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Can Eagles soar above d3ep Field? Division 3 Primer

When Olympian won the D3 Thanksgiving Classic in November, besting Point Loma in the title game, I left confident in saying that they were in the pole position for the D3 title.

Little did I know that would be the start of what eventually became a 20-game winning streak to start the season. The Eagles didn't lose their first game until the South Bay League opener Jan. 24, an overtime thriller against Eastlake.

Even after finishing league 3-3, I still feel that the road to D3 goes through Chula Vista and Marty Ellis' Eagles.

But the field in front of them is deep and full of potential pitfalls.

Let's look at the rest of the field.

Who is the favorite: Olympian

The Eagles make up for their lack of elite size by playing a swarming defense that turns opponents over and springs their potent transition offense. In the half court, their guards are gifted shot makers who can hit difficult shots or create for their underrated platoon of forwards. Until a D3 team challenges

Who are the contenders: Monte Vista, Mira Mesa, La Jolla

The Monarchs gave the Eagles their closest game against D3 competition when they played them down to the wire in a 51-50 loss Nov. 20. They have underrated guard play with 5-10 Derek Sykes and 6-1 Yousif Al-Asady, and a LONG, wiry front court composed of 6-3 Dorian Fillmore and 6-4 Jalen Brown and Kemarie Jones. That length and front court size could give other teams trouble, if the Monarchs can control their emotions.

Mira Mesa is very similar to Olympian, except whereas the Eagles have three guards who can score and create, the Marauders rely on one - 5-9 Diego Ortiz, who put together an exceptional sophomore year. Surrounding him, however, are tough supporting cast mates, including 6-1 Connor Shea, who is a physically built guard who also plays football.

La Jolla has the most physically imposing guard in the division in 6-1 Michael Contreras, who is built like a linebacker and can score it from three levels. The Vikings also have a steady and unheralded point guard in Elijah Vaz who complements Contreras well. If La Jolla gets consistent production from its front court, they'll be right there.

Who are the dark horses: Westview, St. Joseph Academy/ Steele Canyon winner

Westview mollywhopped Mira Mesa earlier this year in the Del Lago championship game and also punched up in weight class by beating University City on the road. The key will be if the team gets offensive contributions outside of their potent duo of Tate Vander Walt and Lawrence Lam.

St. Joseph's has the most prolific scorer and most difficult individual matchup in the division in 5-11 G Angel Ochoa, who is averaging 35.2 points per game, good for 10th in the nation. How difficult is he to contain? Ask La Jolla, who lost 62-61 to the Crusaders in a game where Ochoa scored 38 of his team's 41 second-half points en route to the win. Or Division 1 San Diego, against whom Ochoa scored 41 points to lead the team to an overtime upset. He's that good.

Steele Canyon will counter in the 8-9 matchup with a nice blend of guard play, defense on the wings and a blossoming post prospect in 6-8 Jacob Allen, who gives the Cougars one of a handful of players who can match up with the Crusaders 6-8 big Justice Ahiafor. The question will be if standout guard Caleb Thach and sophomore defensive specialist Salim Underwood can slow Ochoa.

Who is on upset alert: Point Loma and Vincent Memorial

The Pointers were able to muster a strong stand in its final regular season game to clinch a share of the City League title with a win over Canyon Hills, but they come into the bracket battling injuries and some illness. Imperial, the 12 seed, is surging at the right time, largely due to the improved health of its star, 6-7 David Scariano, who has been recovering on the job from a severely sprained ankle. He looked almost 100 percent as the Tigers overcame early league losses to win the Imperial Valley League title. The Tigers front court could give the Pointers trouble.

Vincent Memorial gets to host a playoff game in its first season back in Division 3, but they get a tough one against a well-coached Maranatha Christian team that gets the most out of a threadbare roster. Its big three of Ezekiel Walker, Dash Ekeroth and Adrian Ownbey are three of the region's top sophomores, and they hit timely baskets and play underrated defense. If they slow the game down, they can get the road win.

Who are the players to watch?

Sammell "DJ" Humphries, So. G, Olympian - South Bay League POY is a crafty three level scorer.

Jordan "JJ" Walker, So. G, Olympian - Consummate floor general and playmaker.

Tristan Anderson, So. G, Olympian - Exciting scorer who heats up in a hurry and can kill you from midrange.

Michael Contreras, Sr. G, La Jolla - Physically strapping lefty scores from deep and through contact.

Elijah Vaz, Sr. G, La Jolla - Floor general can shoot it from deep.

Derek Sykes, Sr. G, Monte Vista - Tough, two-way guard keys the Monarchs trap defense.

Dorian Fillmore, Sr. W, Monte Vista - Junkyard dog wing is an excellent rebounder and finisher around the basket.

Yousif Al-Asady, Sr. G, Monte Vista - One of the region's unheralded perimeter shooters.

Diego Ortiz, So. G, Mira Mesa - Pound for pound one of the best scorers in the region.

Nick Freeman, Sr. W, Point Loma - Physical, positionless player can score it from each level and rebounds.

Trevor Dorris, Jr. G, Point Loma - Emerging point guard can score it and create for others.

Tate Vander Walt, Sr. G, Westview - Can heat up from deep and defends his butt off.

Lawrence Lam, So. W, Westview - Long, wiry mismatch on the perimeter and off the bounce.

Pancho Perez Tejada, Sr. PG, Vincent Memorial - Slick, savvy playmaker is a 1,000-point career scorer.

Angel Ochoa, Jr. G, St. Joseph Academy - The most dominant scorer in San Diego.

Caleb Thach, Jr. PG, Steele Canyon - Two-way point guard is the Grossmont Hills player of the year.

Alex Williams, So. G, Steele Canyon - Stocky combo guard battled injuries but put up strong scoring numbers.

Ezekiel Walker, So. G, Maranatha Christian - Automatic shooter from deep with some wiggle off the bounce.

Dash Ekeroth, So. G, Maranatha Christian - Marksman from deep who improved as a point guard.

Adrian "AD" Ownbey, So. W, Maranatha Christian - Tough matchup as a small-ball five who can handle, shoot and create.

Zay Solomon, Jr. F, Oceanside - Active and wiry forward rebounds and scores it inside and out.

Wyatt Cann, So. G, Oceanside - Lanky point guard is a flamethrower from deep.

David Scariano, Sr. F, Imperial - At 6-7, one of the top 5 shooters in the division, also averaged double-digit rebounds.

Jared Nixon, Sr. F, Imperial - Hustle man frequently was a double double threat throughout the season.

Max Mowrey-Pagano, Jr. G, Escondido Charter -Big-bodied two guard can score from deep and in the post.

Joe Scates, Jr. F, Escondido Charter - Athletic, strapping rebounder and hustle guy.

Alejandro Gonzalez, Fr. F, Escondido Charter - Provides strength and versatility at the five when locked in.

Andre Dankha, Jr. G, Granite Hills - Prolific scorer and shooter with the greenest of lights.

Lathan Fry, Jr. F, Granite Hills - Top Volleyball prospect is a tireless rebounder and improved scorer.

Jared Martin, Jr. WF, Central - One of the section's top football and baseball prospects, averaged 20 points per game in his third sport.

Jacob Camargo, Jr. G, Mission Vista - A flamethrower from deep.


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