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Santa Margarita stuffed by Damien in 3AA final
ANAHEIM – The game plan was to make Santa Margarita's best player have his worst game.
That's what Damien of La Verne did Thursday. The Spartans limited Santa Margarita's Joe Furstinger to his lowest scoring total of the season and defeated the Eagles, 54-40, in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA championship game at Anaheim Convention Center.
Furstinger, a 6-foot-8 junior averaging 17 points a game, was held to eight points. That matched his lowest points output of the season, having scored only eight points in a Trinity League loss to Servite.
Santa Margarita's season is not over. By reaching the 3AA championship game, Santa Margarita (16-15) is guaranteed a berth in the CIF Southern California Regional, the qualifying tournament for the state championships. Entries, seedings and first-round matchups will be announced Sunday and will be available at ocvarsity.com upon release.
Eagles first-year coach Jeff Reinert knew what was coming Thursday.
"Credit to Damien for keeping the ball out of Joe's hands," Reinert said. "We need Joe to score. When he doesn't, it's very difficult for us."
Santa Margarita junior point guard Devonte Klines did what he could, scoring 16 points. But he had to shoot a lot to get there, putting the ball up 20 times and making seven of them. He was not the only off-target Eagle, as the team shot 27 percent from the floor.
Klines' counterpart, Damien point guard Jeremy Hemsley, has been tabbed as one of the better sophomores in Southern California. He played like it Thursday, especially in the fourth quarter in which he scored seven of his 17 points.
"Taking over the game, that's a great thing for me," Hemsley said.
Reinert, who coached college basketball for 24 years before taking the Santa Margarita post prior to this season, was impressed by Hemsley.
"He's special," Reinert said. "If was in college again, I'd be all over him. He looked like a Pac-12 guy today."
Ayo Adedeji scored a game-high 18 points, including three 3-pointers, with 13 rebounds for Damien (25-6).
The Spartans scored the game's final 11 points after a Hicks basket trimmed the Damien advantage to 43-40.
Santa Margarita made only 1 of 13 3-point shots. The Eagles for most of the past several weeks have been without one of their better outside shooters, senior guard Austin Bennett, who was on the bench because of a stress fracture in his left foot.
Ryan Merritt of Santa Margarita scored eight points with seven rebounds. Tyler Strauss added six points for the Eagles.
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