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Challenging stretch of games have paid off for San Juan Hills boys basketball 

Members of the San Juan Hills boys basketball team work on ball handling and passing drills during a high school basketball practice in San Juan Capistrano, Jan. 10, 2022. San Juan Hills is coming off a tough stretch of games against Aliso Niguel and Mater Dei. (Ryan Kuhn,

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — The San Juan Hills boys basketball team has finally been able to take a breath. 

This past week was no easy task.

The Stallions played Aliso Niguel and Mater Dei back to back on Friday and Saturday night.  

But coach Jason Efstathiou said a challenging few days has paid off.

“It’s important to play a tough schedule to get ready for league and the big games we had,” Efstathiou said. 

San Juan Hills currently holds its highest Orange County ranking in the program’s history, following a 54-52 win over Aliso Niguel. The win puts the Stallions sit atop the Sea View League tied with Dana Hills.

They weren’t able to upset Mater Dei the next night, but there were times they kept the game competitive. 

“It was good to see the competition that a team like Mater Dei brings having 6-10 or 6-8 guys,” Efstathiou said, despite losing 72-59. 

Now, Stallions coaching staff want to focus on keep getting better. Complacency is not in their vocabulary. 

“”We have to continue to get better and win even during practice,” Efstathiou said.

Spark off the bench

San Juan Hills has consistently been led by the senior trio of Mark Reichner, John McFadden and Jacob Simon.

And all three have had times where they step into the spotlight.

Last Saturday against Mater Dei, it was Simon who finished with 19 points and shot 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point line. 

During Friday’s game against Aliso Niguel it was Reichner with 12 points. 

Prior to that McFadden has put together multiple 20-point games whether it be against Mission Viejo or Edison. 

But another senior that has been a spark off the bench has been Thomas Hattan. 

San Juan Hills senior guard Thomas Hattan drives to the basket during a high school basketball game at the Diablo Inferno Tournament in Mission Viejo, Nov. 30, 2021. Hattan has been a spark off the bench for the Stallions this season. (Ryan Kuhn, File)

“Thomas it our heart,” McFadden said. “He brings in the energy and is the key to this team right now.

Hattan has only started a few games this season, but he has relished his role as the sixth man. 

“I know I’m the guy that can give some instant offense off the bench and energy defensively,” Hattan said. “It’s my job to get that defense to work in sync.”

With Hattan, Simon, McFadden and Reichner combining to score 75 percent of the offense, the Stallions have shown depth is important. Any one of them are able to put together a big game. 

“It helps us because on a game like Friday where we got in foul trouble, it can change the way we play,” Efstathiou said. “Having depth is important.”

Next up

San Juan Hills plays just one game this week, traveling to El Toro on Friday. 

The Chargers haven’t had the most success this season with just four wins but Efstathiou knows he can’t take any league opponent for granted. 

This was the same team that almost defeated San Juan Hills at home last spring. 

“They are tough because they always play hard and their coach always has them prepared,” Efstathiou said. “It’s going to be a good game.” 

Ryan was born and raised in Dana Point went to Dana Hills High School. He graduated from Sacramento State University with a BA in Journalism. Throughout his career as a sports journalist, he has covered high schools, colleges, and professional teams. After working for multiple newspapers in as many states, he came to the conclusion that what he really wanted was to make sure the high schools in his hometown area got the sports coverage they deserved. Follow him on Twitter @rskuhn

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