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Thomas Hague from the Sage Hills Boys Varsity Basketball team dribbles the basketball around Troy Whiteto from the St. Monica's Boys Varsity Basketball team inside the gym located on the campus of St. Monica's on Wednesday February 16 2010 as ST. Monica's hosted Sage in the first round of the Southern Section DIvision 5AA boys basketball playoffs and won 68-54 to advance on to the second round (photo by Morgan Genser)

ST. MONICA — St. Monica’s boys’ basketball team rode a strong second half surge to a 68-54 victory over Newport Beach Sage Hill in the first round of the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division 5AA playoffs Wednesday on campus.

Sage Hill was able to stay in the game through the first half, trailing 34-29 at the intermission, but St. Monica, led by Troy Whiteto’s 18 points, was able to pull away in the third quarter.

“We clamped down defensively,” Head Coach Khi-Min Jung said. “We had good energy.”

Jung, in his first year, said that he wasn’t happy with the way his team allowed Sage HIll’s Mark Loper to find open shots en route to scoring a game-high 24 points. After a few half-time adjustments, the Mariners were able to stifle the guard during the second half.

For Sage Hill head coach Jeff Beeler, he was just happy to be in the playoffs. Qualifying as an at-large team after a 2-8 Academy League regular season, he told his team that they were playing with “house money,” but their luck didn’t continue.

While upset that his team didn’t fare better during the second half, he did applaud a St. Monica team he feels could advance deep into the postseason.

“They are tough,” he said of the Mariners. “They could surprise a few teams.”

The Mariners’ will get that opportunity tonight at Santa Maria St. Joseph. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m.

St. Monica’s Jung has a simple formula for keeping this playoff run going.

“We just have to keep playing as a team,” he said. “I’m proud of what we’ve done, I hope we can keep this going.”

daniela@smdp.com

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