SOLANA BEACH — After missing two of his team’s playoff games due to a concussion, Santa Fe Christian senior forward Matt Stevenson said he wanted to make up for lost time in the CIF Division 1 championship game against El Camino.
Did he ever.
Stevenson scored 21 of his game high 24 points in the second half, and the Eagles upended the top-seeded Wildcats 63-52 to capture their second straight Division 1 title.
Stevenson opened the third quarter scoring eight straight points, including three on backdoor layups. He also hit two threes in the second half, when the Eagles pulled away from the Wildcats.
“Coach (Chad Bickley) brought us into the locker room and said that we had to pick it up if we wanted to win the game,” Stevenson said. “I came out with a will to win, I think.”
Santa Fe Christian led the game 24-22 at halftime when Stevenson started his scoring outburst in the opening minutes of the third quarter with a backdoor layup.
He then added another layup after a three from freshman Trevan Martin, and then scored as he stole the ensuing inbound. He then added four more layups to stretch the Eagles lead to 44-34 late in the third quarter.
By the time he had completed his scoring binge, Santa Fe Christian led 49-37 and did not look back.
Defensively, the Eagles held El Camino to 36 percent shooting and forced them into 16 turnovers. Stevenson said the coaches stressed cutting off the dribble penetration by the Wildcats guards, including senior Jalen Flanagan.
“They are a good team, so coach told us we needed to get into the gaps, which is tough because they are a really good driving team,” Stevenson said. “But I think we did a good job in the second half.”
Flanagan led El Camino with 21 points, but only shot 8-25 from the field. Junior RJ Davis scored 16 for the Wildcats, including four three-point field goals.
Stevenson’s fellow seniors, Spencer Rydin and Jack McRoskey, also had big games for the Eagles. Rydin scored 12 points (all on threes) and Jack McRoskey added a near triple double, 9 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists for the Eagles.
For the Eagles, the road to the second straight Division 1 title was not easy. The team entered the playoffs at 16-11 and 7-5 in the ever-tough Coastal League.
Stevenson said that the team’s schedule prepared them for their deep playoff run.
“He loaded our schedule with amazing teams and so many different styles of basketball,” Stevenson said. “I think that really prepared us for this.”