Strawberry, Johnson lead the way for Monarchs in SoCal Open Division triumph. Gordon sets NorCal record with 22 rebounds and scores 29 points as Mitty defeats Sacramento Sheldon in the north. Go inside for highlights, analysis of every CIF regional boys final.
By Mark Tennis & Ronnie Flores
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Similar to the first matchup in the highly competitive CIF Southern Section Division I-AA playoff bracket, another championship game between Mater Dei of Santa Ana and Etiwanda, this time for the first-ever SoCal Open Division title, was a slugfest.
The game was ugly for the most part, but the difference was the scoring of Mater Dei’s Jordan Strawberry in the first half and the pretty shooting of teammate Stanley Johnson in the third quarter to propel the Monarchs to a 60-37 victory. With the win, Mater Dei will look to win its third consecutive CIF state title next week against a Archbishop Mitty of San Jose also looking for a third straight crown.
No program, North or South, has won three consecutive CIF state titles in the major division (open or Division I) but Mater Dei will have a chance to do that next weekend. For snake bit Etiwanda, it came up a bit short in its bid to become the first Inland Empire program to advance to a major division boys final.
“He put on a show,” said Mater Dei head coach Gary McKnight said of a third quarter performance by Johnson that pushed the Monarchs’ lead from 29-17 at halftime to 47-27 entering the final period. “This morning Stanley was dripping sweat from a workout and I was worried. When he was 0-for-10 in the first half I gave him that look at halftime. After the game, I was like, ‘I’m glad you worked out.’”
Johnson’s hit for four 3-pointers in the third quarter and scored 16 of his game-high 25 points in that eight-minute time frame. Strawberry finished with 17 points (13 in the first half) for Mater Dei (33-2).
Etiwanda (28-4) did not have a player score in double figures. Star junior guard Jordan McLaughlin finished 1-for-15 from the field and with four points.
Johnson stated his first half performance didn’t get off on the right foot because he passed up his first shot. When he took his first look in the second half and it went in, Johnson said it was all he needed to get going. Afterwards, he wanted to focus on his teammates because very few prep sportswriters or fans thought that Mater Dei would be in this position for the third consecutive season.
“Our seniors are good,” Johnson said. “They know how to play and we can’t seem to convince people how good our coaches are.”
For McKnight, who will look to add to his ongoing state record by winning a 10th CIF state titles in his 14th appearance next weekend, the upcoming game and usual trip to Sacramento gave him something to chuckle about.
“Little Gordon (Mitty’s Aaron Gordon) ain’t going to be too happy we beat his brother (former Monarchs star Drew Gordon). We’ll head up there on Friday and go to Spaghetti Factory and make a night of it.”
Mitty beats Sheldon, eyes revenge against Mater Dei
There might have been a gimpy ankle or two, but it wasn’t a case this time of Archbishop Mitty of San Jose beating a Sacramento Sheldon team not at full strength.
It was unfortunately for the Huskies, just a case of All-American Aaron Gordon playing like a returning Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year. The 6-foot-8 senior and his teammates dominated a very good team 70-50 that had just knocked out No. 1 state-ranked Salesian of Richmond last Tuesday with 29 points, 22 rebounds and three blocks.
Gordon’s rebounding total also is a new NorCal regional final record for all divisions. The previous best of 18 was set in 1987 by Don Lyttle of Colusa.
“We are kind of spoiled with him,” said Mitty head coach Tim Kennedy, whose team topped Sheldon 71-65 early in the season with one Huskies’ starter out and another not yet eligible. “He just does it every night. He’s so athletic and always finds ways to get his own rebounds. Just a matchup nightmare.”
“We came out on fire and finished it off,” said Gordon, who has not committed to a college but was chatting and shared a hug with University of Washington coach Lorenzo Romar shortly afterward. “That was probably our best game all season. We have one more and hope we can finish it off.”
Mitty’s 70-50 victory gives the team a third straight CIF Northern California regional title, but the first in the Open Division after winning in Division II in 2011 and 2012. The Monarchs (28-6) followed up those wins by claiming Division II state titles and will go up against Mater Dei of Santa Ana next Saturday in the Open Division final.
“There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind (that we’re the best team in Northern California),” Gordon said. “All of the top teams playing against all the other top teams and we came out on top of the Northern California side.”
Leading 29-23 at halftime, there was the feeling along press row that Sheldon (27-6) had the capability of exploding on a run at any time. But after the score became 31-24, Gordon sparked a 9-2 spurt that essentially put it out of reach for the Huskies.
Antonio Lewis led Sheldon with 13 points and rebounds, but the Huskies were hurt by below average nights from their usual stars. Darin Johnson had just six points after hitting for 24 against Salesian. San Diego State-bound tandem D’Erryl Williams (seven points) and Dakari Allen (eight points) didn’t even get to double figures.
Many in Northern California felt that Sheldon’s win against Salesian was the title game of the bracket, a feeling that Kennedy and his staff were glad to exploit.
“Everybody in the locker room knew that this is what we can do,” Kennedy said. “I think was our best game. There was no let down in the execution.”
In other CIF Northern California regional finals:
Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove) 73, Deer Valley (Antioch) 60
Playing in the same league as NorCal power Sheldon of Sacramento has paid off for the Eagles, who defeated the higher-ranked and higher-seeded team to advance to the school’s first CIF state final.
Pleasant Grove (27-6), which has been in the mix for several seasons to get a CIF state football bowl berth, pulled away after Deer Valley (26-6) had sliced the score to 52-51 early in the fourth period. A 3-pointer by Matthew Hayes (20 points) and a layup by Malik Thames (17 points) turned the tide on a possible Deer Valley comeback win. Senior Cole Nordquist (16 points) helped seal the win by making four straight free throws and a layup in the game’s final two minutes.
Both UNLV-bound Kendall Smith and Kentucky-bound Marcus Lee had sub-par outings. Smith, who was slowed by a high ankle sprain injury that he suffered in the team’s previous game against Bellarmine of San Jose, had 17 points. Lee, who picked up two early fouls and missed all of his five free throws, had 10 points but did have 16 rebounds and three blocks.
The Eagles also had many on press row scrambling for record books when they were 15-for-15 on free throws in the first half. They finished 27-of-28. Nordquist ended 10-of-10 for a new NorCal D1 title game record.
College Park (Pleasant Hill) 93, Dublin 90 (OT)
Sure, Archbishop Mitty and Newark Memorial were in the open division, but if that didn’t happen this wild and memorable game never would have happened.
In the highest scoring regional final in NorCal history (previous two-team best was 179 by Calvary Temple of Modesto and Hoopa Valley in a D5 final in 1999), College Park won it on a 3-pointer with 6.8 seconds left in overtime by Peter Schoemann. He was 0-for-9 on 3-point attempts before making that one.
College Park won despite being out-rebounded 64-38 and making only 21-of-41 free throws. Part of the reason for that was Dublin only made 22-of-43 free throws.
JoJo McGlaston shined for the Gaels (26-7) with 35 points. He broke the NorCal D2 regional final scoring record of 33 set in 1986 by Jeff Jones of Aptos.
College Park (27-5) advances to its first CIF state final after losing in the CIF North Coast Section Division II semifinals 56-54 to Montgomery of Santa Rosa.
Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 55, Campolindo (Moraga) 52 (OT)
For the third time in five years, the Irish are the best in NorCal in this bracket, although they needed an extra period and it was a division in which state-ranked Bishop O’Dowd was pulled up to open division. In repeating as NorCal champs, Sacred Heart Cathedral (22-11) was led by Khalil James’ four 3-pointers (on five attempts) good for 14 points.
Liam O’Reilly had 13 points while DeOndre Otis added 10.
Campolindo’s Jack Evans led all scorers with 16 points and teammate Chris Hansen led all rebounders with 13. The Cougars (22-9) rallied from a 44-39 deficit to start the third quarter to force overtime.
Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 73, Archbishop Riordan (San Francisco) 66
Senior guard Kenny Love netted 26 points to lead the Cardinals, who won their fourth CIF regional title with the win over the Crusaders. Senior forward Corey Hammel also had a strong outing for Cardinal Newman (32-3) with 20 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.
The bulk of Riordan’s 11 previous losses (the Crusaders finished 20-12 overall) came in rugged West Catholic Athletic League play. The Cardinals, however, showed they can rise to that level of competition by going on a 19-5 run to open the game. Riordan’s Geru Mabrey had 18 points to keep his team within striking distance.
North: St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 50, Capital Christian (Sacramento) 36
Junior Temidayo Yussef dropped in 18 points with seven rebounds and three blocks as the Pilots won their fourth consecutive NorCal regional title. Sophomore guard Marcus Harris also came through by making four-of-five 3-pointers and scoring 17 points.
St. Joseph Notre Dame (25-11) has gone 1-2 in its CIF Division V state final appearances over the last three seasons. Capital Christian (26-5) couldn’t overcome shooting just 31 percent and making just seven free throws.
In other CIF Southern California regional finals:
Santa Monica 53, Loyola (Los Angeles) 50
To say Loyola got of to a slow start would be an understatement. The Cubs made only 2-of-12 field goals attempts in the first quarter and shot only 23 percent (6-of-26) in the first half.
Despite that, Loyola rallied all the way back to tie the game at 50-50 with 1:55 remaining, only to see SaMoHi’s Jordan Matthews drain an NBA range 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left. Loyola wasn’t able to get a shot off on its last possession as Matthews’ clutch shot put Santa Monica in its first CIF state title game in boys basketball since 1928, the last season of the early era state championships.
“I thought Thomas Welsh was going to stay on me because he hedged hard,” said Matthews. “Welsh went back to cover Chris (Smith) and nobody could get over to cover me. I thought all week it could come down to that tonight, so I said to myself, ‘No way we’re going to lose to those guys three times in one season.’”
Matthews, a Cal recruit, led Santa Monica (29-6) with a game-high 19 points. Welsh led Loyola (25-8) with 17 points while guard Trey Mason chipped in 13 points.
“I was disappointed with our ability to finish in the first half,” said Loyola coach Jamal Adams. “We played hard, but we were playing with a deficit.”
Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) 60, J.W. North (Riverside) 48
In the days leading up to the regional final, Redondo Union coach Reggie Morris Jr. couldn’t get over how talented he felt J.W. North was. The Huskies were indeed the most talented team Redondo Union faced in the regional playoffs, but the Seahawks took care of the ball better and made more timely shots to advance to their first state title game where they’ll face College Park of Pleasant Hill.
With 2:34 remaining in the game, Deshon Taylor of J.W. North (31-4) hit a 3-pointer to cut his team’s deficit to 47-41, but Ian Fox of Redondo Union (27-8) answered with a timely 3-pointer with 1:06 remaining to seal the game.
J.W. North attempted to rally late, but the Seahawks answered every challenge after taking a 15-6 lead in the first quarter that was ultimately the difference in the game. Redondo, on a 20-game winning streak, scored 21 points off 23 J.W. North turnovers.
“You can’t have turnovers that lead to points at this level,” J.W. North coach Mike Bartee said. “I think they (Redondo) had great patience and a good sense of where they needed to get the ball.”
Redondo’s Derek Biale, who made 5-of-9 on 3-pointers, led all scorers with 15 points. Taylor, who was hobbled with an ankle injury, led the Huskies with 11 points.
“I thought we played a real good team, but we came out with hunger and determination,” Reggie Morris Jr. said (WATCH VIDEO). “We wanted to make them a jump shooting team and keep them out of the paint.”
Boys Division III
San Diego St. Augustine 61, Chaminade 57
The CIF Southern Section Division III-A champions led by as much as 11 points in the second half, but the San Diego Section Division III champs came roaring back to earn the school’s second trip to a CIF state championship game, the first coming in 2005 when St. Augustine went on to lose to Santa Cruz.
Brynton Lemar, a complete steal for the UC-Davis Aggies, led St. Augustine (28-4) with 24 points and made some crucial plays down the stretch to help his team complete its comeback. Trey Kell scored 17 points for the Saints, who out rebounded Chaminade 44-26.
Jack Williams, one of the state’s leading rebounders, had 15 points and nine rebounds for Chaminade (27-8).
Boys Division IV
Pacific Hills (Los Angeles) 73, Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 69
The high school boys’ game has evolved into a guards’ game and nobody in SoCal has a better trio of guards than Pacific Hills.
Behind the play of of Washington-bound Jahmel Taylor, Rice-bound Marcus Jackson and Namon Wright, Pacific Hills (28-4) advanced to its fourth state title game and ended a memorable season for Bishop Montgomery (32-2).
Taylor led the Bruins with 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and six steals. Wright, one of the state’s five best juniors, netted 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Jackson chipped in nine points.
Pacific Hills led by as much as 15 points in the third quarter before Bishop Montgomery rallied to trail by only two points at one point down the stretch before turnovers did in the Bruins.
Lamond Murray Jr. led the Knights with 25 points on 12 for 25 shooting, nine rebounds and four assists, but sophomore sharpshooter Stevie Thompson Jr. made only one field goal and finished with two points. Bishop Montgomery had a 29-game winning streak this season and got to as high as No. 3 in the state rankings, but failed to win a section or regional title.
Boys Division V
San Diego Horizon 54, San Gabriel Academy 36
In a game moved to Saturday night at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego because San Gabriel Academy observes the Sabbath from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday, Horizon (20-11) advanced to its fifth CIF state title game over a small co-ed Seventh-day Adventist school on a near miracle run through the SoCal regional.
Cody Underwood, Horizon’s leading scorer (14.2 ppg) during the year, led the way with 17 points. Point guard Markel Byrd added 12 points and Grid-Hooper Darren Carrington added 10.
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