It hardly seemed like the championship game of a holiday basketball tournament. In fact, at times, it hardly seemed like a basketball game. Nonetheless, top-ranked Santa Margarita won its ninth consecutive game and its second tournament title in three weeks with a 55-23 drubbing of Encinitas La Costa Canyon Tuesday night in Carlsbad.
The Eagles (9-0) actually played some respectable basketball for a half, but they snoozed through the second half, scoring only 23 points in the last 16 minutes.
"The second half, I don't know what we were doing," Santa Margarita Coach Jerry DeBusk said.
La Costa Canyon, a two-year-old school, entered its tournament with a 1-3 record and finished at 4-4. The Mavericks are coached by former Cypress Coach Tom Gorrell, who might have wished he had stayed in Orange County for this one.
La Costa made only seven field goals all night and never penetrated Santa Margarita's 2-3 zone defense. Most of its shots were heaves from well beyond the three-point line or off-balance, medium range jump shots.
"It's so frustrating because they're so good," Gorrell said. "It wasn't a fast-paced game. But they're just so disciplined and so well-coached. They're the type of team we hope to be someday."
In the first quarter, Santa Margarita played like a team that might score 100 points. The Eagles threw crisp passes, moved well without the ball and hit open jump shots. Junior forward Kelly Kramer was a spark off the bench, scoring nine of his game-high 11 in the first half.
Santa Margarita led, 20-5, after a quarter, but began to unravel in the second quarter, scoring only 12 points on five-of-19 shooting.
"The tempo was theirs and we kind of got lulled into it," DeBusk said. "I don't know if the kids were thinking about two days off and Christmas. I don't know. I'm dealing with 17- and 18-year old kids."
At one point in the second half, DeBusk became so disgusted he called a timeout to challenge his players' "competitive drive."
"I told them you're not playing the way you've played for eight games," he said. "But we still won the tournament and that was our goal from the start."