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The San Dieguito Academy Mustangs celebrate after winning the Mayor’s Division Crown in the Under Armour Holiday Classic last week against Moreno Valley. Photo courtesy Jason Stewart
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San Dieguito Academy basketball breaks championship drought

REGION — It has been a long time since San Dieguito Academy has had something to cheer about in basketball.

But the Mustangs and Head Coach Jason Stewart scored a major breakthrough last week, winning the Mayor’s Division of the prestigious Under Armour Holiday Classic, the team’s first major tournament title in recent memory.

The Mustangs defeated Moreno Valley 61-46 to capture the crown in the smallest of the tournament’s five divisions. Sophomore guard Yarin Arbib was named Most Valuable Player.

“The Under Armour tournament is a prestigious tournament drawing teams from all over the country,” Stewart said. “To have our name etched in tournament history is an honor that this team worked hard for.”

San Dieguito defeated Santa Clara and Fallbrook to advance to the finals where they faced one of the state’s leading scorers, Moreno Valley senior Devlin Adams, who averages 30.2 points per game.

Stewart said that the team knew that stopping Adams was unlikely, so the team collectively worked to make him work for his scoring. Adams finished with 20 points, 10 off of his average.

“It was a team effort on defense,” Stewart said. “DJ is a phenomenal scorer, definitely better than most. We respected that and did the best we could.”

Throughout the tournament, the pronoun “we” and the term “team” exemplified the Mustangs approach. Players each took turns standing out for the team, including Arbib, senior guard Devin Gaan, sophomore forward Travis Snider and junior forward James Bert.

“We were pretty well balanced in our attack,” Stewart said. “Our strength is in our numbers.”

Moving forward, Stewart said the tournament title gives the Mustangs a boost of confidence moving into league play in one of toughest leagues in San Diego, the Avocado West League.

The Mustangs (7-8) play two cross-league games against Del Norte and Rancho Buena Vista before hosting Torrey Pines to open league play on Jan. 17.

“The Avo West is tremendous,” Stewart said. “Torrey Pines is having another big year with the big man in the center (senior Jake Gilliam) and his complementary pieces around him. CCA (Canyon Crest Academy) has one of the best three-point threats in all of San Diego County (senior guard Ryan Michaels), LCC (La Costa Canyon competed extremely well in the Under Armour Tournament…Carlsbad just upset a very well respected La Jolla team and Sage Creek’s team has been together all four years.

“Every team is good and well prepared. Our goal is to compete to try and get a top spot to get a decent bid into the D3 playoffs,” Stewart said.