Mater Dei defeats Loyola again

SANTA ANA -- Katin Reinhardt returned to the Mater Dei lineup Tuesday despite playing with a broken thumb. Turns out, he broke Loyola's back.

Reinhardt didn't play like a man injured, but instead a man possessed, and coupled with the performance of Xavier Johnson led top-seeded Mater Dei to a 75-63 victory over Loyola in the semifinal round of the Southern California Regional Championships.

With the home victory over the fourth-seeded Cubs (26-6), Mater Dei (32-2) will play sixth-seeded Fresno Bullard on Saturday, 8 p.m., at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario. Bullard defeated second-seeded Long Beach Poly, 54-52, on a three-point shot at the buzzer. Bullard is ranked No. 15 in the state, according to Cal-Hi Sports, and Poly is ranked No. 2.

The state's top-ranked team, Mater Dei, is ranked No. 8 in the nation, according to ESPNHS. Loyola was ranked No. 9 in the state.

Mater Dei beat Loyola 61-58 the last time they faced each other, in the Southern Section semifinals; in that game, Loyola's Jacob Hazzard scored 22, but on Tuesday the Monarchs held him to eight.

Last year, Mater Dei won, 72-70, despite trailing by nine in the fourth quarter. Mater Dei went on to win the state title, and nine of Mater Dei's top 10 players are back from last year's team.

Reinhardt scored scored 21, and didn't seem to hit a shot that wasn't big. Johnson spent the second half trying to play the game above the rim on both offense and defense. He scored seven in an 11-1 run to open the fourth quarter in which Mater Dei wiped out a 49-48 deficit. His last two buckets in that span came after getting offensive rebounds.

All told, there were 11 lead changes before the Monarchs' decisive run. With a 59-50 lead, Mater Dei made 8-of-15 free throws the rest of the way, and Loyola connected on three of its eight 3-point baskets (in 29 attempts).

Reinhardt didn't score in the first game of the regional playoffs, suffering from flu and the hand injury -- a break on the second bone of his right thumb -- and he sat out his team's second-round victory over Mission Viejo.

But he taped up the thumb and then put on a show as Mater Dei won its 19th consecutive game.

Reinhardt made 8-of-12 shots, including 4-of-6 from the 3-point arc. The shooting guard headed to UNLV also delivered 10 rebounds in an effort that saw Mater Dei hold a 44-27 edge in that department.

The Colorado-bound Johnson scored 26 and made 11-of-15 from the field. He had 11 rebounds and blocked two shots, and also had an assist.

Coach Gary McKnight had high praise for the effort of Eli Stalzer, who was sick -- and like Reinhardt sat out the last game -- but played nevertheless. He didn't score, but contributed a couple of rebounds and blocked shots, and an assist.

Stanley Johnson -- one of two outstanding sophomores in the game -- scored 17 with 11 rebounds, three assists and a block.

The other outstanding sophomore was Loyola's 5-foot-7 point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, but his night didn't blossom the way the 6-7 Johnson's did. Jackson-Cartwright, who had 13 points, four steals and two assists in a 48-35 victory over Etiwanda, was limited to five points with three assists and two steals.

Julian Harrell led Loyola with 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting, but the rest of his team made only 16-of-44 from the field. That was in stark contrast to Mater Dei, which made 28-of-54 (51.9 percent). Max Hazzard added 11 points to the Loyola total.