Mater Dei tops L.B. Poly in CIFSS final

Mater Dei standouts Xavier Johnson (left) and Jordan Strawberry (right) spread out on the floor with CIFSS title plaque in between. Mark Tennis/ESPNHS

According to Cal-Hi Sports record book, school’s 21st section title also ties state record. Barring a regional upset or strange seeding, the Monarchs and Jackrabbits could meet again in the D1 South championship with trip to state title game on the line. Other winners in CIFSS finals on Saturday in Anaheim include Orange Lutheran, Alemany, Mayfair, Pasadena and Inglewood.

Going into the highly-anticipated CIF Southern Section Division I-AA final between state No. 1 Mater Dei of Santa Ana, the defending state champions, and No. 2 Long Beach Poly, the defending CIFSS Div. I-AA champ, Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight felt rebounding was the key.

The veteran coach also wanted to devise a game plan to slow down Poly junior forward Roschon Prince, who'd been on an offensive tear as of late. Mater Dei, behind the supreme effort of senior forward Xavier Johnson, won the rebounding battle (44-32) and came away with a 63-59 victory.

With the win, Mater Dei has won 21 section titles, which ties a state record. All have come under McKnight, the state's all-time leader in coaching victories, with the first in 1983. Long Beach Poly has 19 section titles in boys' basketball in its illustrious history. Two other schools also with 21 section titles in boys hoops are both from the CIF Central Section – Edison of Fresno (last title in 2009) and Washington Union of Easton (last title in 2011). Neither Edison or Washington won section titles this weekend.

"There have been historic battles between these two schools going back to 1983 and 1984 when we split the first two, in 1990 when my longtime assistant Jason Quinn hit that miracle shot, and last year when we came out of nowhere," McKnight said. "This is played up as a showdown between No. 1 and No. 2, but whose to say whose No. 1 and No. 2? On any given night either team could win. There are a lot of good teams in Division I-AA."

Poly played its usual brand of tough defense, but the Jackrabbits could not contain Johnson on the boards, especially on the offensive end. The Colorado recruit finished with a team-high 19 points and a game-high 20 rebounds, 11 of those offensive.

Using a combination of sophomore forward Stanley Johnson (14 points, 7 rebounds) and senior guard Eli Stalzer (11 points, 7-of-7 free throws), Mater Dei face guarded Prince and it was effective. He finished with 16 points, on 3-of-12 shooting, and 10 rebounds.

Poly (27-2) struggled from the field early in the game, making only 3-of-17 shots in the first quarter. Every player besides Prince shot 1-of-12. Prince drained a 3-pointer to open the game and moments later converted a bank shot. He only made one field goal the rest of the way.

"I felt a few of us were a little tired down the stretch," Prince said. "I think their defense made it hard for us on the offensive end."

Prince's offensive output wasn't the main problem, however, for Poly. The Jackrabbits simply gave up too many offensive rebound putbacks and couldn't corral defensive rebounds at crucial moments. The largest lead for Mater Dei (29-2) was 11 points (41-30, 53-42), but Poly hung tough and cut its deficit behind some timely 3-pointers from guards Joshua Munzon (nine points) and Chris Croom (19 points).

Poly went on a 8-0 run to cut its second 11-point deficit down to three points (53-50) and eventually got within one point in the game's closing minutes. The Jackrabbits were never able to take the lead, however, and never led in the game.

Trailing 61-59 with 16 seconds left, Croom put up a runner where he was clearly looking for the foul and Stanley Johnson came up with the rebound. He missed both free throws after being fouled, but on the second one he grabbed his own rebound, nearly lost the ball, and was fouled again. He made the second free throw to give Mater Dei a three-point lead, but Poly turned the ball over on its final possession.

"In the semifinals, Etiwanda's coach (Dave Kleckner) stated they got out muscled, but tonight about midway through the third quarter I was thinking we got outmuscled," said Poly coach Sharrief Metoyer, who is now 2-1 in section championship games. "The stats tell the story. Rebounding was our achilles heel. I don't think we gave up 21 offensive rebounds in our league games combined."

If Poly is going to win a CIF state title, it is going to have to do it the way Mater Dei did last year -- by winning a key regional game on the road.

For Mater Dei, the drive for what would be McKnight's record-breaking ninth CIF state title won't be down a road that would include long road trips. The only one would be to Power Balance Arena in Sacramento for the CIF state finals.

In other CIFSS boys hoops finals played Saturday at the Anaheim Convention Center:

Div. I-A: Orange Lutheran 64, Mission Viejo 58

Orange Lutheran exploded out of the gate, then held off a late Mission Viejo rally to become the second team from the Trinity League to win a CIF Southern Section boys' title on Saturday night. Earlier in the evening, league champion Mater Dei won in Division I-AA.

Orange Lutheran (21-10) took a 14-2 lead to open the game, but Mission Viejo (27-4) battled back valiantly. With 6:34 remaining in the game, the Diablos actually took the lead 50-49 on a contested 3-pointer by Michael Cramer (team-high 16 points). The Lancers, however, had enough offense down the


Trialing 59-56, Mission Viejo had a opportunity to potentially tie the game with just under 30 seconds remaining, but couldn’t get a clean field goal attempt. Mission Viejo won the rebounding battle, 44-33, but committed 22 turnovers to Orange Lutheran's 13.

Gabe York, an Arizona recruit and Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball candidate, led Orange Lutheran with 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting, including a highlight one-handed dunk and some difficult running lay-ups. Forward Darien Williams chipped in 10 points and 13 rebounds for Orange Lutheran.

Max Redfield, one of three members of the Diablos' football team who makes major contributions in basketball, finished with 14 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.

With a healthy York and all of the team's pieces playing together, Orange Lutheran could be a dangerous opponent in the SoCal Division I regional. The Lancers are battle-tested, have played in front of big crowds and have that one player in York who can get hot and carry a team for a few games in a row.

Div. II-A: Mayfair 60, Righetti (Santa Maria) 45

The Monsoons used a big second quarter to make its case to be the top seed in the upcoming SoCal Division II regional tournament.

Mayfair (26-5) outscored Righetti 24-5 in that quarter to take a 32-21 halftime lead. Mayfair used its quickness and depth to stymie Righetti's scoring opportunities. Hunter Walker, Righetti's top player, made only 2-of-13 field goals and finished with six points.

"We made some adjustments to our defensive press and created the tempo we wanted," said Mayfair coach Tony Davis, whose team lost in the CIFSS Division II-A final to Gahr of Cerritos last season. "Our guys stayed focus."

Senior forward Dion Wright of Mayfair led all scorers with 20 points. Junior Brian Wright added 13 points and reserve Marcus Harden had 10 points and four assists. Forward Ryan McGready led Righetti (26-5) with 12 points.

"The bench gave us a big lift," Davis said. "Marcus came in, sparked us and helped turned the game around.

Div. III-AAA: Pasadena 50, Arroyo Grande 35

Arroyo Grande was attempting to win the school's second CIF Southern Section title in less than 24 hours, as the girls' team defeated Rio Mesa of Oxnard on Friday in the same division. There were also five players on the Eagles' basketball team who played on the school's section title-winning football team, but a slow start and a poor shooting night stymied AG's quest to complete the championship trifecta.

Pasadena's defense had a lot to do with the Eagles' poor shooting, as the Bulldogs held Arroyo Grande (22-9) to single-digit scoring in two quarters. The only starter to shoot a solid percentage was Pasadena junior forward Brandon Jolley, who shot 7-of-15 from the field and finished with a game-high 18 points. Senior Blake Hamilton also had a big game for Pasadena with 15 rebounds and 10 points.

"We got off to a good start defensively and I thought they went on their run when we shot too quickly," said Pasadena coach Tim Tucker, who won his first section title in 2007 in Division II-AA. "We got a little lackadaisical, but we went back to our press to close it out."

Basketball-football standout Brent VenderVeen led Arroyo Grande with 12 points on 6-of-16 shooting. He also had 10 rebounds, but Pasadena's players were satisfied with their defensive performance on him. He made 6-of-16 field goals while junior Matt Wilkomn, Arroyo Grande's other double digit scorer, finished with 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting.

Tucker has now matched his resume of two section championships won as a player for the Bulldogs. Tucker was on the team when Pasadena won back-to-back major division titles in 1977 and 1978.

Div. IIIA: Alemany (Mission Hills) 72, Oak Park (Agoura Hills) 60

The Warriors took control with a 10-0 run in the second quarter and also grabbed a 57-44 lead at the end of the third period on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by senior Jerico Richardson.

Alemany, which improved to 28-4 and will remain as the top-ranked Division III team in the state next week, was led by senior Marqueze Coleman’s 23 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Senior point guard Max Guercy had 21 points, five assists and three steals.

“Marqueze sparks us, Max manages us and Jerico takes care of the defense,” said Alemany coach Tray Meeks. “We just played a great second half.”

Guercy added: “We started sparking in the second quarter. When we come to play and come together, there aren’t many teams that can stay with us.”

Junior guard Ron Lee Jr. paced the Eagles (24-8) with 19 points, but had foul trouble in the second half and fouled out midway through the fourth quarter. Jackson Hall added 15 points and Brandon Hill had 12.

Div. 2AA: Inglewood 60, Royal (Simi Valley) 57

This was the most unpredictable division in the section as top seeds tumbled early and often. In the end, an Inglewood team that always seems to be in the mix got it done this time with a fourth-quarter comeback win over the Highlanders.

The Sentinels (21-10) won their first CIFSS title since 1994 when they had a fella named Paul Pierce on the team. Coach Patrick Roy was the team’s coach when the future NBA Hall of Famer was there and is still on the bench calling the shots.

Kristopher Randall and Nicholas Smiley both connected for 15 points for Inglewood. Smiley also yanked down 14 rebounds.

Royal, which led 46-44 after three quarters, received a game-high 16 points from J.R. Powell. Scott Woods had 14 points and 14 rebounds while Max McCoy had 15 points.

Note: Mark Tennis contributed to this report.