Mt. Carmel, the "other" boys' high school basketball team in the Palomar League, cast a rather substantial shadow of its own Wednesday with a 71-49 rout of Santana, the defending Division I champion.
Mt. Carmel has played the season obscured by top-ranked Torrey Pines and third-ranked Poway despite tying Poway for second in the Palomar League. The ninth-ranked Sundevils are the sixth-seeded team in Division I, while Poway is the top-seeded team and Torrey Pines is seeded No. 1 in Division II.
Mt. Carmel (17-8) advanced to the quarterfinals to play Monte Vista, the fourth-seeded Grossmont 3-A League champion that defeated Chula Vista, 64-40, Wednesday. Santana was the second-place team in the Grossmont 2-A League.
"I feel we have one of the better teams in the county," said Mike Graves, who had 15 points for Mt. Carmel. "I think we are at our peak.
"(The team) has been out together talking about what we need to do to get the (finals). We considered this kind of a stepping stone."
Last season, the Sundevils were tripped up by Santana in the semifinals, and the Sultans went on to defeat Morse in the championship game. This time, Mt. Carmel got off on the right foot, showing Santana an early exit.
"I was very worried coming into this game," said John Marincovich, Mt. Carmel's coach. "I was very concerned about playing them because John Boboff is a very good coach, and I hadn't seen them play; all we had was a half a game on film."
Marincovich's mind was put at ease early. Mt. Carmel never trailed and was never really threatened after pulling out to a 15-6 lead.
Santana (14-10) was within 8-6 after a pair of free throws by center Dean Thrall, but Mt. Carmel scored seven consecutive points. Santana trailed, 31-24, with 1:45 remaining in the first half and had a chance to pull closer, but the Sultans were called for a technical foul after two warnings for pushing.
Graves made one of the free throws with 19 seconds left, and Shane Knight scored from 15 feet with 2 seconds remaining to give Mt. Carmel a 34-24 lead at halftime.
The Sundevils put the game away in the third quarter behind Knight, who is 6-feet-7. Mt. Carmel led, 41-28, before outscoring Santana, 8-3. The four baskets were scored inside, and Knight had three.
Knight proved an intimidating force, scoring 16 points and blocking seven shots to give him 99 for the season. He also had seven rebounds. Thrall led Santana with 24 points, and Matt Panebianco, the lone starter from last year's championship team, had 15 for the Sultans.
"We would of had to do everything correctly to win this game," said John Boboff, Santana coach. "We didn't get back on defense, and we had a lot of turnovers. And the turnovers were not under a lot of pressure."