There's nothing second-rate about the meeting Saturday night to determine the Southern California Regional Champion in girls' Division I basketball.
In what may well be the marquee game of the day in a a de facto state championship contest, Mater Dei (32-3) will take on Long Beach Poly (31-3) in the 6 p.m. game at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario.
There's not a northern team ranked ahead of third-seeded Poly, which was No. 4 in the state before it beat second-seeded Brea Olinda in the regional semifinals Tuesday, an impressive 64-50 road victory on the Ladycats' home floor floor. Poly had a 48-41 lead heading into the fourth quarter, then closed strong. Destiny King scored 16, sophomore Arica Carter 14 and Breeyon Alexander 10 in that victory.
For Poly to win the right to advance to the state title game in Sacramento, it will have to overcome a Mater Dei team that has been rejuvenated by the stellar play of Jordan Adams recently. The oft-injured guard has put up some impressive numbers in the last two games, and if she has any kind of a night against the Jackrabbits she will make it tough on Poly. Against Fontana Summit, she had 23 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four blocks. Against Huntington Beach, 24 points, 13 rebounds six assists and three steals.
What's been impressive about Mater Dei -- which is vying for its third consecutive state title -- is that it hasn't had to rely on Adams because the Monarchs been getting such strong help elsewhere. Nirra Fields has established herself as a player of the year type of performer, and Alexas Williamson has also played well. Fields is coming off a 25-point performance against Summit in which she had eight rebounds and five steals.
For what it's worth, Long Beach Poly has split with La Jolla Country Day, including the most recent meeting between the two teams, giving the Torreys their only loss of the season; LJCD is currently ranked No. 2 in the state. Windward, ranked No. 3 in the state, lost earlier this week to Gardena Serra, 80-58.
Arguably, Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly are 1-2 in California as it stands right now despite what the rankings may say. The last time they played, on Dec. 21, 2010, Poly scored a 61-56 victory.
This year's contest, with so much on the line, should be an intense, athletic game that goes to the wire.