Student Sports FAB 50 No. 4 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) remains unbeaten and in the mythical national title hunt with a big home victory over No. 6 Whitney Young (Chicago) in the marquee game of the Nike Extravaganza. Renowned program DeMatha of Maryland also remains unbeaten against California opponents. Three other FAB50-ranked teams are also victorious.
The Student Sports FAB 50 showdown between host Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) and visiting Whitney Young (Chicago) was billed as a matchup between two of the nation’s top five players — Arizona-bound forward Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei and Duke-bound center Jahlil Okafor.
The game plan for the Monarchs was to limit Okafor with double teams and help defense — and the plan nearly backfired. In the end, however, Mater Dei stuck to its game plan and shot well enough from the perimeter to defeat the Dolphins 69-57.
With its victory, Mater (23-0) added a signature regular season win to a resume that already included a tournament title at the Tarkanian Classic against the likes of No. 29 Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, Calif.), which looks like has no peer in Northern California. Mater Dei also kept its dream of the program’s first mythical FAB 50 national title alive. Should the Monarchs capture the CIF Southern Section Open Division title, the SoCal Open Division regional title and potentially face and defeat Bishop O’Dowd again for its fourth consecutive state crown, Mater Dei will have as strong a case as any team in the country to finish No. 1.
“We thought Whitney Young was a top five to ten team in the country and we played a good game, said Johnson, who play another big game on a big stage for the Monarchs with 27 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks and five steals. “It was a big game, but the game is over. We have to get ready to play Orange Lutheran and St. John Bosco in (Trinity) League play this week.”
The reason Mater Dei’s plan nearly back-fired was the long-range wizardry of Whitney Young senior guard Miles Reynolds. He found openings in Mater Dei’s zone and extended well beyond the 3-point line to get his shot off. He scored all of the Dolphins’ points in the first quarter and outscored the Monarchs by himself, as Whitney Young (16-5) took a 16-15 lead.
Even though Reynolds “scared us for a while” as Mater Dei sophomore center M.J. Cage (12 points, eight rebounds) phrased it, the Monarchs stuck to the game plan and Reynolds eventually cooled off. He had 19 points at halftime and finished with a team-high 21 points.
“No, we were never going to extend out to stop Miles,” Johnson said. “Our game plan was to stop Okafor and Paul White. We did a great job of rotating.
“Jahlil is a load. He’s the No. 1 player in the country for a reason.”
Okafor finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, but wasn’t consistently dominant. He dominated for a stretch of the third period when he got the Dolphins back in the game and even gave them a 42-41 lead on a conventional 3-point play. And even though Johnson had kind words to say about his former USA Basketball teammate, it was Johnson who had a more consistent impact on the game’s outcome and played like the top Mr. Basketball USA candidate.
Johnson keyed a 11-2 run to close the third period and Whitney Young never seriously threatened in the final eight minutes of the game. He made back-to-back field goals and threw a highlight pass to Cage for a dunk. Johnson then converted a bucket off a missed lay-up while trailing the play with four seconds remaining in the quarter. Mater Dei held a 58-49 lead entering the final period and outscored the Dolphins in each of the final three periods.
On Friday night at the Nike Extravaganza, Johnson scored 34 points and had 10 rebounds as the Monarchs downed Village Christian (Sun Valley, Calif.) 79-60. Mater Dei outscored the Crusaders 19-10 in the fourth period of a relatively close game.
As a comparison, FAB 50 No. 2 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) defeated Village Christian 96-46 in the first round of the Bass Pro Shops Tournament in Missouri. Mater Dei and unbeaten FAB 50 No. 3 Rainer Beach (Seattle) have both played Whitney Young this season. The Vikings beat Whitney Young, 89-82.
FAB 50 No. 36 DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) 61, Westchester (Los Angeles) 56 (OT)
In the third trip ever to California for the famed program from the Washington, D.C. area, the Stags still haven’t lost out West — although it needed overtime to defeat the primer program from the L.A. City Section.
DeMatha (18-2) previously won a tournament during the 1990-91 season and also won the 2011 Torrey Pines Holiday Classic.
Westchester (19-5) actually had an opportunity to put the Comets in position to win the game in regulation when he senior forward Nick Hamilton went to the free throw line with 10.1 seconds remaining and his team trailing 53-52. He made the first and missed the second. After calling a timeout, the Stags were unable to get off a field goal attempt.
In overtime, DeMatha outscored the Comets 8-3 to pull out the victory, as Westchester completely went flat offensively and suffered from some uncharacteristic turnovers. Westchester head coach Ed Azzam felt his team went flat in the entire second half after opening up a 32-23 lead at intermission.
“We didn’t do a good job of communicating defensively,” Azzam said. “I thought we did a good job of that in the first half.”
DeMatha shot 25 percent (7-of-28) from the field before halftime while Westchester came out hot, particularly LMU-bound guard Elijah Stewart. The 6-foot-4 senior scorched the nets for a 22 points, nearly outscoring the Stags by himself.
DeMatha coach Mike Jones blamed his own strategy for Stewart’s blazing start.
“We wanted to speed the game up a bit and Stewart kept getting open in the same spot,” Jones said. “It was a physical game, and I attribute that to why both teams got tired down the stretch. We just needed to start hitting our shots.”
A bulk of the scoring was done by one player for both teams. Stewart finished with 32 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots. For DeMatha, the scoring of senior guard Corey Henson was more balanced in each half. He netted 14 points before halftime and finished with a game-high 33 points.
DeMatha will return home and jump right into Washington Catholic Athletic Conference play where it faces tough competition on a regular basis. Sophomore forward Joe Hampton likened Westchester to FAB 50 No. 12 St. John’s College (Washington, D.C.), who beat the Stags 81-69 in the first round of WCAC and close out the regular season against.
“A lot of what we saw tonight is stuff that is going to help us down the road,” Jones said.
No. 35 Etiwanda (Etiwanda, Calif.) 62, St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) 53 (OT)
This had the makings of a classic trap game. Etiwanda looked good in recent big games since USC-bound Jordan McLaughlin returned from a shoulder injury. In fact, the Eagles hadn’t tasted defeat with McLaughlin in their lineup this season.
That streak was in serious jeopardy when St. John Bosco took a 22-16 halftime lead and led 39-34 entering the fourth quarter. Considering its talented personnel, it wouldn’t have been a shock to see St. John Bosco (14-8) pull off the upset. McLaughlin, however, had other ideas.
After scoring two points in the first half, McLaughlin took over down the stretch and led his team to victory with a game-high 32 points. He gave Etiwanda a 44-41 lead on a long 3-pointer with 5:18 remaining. He also scored the final five points of regulation, including a short runner with 5.8 seconds to send the game into overtime after St. John Bosco’s Tyler Dorsey missed the second free throw of a one-and-one situation.
Etiwanda (21-3) outscored the Braves 11-2 in the overtime and it was all McLaughlin. He closed out the game by outscoring St. John Bosco 16-2.
“Jordan really helped us in the second half and we all fed off that,” said junior Kameron Edwards, who finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and two steals. I think Jordan should have been a McDonald’s All-American.”
When the McDonald’s teams were announced this past Wednesday, most of the Twitter chatter from voters and other recruiting analysts was Bosco forward Daniel Hamilton being game’s biggest selection oversight. Hamilton, who has verbaled to UConn but hasn’t yet signed a LOI, had plenty of incentive to play well. He started off well by hitting his first two jump shots, but did not shoot well from the field overall. He finished with a team-high 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the field. Junior guard Tyler Dorsey added 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Braves.
Although he didn’t have as much public support for McDonald’s inclusion, McLaughlin used it as motivation — and will continue to do so.
“Not being selected adds fuel to the fire,” McLaughlin said. “Hopefully I’ll have the last laugh by doing well in college and hopefully playing in the NBA.”
No. 27 Centennial (Corona, Calif.) 67, No. 46 Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.) 60
In a battle of nationally-ranked California clubs, it was the higher ranked Huskies pulling out a victory behind two key buckets down the stretch. The score was tied 57-57 with just over a minute to go, when junior guard Sedrick Barefield of Centennial (20-2) hit a fall-away jump shot. After a turnover by Redondo Union (18-4), Centennial junior Khalil Ahmad converted a tip-in around the basket to effectively seal the Huskies’ victory.
Ahmad’s play was typical of the scrappy nature of a Huskies unit creeping towards the Top 25 of the FAB 50 with an undersized roster that gets its done with hustle.
“We have a lot of talent and guys that buy into their roles,” Centennial head coach Josh Giles said. “We did a good job of finishing off the third and fourth quarter. We went on a 10-2 run there to end the third.
Barefield finished with 17 points while Long Beach State-bound Deontae North finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and four steals.
Redondo Union was led in the scoring department by unsigned senior guard Ian Fox with 17 pts. Sophomore off-guard Leland Green had 14 points and 11 rebounds). Unsigned center Terrell Carter added 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Seahawks.
“We have the ability to look really good, or really bad,” Giles said. “We have a small margin for error.”
FAB 50 No. 30 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) 68, JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) 53
The Gaels were on a short business trip and hit the road immediately afterwards with a victory. They won the game by outscoring JSerra 21-11 in the final period.
In its first big game of the season, Bishop Gorman (20-4) was up against Cliff Alexander and Curie (Chicago). The Gaels lost to Curie and when they finished in third place at the Tarkanian Classic, it looked as they might be headed for an underachieving season.
However, Curie has risen to the top spot in the Student Sports FAB 50, Tarkanian Classic winner Mater Dei is up to No. 4 and Bishop O’ Dowd (Oakland, Calif.), the team Gorman lost to in the Tarkanian semifinals, is looking like a heavy favorite to represent Northern California in the CIF Open Division state final.
Looking at it that way, Bishop Gorman’s season doesn’t look all that bad — especially after the program’s first ever win over cross-town rival Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) last weekend.
“Our season started out tough, but we’re battled tested and everyone is focused,” said guard Noah Robotham, who finished with 17 points for Bishop Gorman. “Everybody is focused and we’re pushing each other, and we just want to execute the game plan and limit the turnovers.”
Junior forward Chase Jeter had team-highs in points (19) and rebounds (11) for the Gaels.
Northwestern commit Jonnie Vassar led JSerra (12-8) with 21 points. He wowed the crowd with a couple of athletic finishes at the rim.
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