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Centurions upset Buccaneers for first ever section title

UNIV. OF SAN DIEGO – In the middle of the pack when the playoffs began, fifth-seeded University City has climbed to the top of Division III. Saturday afternoon at Jenny Craig Pavilion, the Centurions upset second-seeded Mission Bay 63-62 to win their first ever section title.

“It means a lot. We’ve done a lot of work and this program has come a long way,” said University City head coach Terry Stonebreaker. “They used to laugh at us.”

In the fourth meeting of the season between the Western League rivals, very little separated them. University City (16-13) scored the last six points of the second quarter to take a 29-25 lead into halftime and led by two after three quarters.

“We’ve played them four times and all of them have been battles,” Stonebreaker said.

With 1:52 left in the fourth quarter, University City guard Kyle Holder hit a corner three to put the Centurions ahead 59-56. Holder hit six three-pointers in the game and scored a game-high 20 points.

“I felt it in warmups. The first couple shots I really liked it and it was similar to the semifinals at Coronado, which was also bright and had a nice, sticky floor,” Holder said. “It felt good when I was warming up, so it felt like it was going to be a pretty good game.”

University City led by five with 48.9 seconds left, but had to hold off a furious Mission Bay rally. The Buccaneers sandwiched two baskets around a Centurions turnover to make it a one-point game, but after University City missed two free throws Mission Bay (15-11) couldn’t get off a shot in the final 4.4 seconds.

“Our goal this entire year was to get to the CIF game and win for the first time in school history,” Holder said. “We had to play as team.”

The Centurions’ first section title in three tries seemed unlikely at the start of the playoffs and even less likely after they started league play with four straight losses. University City finished fifth in the Western League, but upset three of the four teams that finished ahead of them in the playoffs – fourth-seeded Cathedral Catholic, top-seeded St. Augustine and second-seeded Mission Bay – on the way to the championship.

“These kids are the only ones that believed in themselves, and they just came back and worked and worked. We started out league 0-4, and nobody else believed in us,” Stonebreaker said. “They just turned it on, were focused and came to play.”

Four University City players finished in double figures, including Amir Hicks (13 points), Tim Patrick (13) and Stephen Rivera (12). The Centurions beat Mission Bay in three of the teams’ four meetings this season.

“Our coach has been here a long time and he has never won one, so it’s a really good feeling,” Holder said.

For Mission Bay, guard Jerald Albritton led the way with 20 points. Senior forward C.J. Rayford added a double-double for the Buccaneers, with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

University City – 63 (15-14-16-18)

Holder 20, Hicks 13, Patrick 13, Rivera 12, Skillin 5 (starters)

Mission Bay – 62 (12-13-18-19)

Albritton 20, Rayford 15, Holler 11, Edler-Chapman 8, Mebratu 6 (starters) Cloud 2

Image

University City guard Amir Hicks shoots a jumper over Mission Bay guard D.J. Mebratu

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