The prospect of beating Mater Dei for a second year in a row was daunting enough for Orange Lutheran, which seems to be the Trinity League's best chance of knocking off the nationally ranked power.
But the prospect turned from daunting to dismal given that Gabe York was out of the lineup because of an appendectomy. Short-handed against a team with more depth than any in the Southland, the end result was a 65-51 victory on Wednesday for Mater Dei, which is ranked No. 1 in the ESPNLA top 20.
Orange Lutheran (12-3, 2-1) is ranked No. 3. The Lancers are the top-ranked team in the Southern Section Division 1A ranking.
Although you hate to call it this early, Mater Dei (14-2, 2-0) probably clinched a share of the Trinity League title with the victory.
York, who has committed to Arizona, figures to be back in the lineup when the teams meet in the second round of league play, Feb. 1, at Orange Lutheran. A year ago, OLu won at home against the Monarchs, 59-56, handing them their only county loss since 2005.
Junior Jordan Banks, called upon to pick up the slack of York's absence, scored a game-high 30 points but he was spread too thin. He scored 13 of Lutheran's first 16 points for a 16-15 lead, but Mater Dei seized control with a 10-2 run to close the half. Mater Dei extended the lead by a point through three quarters, and outscored the Lancers in the fourth, 23-17.
Xavier Johnson, who was largely guarded by Banks, scored 27 for Mater Dei and Stanley Johnson 17.