SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Minutes after Sage Hill School suffered its most lopsided loss of the season, Coach Jeff Beeler joked with a reporter.
"Do you have to write about it?" said Beeler, who smiled, probably the only time on Saturday night as the Lightning lost at St. Margaret's, 75-42, in an Academy League boys' basketball game.
The setback kept Sage Hill in a two-way tie for third place in league. Whitney, the team Sage Hill shares the league's final automatic CIF Southern Section playoff berth with, also lost.
That was the best news for the Lightning (10-13, 3-5 in league) during the evening. As for the contest against a rival, it turned out to be a laugher after the opening quarter.
At one point, Sage Hill actually led by as many as seven points. The second quarter usually gives Beeler's team troubles. The issues for Sage Hill came sooner than that.
The Tartans closed out the first quarter on a 10-0 run and took a three-point lead into the second. Once the second quarter began, they didn't stop or look back as the Tartans (17-7, 7-1) stayed one game back of first-place Brethren Christian.
St. Margaret's outscored the visitors, 26-4, in the final 9 minutes 44 seconds of the first half. The only shot Sage Hill managed to convert during the stretch was a layup by Tyler Hague, who was fouled on the play.
Hague actually had three of the team's four points in the second quarter, the third coming at the free-throw line, where he completed a three-point play.
"I wish I could put my finger on it," Beeler said as to why Sage Hill tends to struggle in the second quarter of games.
He brought up the team's lack of experience. The team is young, only two players, Jack Williamson and Darren Chen, had varsity experience before the season. Williamson was the lone Sage Hill player in double figures against the Tartans, finishing with 15 points.
Despite the youth, the Lightning began league play with two victories. Since then, Sage Hill has dropped five of six in league.
With one week of games left, Sage Hill is going to have to grow up in a hurry if it plans to lock up the league's third and final guaranteed postseason berth.
"So what we have to do is finish strong and beat Oxford Academy, [which] we should beat at home," Beeler said of Sage Hill's opponent on Tuesday. "Hopefully what happens is we end up playing in a tiebreaker for third on Friday."
Beeler left out one of Sage Hill's games, the one at home Thursday against Brethren Christian, which is undefeated in league. There's a big reason why Beeler said he's not looking forward to that matchup.
"Last time they didn't have Mamadou [Ndiaye]," Beeler said of the Warriors' 7-foot-5 center. "This time they will and he's playing well right now."
St. Margaret's doesn't have someone as imposing as Ndiaye, yet it pounded the Lightning. Brent Cahill worked inside, scoring 17 points, and David Nissenoff burned Sage Hill from the outside with five three-pointers, giving him 15 points.
The Tartans now get to play host to Ndiaye, who's bound for UC Irvine, on Tuesday. They have to take down the Warriors for a chance to split the league title. That game might be worth writing about.
St. Margaret's 75, Sage Hill 42