At a chance meeting prior to a March football game, San Marcos High boys basketball coach Dante Carey said his Knights had a chance to be pretty good.
He had no idea things would fall into place and his No. 2-ranked Knights would run the table, beat archrival Mission Hills twice, including 84-39 Friday night at San Marcos, and finish the season unbeaten.
“I have had a good teams, but I’ve never had one that’s as close as this group,” Carey said. “They genuinely like each other.
“Honestly, I’ll try to sub and a kid will say someone else is playing better, put him in. That doesn’t happen.”
Friday’s win was the 295th in Carey’s 15 seasons at San Marcos. He had one losing season, going 10-15 in 2006-07 — his first year.
The Knights have had eight 20-win seasons under Carey, including a 26-4 campaign in 2014-15, and now 24-0 this season with a 10-0 Palomar League season.
“There’s a reason they’re 24-0,” said Mission Hills coach Curtis Hofmeister. “They’re very good. They play together. They play hard. They play a funky 2-3 defense and it gives teams trouble.”
Seventh-ranked Mission Hills (16-7, 7-3) shocked the Knights early, leading 12-6 midway through the first quarter.
It was all San Marcos after that as the Knights went on a 16-0 run to lead by 10 and pushed that run to 35-8 to lead 41-20 at the half.
A 35-14 third quarter blitz, which include 12 Mission Hills turnovers, and the clock was running in the fourth quarter.
“At the beginning of the season we knew we had a special group,” said Devon Arlington, San Marcos’ leading scorer. “And obviously, the goal is to go undefeated. But you I never thought that would happen. Coach pushes us in practices and we love it.
“This group is so together. We’re a family, and we take a lot of pride in that.”
Arlington, a junior, finished with 23 points. Junior guard Evan Record also had 23, hitting seven 3-point shots — four in the third quarter.
San Marcos had 16 3-point baskets.
Justin White led Mission Hills with 11 points.
San Marcos’ defense forced 25 Mission Hills turnovers.
Both teams figure to be in the eight-team Open Division when the playoffs are seeded Saturday morning.
There is a chance they could meet again in the first round of the playoffs Wednesday. All eight Open Division teams advanced to the Southern California playoffs.
In the girls game, Mission Hills overcame a fourth-quarter deficit and edged San Marcos 45-40 to finish 10-0 in league play and move to 20-5 overall. Jessica Grant led Mission Hills with 24 points while Mikeala Daza added. 11.
San Marcos (11-7, 5-5) was led by Megan Roberts’ 14 points.