Big holiday tournaments and high profile showcases made an undefeated season in high school boys’ basketball as rare as purple carrots.
But here we are on the eve of the San Diego CIF Section playoffs and for the first time since the Section’s formation in 1969, two teams – Torrey Pines and San Marcos – have finished the regular season undefeated.
“Torrey Pines always calls for the best teams and goes into the Premier League,” said San Ysidro coach Terry Tucker. “So it’s really hard to hold the standings there and stay undefeated. Believe me, I know that because we are asking to play in the Premier League of this tournament.
“But there hasn’t been any tournament this season, no showcase where the best teams play – and fight – against each other.
“I’m not saying Torrey Pines and San Marcos aren’t good because they’re really good, really well trained. But if you want to go undefeated, maybe this will be the year. “
Torrey Pines, ranked No. 1 in San Diego and No. 3 in the state behind Chatsworth Sierra Canyon and Santa Ana Mater Dei, is No. 1 in the San Diego Section’s Open Division playoffs and hosts Carlsbad on Friday. .
San Marcos, ranked No.2 in San Diego and No.12 in the state, is ranked No.3 in the open division and hosts El Camino on Wednesday.
All eight teams in the Open Division advance to the Southern California Regional playoffs where Sierra Canyon and Mater Dei are expected to wait. There are no state playoffs this season.
“We knew that early in the season we would have a good team,” said Torrey Pines coach John Olive. “Did we think we could go undefeated?
“That’s always the goal, but you can’t predict something like that.”
Only three teams in the San Diego Chapter finished an unbeaten season: Mount Miguel, Helix and Kearny.
Hoover was 25-0 in 1959-60 before losing 39-34 to Anaheim in the Southern Section semifinals.
With help from Rick Smith of Partleton Sports, here’s a look at the undefeated San Diego teams:
Mount Miguel (32-0, 1967-68)
The Matadors outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points, scoring over 100 points on eight occasions, including 121 against Santana and 118 against Point Loma.
Mike Ela led the team, averaging 21.4 points per game, while Ken Greeman averaged 18.5 and Blake Mathews 14.6. Dave Lower and Ken Barstow, 6ft 9in, were big factors.
Helix (33-0, 1969-70)
Bill Walton, who at the time was 6-10, and Mike Honz were the stars of a team that included Mike Dupree and John Singer.
“We had the best player to ever play in San Diego,” said Singer, who later coached at Helix, winning 741 games. “Bill was so much better than everyone else. He was the best at covering up a teammate’s mistakes.
“But that wasn’t all Bill. Dupree could really play and Honz (who played one season at San Diego State) was a very active 6-4 guy. We were loaded with 6-7 guys.
“When you have the best player and you surround him with other really good players, you have a chance to be pretty damn good.”
Singer was coaching the Helix Girls when the Highlanders went 28-0, winning the San Diego Section 2A title with a 41-40 victory over Patrick Henry in the Championship game.
His 1982-83 men’s team was 28-1 before losing 51-50 to Morse in the San Diego Section 3A title game.
Kearny (32-0, 1973-74)
The Komets beat their opponents by 21 points on average. The team was led by the transfer of Poway Rick Taylor, Mark Hoaglin, who was 6-8 and continued to play football at Stanford, Greg Ashbaugh, Donald Page and Alan Rhodes.
Kearny also went undefeated in football that season, going 12-0-1 with Don Norcross in quarterback.
“They were a great basketball team, a very diverse team,” said Rhodes, who played at USIU. “We weren’t very close to the ground. We were friends and everything, but we didn’t hang out much.
“On the pitch, however, we worked for a common goal. Rick Taylor was the leader, a guy we could count on. He led the attack, very disciplined, did not make mistakes.
Taylor continued to play at Arizona State and played professionally in Europe.
The Komets had to survive a triple overtime against San Diego High to remain undefeated.
“The next time we played them we won by 40,” said Rhodes. “We had a lot of guys who played at a very high level.”
The singer said he was especially happy to see Torrey Pines and San Marcos having success.
“It’s nice to see great teams from public schools,” Singer said. “Torrey Pines in particular has a great program, a great feeding system with kids moving through the system.
“It’s such a strange time with some teams playing a lot of games and some less.”
The teams were treated to 28 regular season games. Torrey Pines and San Marcos are almost at the limit.
Torrey Pines has seven wins against Top 10 ranked teams in San Diego. Additionally, the Falcons beat Corona Centennial, who is ranked No.5 in the state.
The Falcons are led by Saint Mary’s-linked Nick Herrmann, Chris Howell, Otto Landrum, Diego Campisano, Nate Witte, Logan Houston and Cameron Klein.
San Marcos, who typically takes a vacation trip to Hawaii for a tournament, has four top 10 team wins.
The Knights are led by junior Devon Arlington, who has many scholarship offers, Chris Littleton, Jeric Lovgren, sniper Evan Record, Max McCall and Nic Ianniciello.
“We thought we would be pretty good,” Arlington said. “But no one saw it coming. We’re going to keep pushing and see if we can write history.