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San Marcos gets critical win; No. 1 seed in Open Playoffs? The FTH Top 25

All year, we've talked about the dominance of Saint Augustine and how essentially it was the Saints versus the field.

But it's time to turn a keen eye to the resume - and the legitimacy - of San Marcos as a prime contender for the CIF Open Division title.

Saturday, the Knights bolstered their case with a 67-61 win over San Ysidro in the nightcap of the Battle at the Bay (an event which I couldn't attend as I was out of town), pushing their record to 20-4 overall.

Their four losses come to teams with a combined 74-18 record; including a loss in the season opener to highly regarded Southern Section team Heritage Christian and a loss in the Tarkanian Classic to Utah's top team, Bingham.

This raises the question: Are the Knights the favorites in the upcoming Open Division playoffs?

In my opinion, St. Augustine is still the favorites, but as I've said all year, the gap between No. 1 and No. 2 isn't as far as some seem to believe it is. The Knights have arguably the player of the year in San Diego in Devon Arlington (more about him later), and play a stifling halfcourt defense.

For Knights fans who argue they are the top team, they currently are No. 1 where it counts: They sit atop the Maxpreps Division 1 standings, which the section uses for playoff seeding purposes.

Here's this week's Top 25

1 . St. Augustine (18-7) - Wrapped up the Western League championship with wins over Mission Bay and San Diego, with big rivalry game vs Cathedral looming on Tuesday.

2. San Marcos (20-4) - Must take care of business against Westview to set up winner-takes-league rivalry game against Mission Hills on Friday (if Grizzlies can beat Poway this week)

3. La Costa Canyon (18-5) - Mavs final two games are critical: Home vs Carlsbad Tuesday and a rivalry game against Torrey Pines Friday. Win both, they'll share the Coastal NC title.

4. Torrey Pines (19-5) - Wins over CCA, Carlsbad and Parker last week set up a two-game homestand to finish the regular season. Win both, and the Falcons will claim the undefeated Coastal NC title.

5. Mission Hills (19-6) - Dominant win over San Diego at the Battle At the Bay. If the Grizzlies beat Poway at home, they'll host San Marcos for a chance at a share of the Palomar League title.

6. San Ysidro (17-7) - A busy week for the Cougars, with four league games in five days to wrap up the regular season. Three of the Cougars losses this year are two the No. 1, 2 and 3 teams in this week's rankings by a combined 13 points.

7. Mission Bay (18-7) - Bucs have a tough road two-step this league against Western League rivals Cathedral Catholic and San Diego. Dominant win over Mater Dei Catholic in the Battle at the Bay.

8. Cathedral Catholic (18-8) - Dons looking to finish second in Western League with games against Saints and Mission Bay after a big win over La Jolla Country Day at the Battle at the Bay.

9. Carlsbad (16-10) - Overwhelming win over Santa Fe Christian at the BATB sets up big week for Lancers against LCC and Canyon Crest.

10. Santa Fe Christian (18-9) - Deflating loss vs Carlsbad detracted from huge win vs Francis Parker that put them in control of their destiny for the outright Coastal League title. A win versus Country Day Tuesday seals it.

11. Francis Parker (14-6) - Wraps up second place in Coastal with a win over Orange Glen at home Tuesday.

12. Del Norte (17-6) - Already sealed 3rd place finish in Palomar League, Nighthawks could go into the playoffs with momentum with wins over RB and Westview this week.

13. Montgomery (19-6) - Win over Helix at the BATB sets up a critical game against upstart Otay Ranch on Monday.

14. San Dieguito Academy (16-6) - Surprising Mustangs can wrap up outright Avocado League title with win over Sage Creek Tuesday.

15. La Jolla Country Day (16-8) - Torreys get chance to stay in hunt for second place in the Coastal with game against SFC on Tuesday.

16. San Diego (15-10) - Cavers struggle in loss to Mission Hills at BATB, face Mission Bay, Hoover and Coronado to wrap up regular season.

17. Hoover (16-8) -Cardinals loss to University City sets up critical week for Cardinals against La Jolla and Mira Mesa for Eastern League title.

18. Otay Ranch (15-9) - Huge win vs Mater Dei Catholic has vaulted Mustangs into an improbable position: they'll finish at least .500 in the Mesa League, regardless of this week's results.

19. Mater Dei Catholic (14-9) - Thumped by Otay and Mission Bay in the BATB, Crusaders must beat Montgomery and San Ysidro on the road to secure second-place finish in league.

20. Orange Glen (18-8) - Righted the ship a bit with wins against Army Navy and Foothills Christian

21. Patrick Henry (14-11) -Surging Patriots in control of City League destiny with key game against Scripps Ranch on Tuesday

22. Scripps Ranch (18-8) - Falcons need win over Patrick Henry to key hope of Eastern League title alive

23. Madison (17-8) - Sunday's improbable loss to High Tech threw wrench in league title hopes

24. Sage Creek (14-9) - Bobcats reenter the Top 25 with a chance to claim a share of the Avocado title, but have work to do.

24. Mt. Carmel (16-8) - Sundevils running away with Valley League race

Team of the Week

San Dieguito Academy

The Mustangs are riding an 11-game winning streak and haven't been challenged during that stretch, winning by an average margin of 22 points. At 7-0 in league, they are looking for an undefeated run through the Avocado League.

Player of the Week

Devon Arlington, Sr. G, San Marcos (pictured on cover)

With his 40-point performance against Rancho Bernardo and 18-point game against Del Norte, Arlington eclipsed Johnny McWilliams to become the Knights all-time leading scorer. He added 18 points in an important 67-61 win over San Ysidro in the Batlte at the Bay. Arlington is up to 1,985 career points, well on his way to eclipsing the 2,000 point barrier for his career.

Plays of the Week

High Tech High stuns Madison

After Jake Jackson's huge dunk gave Madison a 58-57 lead with under 10 second remaining, the Warhawks appeared poised to get a key road win and control of its destiny in the cluttered Eastern League. But senior guard Luke Beesley nailed this near-halfcourt heave to give the Storm the 60-58 win. High Tech at 12-11 has been one of the biggest surprises in the section this season.

Steele Canyon hits insane buzzer beater to even up league race with Monte Vista

The Cougars, having already dropped a game to the Monarchs last week, needed a miracle to get a home win against their league rivals to even up the league standings - and they got one.

AZ Simpson fed fellow senior Camrien Hunt, who drilled a baseline three pointer at the buzzer to give the Cougars the 50-48 win and a share of the Grossmont Valley League lead at 6-1.


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