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San Dieguito Academy Mustangs boys basketball team
San Dieguito Academy's historic basketball season ended on Tuesday night after a 64-59 loss to Viewpoint School in the opening round of the CIF State Division III tournament in Calabasas. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram
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Mustangs’ magical run ends with first-round loss in state tournament

ENCINITAS — The San Dieguito Academy boys basketball team’s historic season came to an end Tuesday night near Los Angeles, but the program’s story is far from over.

After winning the CIF championship, the Mustangs traveled to Calabasas on Tuesday night to play Viewpoint School Patriots in the opening round of the CIF State Division III tournament.

Despite a spirited comeback after trailing the Patriots early in the game, San Dieguito was unable to overcome foul trouble during a physical matchup and was knocked out of the state tournament after falling to Viewpoint, 64-59.

The Mustangs finish the season 20-8 as Avocado League and CIF San Diego Section champions, achievements not realized in nearly six decades.

“I thought this was going to be a battle, and it was,” Mustangs head coach Jason Stewart told The Coast News. “The reality is we got really strong minutes out of our bench while we were in that foul situation with some of our starters but unfortunately it was just too late by the time I was able to get them back into the game.”

San Dieguito Academy boys basketball coach Jason Stewart holds the CIF championship trophy after the Mustangs beat Scripps Ranch last week in San Marcos.
San Dieguito Academy boys basketball coach Jason Stewart holds the CIF championship trophy after the Mustangs defeated Scripps Ranch last week in San Marcos. The Mustangs historic season earned them an invitation to the state tournament. Photo by Bill Slane

Stewart was forced to say goodbye to a senior core of players, including Owen Isachsen, Jackson Garner, Zach Joelson, but it was the underclassmen who had the most to say following the loss.

“Our seniors have blazed a trail this year in so many ways,” Stewart said. “When the underclassmen spoke about them after the game it wasn’t just about the stuff on the court. They really talked about how they interacted on campus and what the interactions were in the locker room. Just the leadership from a social standpoint.”

The returning underclassmen will have major shoes to fill next year if the team will look to improve upon the success of this season. Aside from losing players like Isachsen, Garner and Joelson, who have played for the Mustangs all four years, San Dieguito will also lose James and John Hapgood, whose spectacular play helped the team make program history after the twin brothers transferred from La Jolla Country Day.

The Mustangs’ success this season was unlike anything the school has seen since the school last won its CIF section in 1965. At the start of the postseason, students, parents and alumni gave the team their full support, and the Mustangs will look to earn that support again next season.

Jackson Garner, a senior on the San Dieguito Academy boys basketball team practices free throws during practice last month. Garner, along with several other seniors, will not return next year.
Jackson Garner, a senior at San Dieguito Academy, practices his free throws during basketball practice last month. Garner and several other team leaders will not return next year due to graduation. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram

“This group has achieved so much. What I can tell is that every year the group who is coming up is trying to excel with regards to their predecessor,” Stewart said. “With that said, these guys got the bug. We’ll see because every year is a brand new team with different components and different thought processes.”

The school’s junior varsity program also had great success this year after winning a league title of its own following a 16-6 season, so the future of the San Dieguito Academy boys basketball program appears to be bright.

Stewart, who coached at Santa Fe Christian prior to joining the Mustangs in 2014, appears fully committed to continuing to build the culture of athletic success at San Dieguito.

“I am a Mustang, in my opinion indefinitely,” Stewart said. “What we’ve accomplished in the last eight years and particularly this year will never be erased from history and I’m here as long as this works out for myself and my family. I do feel a special relationship to the city of Encinitas.”