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Marauders advance to Division I quarterfinals with ninth-straight win

Mira Mesa finished the regular season on a roll and it appears they have not cooled off. The Marauders rolled to a 60-41 wire-to-wire win over Carlsbad in the first round of the Division I playoffs, extending their winning streak to nine games.

“We’ve been able to pull together as a team with a lot of team work and executing and the end of games instead of breaking down like we did before,” said Mira Mesa forward Damon Williams. “Everything has been going smoothly and we’ve been able to play good.”

The Marauders jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead and led 13-8 after the first quarter. Carlsbad trimmed the lead to one midway through the second, but Mira Mesa closed the quarter with a 7-1 run to take a 25-17 lead into the break.

Mira Mesa had a clear size advantage over Carlsbad and exploited it from the beginning. Mira Mesa’s 6’8” Williams got easy looks close to the basket against a Lancers’ team that does not have a player taller than 6’3”.

“Our gameplan was to try to pound it inside and if they doubled up, kick it out and try it again or shoot the outside shot,” said Mira Mesa head coach Dan Regas.

Carlsbad battled back in the third quarter with pressure defense, narrowing the Mira Mesa lead to three with 2:00 left. But the Marauders answered with a 7-0 run, pushing their lead back to double digits at the end of the third.

The Lancers closed the gap to five in the fourth before Mira Mesa found a hole in their press. The Marauders converted a number of wide open fast break layups in the final two minutes to win the game going away.

“They’re really tough defensively,” Regas said, “and we were able to run away from them because we were getting some back cuts and open people on the back side of their press. It was nice.”

Williams led all scorers with 24 points. Marcus Smith (12 points) and Kevin Ozier (11) also finished in double figures for eighth-seeded Mira Mesa (17-11). Guard Michael Tanael led ninth-seeded Carlsbad (16-13) with 15 points.

“Holding Carlsbad to 41 points is huge,” Regas said. “We wanted to contest their shooters and for the most part we did.”

After starting Eastern League play 2-2, Mira Mesa did not lose another league game en route to sharing the Eastern League title with Hoover. Despite that, Williams feels the Marauders still don’t get enough respect even in their own league.

“Everybody thinks we’re the underdogs – they think that those are the only teams in the Eastern League,” Williams said. “We’re the team that has been able to pull through and do what we need to do.”

Mira Mesa’s reward for Wednesday’s first round win is a quarterfinal date against top-seed and section No. 1 El Camino (27-3) on Saturday night. The Wildcats have not lost in more than month and are undefeated at home.

“You have to play them either early in the playoffs or later,” Regas said. “They’re a quality team and they deserve the No. 1 seed. But we’ll figure out a gameplan to see if we can get them.”

“We’re ready,” Williams said.

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Mira Mesa guard Chris Mendoza drives past Carlsbad guard Sawyer Carlson

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