SAN DIEGO — In a game full of ebb and flow, the St. Augustine High School boys' basketball team finally found the flow and stayed with it to defeat University of San Diego High, 68-49, Wednesday night.
With the home-court victory, St. Augustine (7-17, 1-9 City Central League) moved into a semifinal meeting Friday night at Ramona (13-15, 8-6 Avocado League) in the six-team Division III boys' playoffs. USDHS finished the season 7-16, 3-7 (City Western).
St. Augustine held USDHS to five points in the fourth quarter to break open a tight game.
"In the end, it was our defense that won it," said Doug Carter, the Saints' senior forward. "We played really good defense."
Carter played good offense, too.
The 10th-leading scorer in San Diego County with a 21.2 average, Carter had 23, including three three-pointers.
"Every time you play them, it's tough. You can't let down," Carter said. "They played tough defense. When I was able to get the ball, it wasn't going in, but it finally started to fall."
Carter struggled through most of the first quarter but hit a three-pointer with 50 seconds left to help St. Augustine take a 17-12 lead.
"I think Doug was a little excited and took some shots early that took us out of what we wanted to do," said Dick Hardick, the Saints' coach.
Carter scored six consecutive points, and Bryan Cantwell converted on a three-point play to help St. Augustine build its lead to 17 points, 31-14, halfway through the second quarter.
But USDHS then began the first of its comebacks.
Holding the Saints scoreless the rest of the period, the Dons ran off 15 consecutive points to draw to within two, 31-29, at halftime.
John Montali laid in two quick baskets and Laurie Massa added a three-pointer to key the rally.
"Their defense took us out of our offense," Hardick said. "We weren't getting our screens set. We made some adjustments at halftime and starting setting some picks underneath to get our wing men open."
The adjustments worked early in the second half as St. Augustine quickly jumped back to a 44-33 lead. Mike Mossuto worked inside for four points, and Carter hit from outside for five to lead the surge.
But once again, the Dons battled back.
Anthony Massa helped with a three-point play, and Laurie Massa added another two points to bring USDHS back to within two, 46-44.
Carter cut off the rally with a three-pointer with 45 seconds remaining in the third, and Mark Strawbridge added another basket from inside to give the Saints some breathing room heading into the final quarter.
They didn't need it, thanks to defensive pressure that took USDHS out of its running game.
"The only time they were able to do anything was when they got it out on the break," Hardick said. "We were able to cut that off."
Mossuto was tough inside in the fourth period, scoring 7 to finish with 20. Bryan Cantwell added 11 for St. Augustine.
Laurie Massa led the Dons with 15 points. Sophomore Peter Ellis had 9.