At long last, San Dieguito wins another championship

San Dieguito Academy players and their fans celebrate their championship on Thursday night.
San Dieguito Academy players and their fans celebrate their championship on Thursday night.
(Photo by Charlie Neuman)

After nearly six decades, Mustangs earn a second section basketball crown


Finally, some former basketball players from San Dieguito have some new company after a very long wait.

They waited almost six decades, though, for a second CIF championship.

By hitting 13 of 16 free throws in the final quarter, top-seeded San Dieguito Academy survived one last challenge for a 57-46 win over No. 3 Scripps Ranch to claim the San Diego Section Division III boys title on Feb. 24.

That ended 57 years without another championship since winning the 1A title way back in 1965.

“I know it’s been forever,” San Dieguito Academy senior John Hapgood said, flashing a big smile. “I don’t think this has hit me yet and probably won’t for a few days.”

Hapgood scored 11 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, including five of six free throws to ward off the Falcons one last time.

“I felt the ball in my hands down the stretch and I stayed in my bubble,” Hapgood said. “I closed my eyes and it was like shooting free throws in the backyard.”

San Dieguito, which thrived at home with a 13-2 record, was just 6-5 on the road this season.

But the Mustangs (20-7) grabbed the lead at 16-15 with 6:23 left in the second quarter and never trailed again.

Even though Scripps Ranch (21-11) stayed close the rest of the game — 41-38 and 43-40 was as close as it got in the final quarter — the Falcons hurt themselves with seven turnovers in the last quarter.

Down the stretch, the Mustangs pushed the lead to 52-42, the biggest margin of the game.

San Dieguito Academy converted just six free throws in the first three quarters before icing the game from the free-throw line in the final stanza. SDA worked hard enough to claim a 31-16 edge in rebounds.

Tucker Oien paced the Mustangs rebounding parade with eight.

“We knew they wanted to slow the game down, so we kept running to turn thing a bit chaotic,” Hapgood said. “In the final quarter, I knew I had to play loose and not think about what was going on.

“The less thinking you do, the better off you’ll be.

“Those last few stops and the free throws was when it dawned on me what we were doing because when we have fun, we’re so much better.”

Owen Isachsen scored 12 points for San Dieguito Academy while James Hapgood, who is John’s identical twin brother, added eight points and six rebounds.

Scripps Ranch was led by senior Lamont Wilkerson III with 17 points, while 6-foot-6 junior center Jax Leatherwood and senior guard Jared Balaoing each scored 11.

“I can’t grasp what just happened,” San Dieguito Academy coach Jason Stewart said.

“My vision for this program when I took over was bring the alums back into the fold and maybe give these new players something to remember.”

The Mustangs got a memory they’ll never forget, even if the players from the ’65 championship squad had given up hope of ever celebrating a Mustangs championship.

Monahan is a freelance writer.