Canyon 62-60 at USD’s Jenny Craig Pavilion on Saturday.

The defending state and section Division III champions were dethroned on the eve of high school basketball’s Selection Sunday, positioning the state committee between a rock and a hard place.

Where do you place a school with a Division III enrollment that ascended into the Open Division because of sustained excellence throughout the years? Next, where do you seed them?

Instead of pegging the Saints for Division I like Torrey Pines or El Camino — both of whom were ousted in the section Open Division and in the first round of the state playoffs Wednesday night — the committee elected to pull the Saints’ “lottery” ticket numbers.

The prize? St. Augustine essentially takes on the role of “tribute,” a No. 8 playing top-seeded Mater Dei (31-0), a three-time defending state champion ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps.com.

“Of course, we would have liked to defend our state championship from last season,” said St. Augustine coach Mike Haupt. “But we’ve been afforded a respect throughout the state that we’ve been working for for the last 20 years. So, I don’t think we can complain about being respected as one of the eight best teams in California.”

Ironically, the Saints’ accomplishments have dealt them this tough hand.

Pray, Saints fans. Pray.

The Monarchs won’t feast on St. Augustine. Not as long as Haupt, the 2013 state prep basketball Coach of the Year, holds the clipboard and San Diego State commit Trey Kell laces up Jordan sneakers.

However, a Saints victory may be the biggest upset in recent memory.

In addition to Mater Dei’s streak, meet Stanley Johnson — a five-star, No. 3 nationally ranked, Mr. Basketball favorite, McDonald’s All-American, who spurned Duke, Florida, Kansas and Kentucky for Arizona.

The 6-foot-7 forward is one of four sequoias — the tallest being center M.J. Cage at 6-10. Size alone poses mismatches for the Saints.

Whether St. Augustine got shafted is subject to debate, but one thing is clear — enrollment doesn’t matter when grouping which basketball teams will compete for the Open Division title.

You can count on the Saints for an all-out effort, but they haven’t lost their sense of humor.

Said Haupt with a laugh: “You know that old joke, we’re only two players short — (Larry) Bird and (Michael) Jordan.”

What: SoCal Regional Open Division boys basketball playoffs.
Who: St. Augustine at Santa Ana Mater Dei, ranked No. 1 in the nation.
When: Friday, 7 p.m.

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