Santa Barbara forward Owen Debusk drives to the rim through contact. | Credit: Lily Chubb

A packed JR Richards Gymnasium was electric, and the Santa Barbara High boys’ basketball team embraced the moment against arch rival San Marcos.

The Dons started the game strong and withstood a second-half surge by the visiting Royals to claim a 63-50 victory on Friday night.

“The guys executed the defensive game plan in the first half. We did something that we hadn’t done yet this year and it worked, frustrated them and took them out of sync offensively,” said Santa Barbara High coach Corey Adam.“ To their credit, [San Marcos] bounced back and came out strong in the second half.”

Santa Barbara dominated from the start holding San Marcos to just three field goals in the first quarter to take a 17-6 lead into the second period. 

Carter Battle spearheaded the defensive effort with a stellar effort disrupting the San Marcos attack, picking up several steals in the process.

“He’s only a sophomore. I know Luke (Zuffelato) gets a lot more publicity and deservedly so with his scoring and he’s also a fabulous defender, but Carter is a “Robin” and you couldn’t ask for a better Batman and Robin especially as sophomores. They’re special and we’re pretty lucky to have them.”

Zuffelato led all scorers with 22 points, including nine in the fourth quarter.

A backdoor cut by Battle and contested layup off a nice pass by Tobin Shyrock increased the Santa Barbara lead to 26-8 with 4:55 remaining in the second quarter and forced a San Marcos timeout.

“That’s all Tobin, he calls it every time and we have great team chemistry with that,” Battle said.“We always know when he’s going to throw that back door and we just always commit to it. It works a lot.”

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After trailing 35-16 at halftime, San Marcos came out with renewed vigor in the third quarter and outscored Santa Barbara 18-9. Micah Jacobi scored all eight of his points in the third quarter and the Royals picked up the intensity on the defensive end.

“I think everyone just wanted to do so well from the start that we got away from who we are and what we were trying to do. The execution wasn’t sharp,” said San Marcos coach James Kinzler. “At halftime we just said forget everything else let’s just leave that one behind. We weren’t ready, but let’s just try to come out and execute.”

A basket inside by Jacobi cut the San Marcos deficit to 44-34 with 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter. 

A driving layup by Andre McCullough trimmed the San Marcos deficit to 49-42 with 5:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, but that’s as close as the Royals would get.

A three-pointer by Zuffelato increased the Santa Barbara lead to 57-45 with 2:12 remaining in the game and the Dons went on to close out the game from the free-throw line.

Cate, 59; Villanova Prep, 45

The Rams won their fifth consecutive game ahead of a showdown with first place St. Bonaventure on Monday.

Cate enjoyed a balanced attack offensively with Tyler Martinez and Jengus Ercil scoring 17 points and Babacar Pouye adding 15 points.

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