LA South and Orange County: Loyola at Mater Dei

Loyola (25-5) at Mater Dei (28-3), at Meruelo Athletic Center, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. (following Santa Monica-Mater Dei girls, 6 p.m.)

Maintain momentum: Loyola has won 14 in a row and is feeling it, especially after beating San Diego Torrey Pines at the buzzer on Justin Childress' putback in a 55-53 victory in the first round. The Cubs' closest game in the section playoffs was a 16-point victory in the finals against Capistrano Valley. Winning big, winning tight, the Cubs need to continue doing what they do.

Get fired up: Mater Dei was flat in its first-round victory over Aliso Niguel, whose 5-foot-8 sophomore, Scott Lynds, had his way with the Monarchs; you've got to believe that Loyola players got a bump in confidence when they saw that. The Monarchs have the reputation and the hype, but if they play like they did on Tuesday with that same lack of intensity, they could be toast.

Battle of freshmen: Two of most intriguing players on the floor are ninth-graders. Parker Jackson-Cartwright is a 5-10 guard for Loyola who has averaged about 10.4 points per game; Stanley Johnson is a 6-5 forward who has averaged 6.6 points. The difference is that Johnson doesn't have the same amount of pressure to produce.

Win the fourth quarter: After being tied, Loyola defeated Orange Lutheran 76-71 on Dec. 8 with a 30-point fourth quarter. A month later, OLu defeated Mater Dei, 59-56 by outscoring the Monarchs 18-15 in the fourth. When Mater Dei was beaten 60-58 by Corona Centennial in the section semifinals, the Monarchs were outscored 23-14. This game gets decided in the last eight minutes.

Every possession counts: When it comes to scoring the teams are nearly identical: Mater Dei's average score by quarters (with Loyola's average in parenthesis): 19.9 (19.0), 17.1 (16.1), 19.8 (18.0), 19.3 (19.3). Mater Dei averages 75.6 per game, Loyola 72.9.

Keep it clean: Mater Dei doesn't want to commit 22 fouls against the Cubs. Likewise, Loyola doesn't want to commit 23 fouls against the Monarchs, as Aliso Niguel did in the first round. The two teams combined for 45 fouls. At this level, every basket will be contested, but those bonus free throws hurt. Free throws should be free points. Don't give up freebies, but bury the opportunities.