Girls BB Tour: Mater Dei wows

Santa Ana Mater Dei's Katie Lou Samuelson looked in mid-season form during Thursday scrimmage, hitting 6-of-10 on three-point shots. She isn't playing with an older sister this year, however.

Santa Ana Mater Dei junior sharpshooter Katie Lou Samuelson looked in mid-season form during Thursday scrimmage, hitting 6-of-10 on three-point shots.

There’s more than Katie Lou as visit to scrimmage against Sierra Canyon shows. See links here as well for writeups on Long Beach Poly and new coach at Playa del Rey St. Bernard.

Note: Cal-Hi Sports girls basketball rankings editor Harold Abend is attending practices this week at some of the top schools in the state. He already has been to defending CIF Open Division champion Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland and Windward of Los Angeles. On Thursday, he went to practice at Long Beach Poly, visited with new St. Bernard of Playa del Rey coach Michelle Greco (a former Ms. Basketball) and saw a scrimmage between Mater Dei of Santa Ana and Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth. On Friday, he’ll head out to the Inland Empire to visit Etiwanda. Look for the Cal-Hi Sports preseason state rankings on on Monday morning.

RELATED: Stop at Windward | Stop at St. Bernard | Stop at Long Beach Poly

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At Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, everything is figuratively large in nature.

The Cal-Hi Sports Caravan stopped at the school late on Thursday afternoon for a Mater Dei practice and subsequent scrimmage against defending CIF Division V state champion Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth. Even an hour before the 5 p.m. scrimmage, a few college coaches had already arrived.

By tipoff time, there were as many fans watching as at some real games, and even legendary boys head coach Gary McKnight took in the first quarter of the scrimmage.

For the Monarchs’ faithful, they saw exactly what they were looking for in a 78-33 unofficial victory, where the Caravan assisted with keeping score and stats.

While over a half dozen Monarch girls shined for head coach Kevin Kiernan, the evening belonged to a girl named Lou, USA Under-16 gold medalist Katie Lou Samuelson.

The 6-foot-3 junior and 2013 State Sophomore of the Year didn’t play most of the fourth quarter (or any of the fifth and sixth quarters where no stats were kept), but if she had Lou certainly would have outscored a talented Sierra Canyon team. Instead, Samuelson tied them with 33 points. She added 18 rebounds and although she wasn’t 9-of-9 from three-point range like she was in the gold medal game victory over Canada this past summer, Samuelson was 6-of-10 from outside the arc.

Unlike fellow gold medal winner Sabrina Ionescu (Orinda Miramonte), who keeps her medal in a drawer, Lou’s is on display.

“We have it hanging up in the living room next to my sister’s (Bonnie Samuelson) McDonald’s jersey,” Samuelson said with a chuckle when told where Ionescu keeps her medal.


No one can question the depth of Mater Dei, but on a roster of 16 girls with only five seniors and just one that starts, leadership is a question that Lou, one of the six juniors on the squad, was more than willing to address.

“Last year, my sister Karlie (Samuelson) took on the leadership role, but she’s gone and now it’s my turn to step up and take on that role of leading the team.”

Depth of the supporting cast

Samuelson looked in midseason form but what really separates Mater Dei from many teams at this stage of the season is that the Monarchs are loaded with contributors.

“What I liked most about the scrimmage was how we got a lot of things from a lot of people,” Kiernan remarked. “Lou is going to get what Lou gets, but we have a lot of people to help when teams key on her. Everyone that came off the bench contributed and that’s important for us. We’re not a strong physical team, but we’re deep, so everyone has to contribute, and tonight was a perfect example.”

Junior guard and floor general Andee Velasco nailed four three-pointers (14 points) and played solid defense.

Jayde Woods, a 5-foot-11 sophomore who impressed the Girls of Summer Caravan, is improved over the last few months. She plays bigger, can run the court, uses both hands, can finish, and is a solid defender. She had 12 points and eight rebounds in the scrimmage.

The lone senior starter, 5-foot-11 Peyton Langston, played very well and was a key to the Monarchs’ pressing defense against Sierra Canyon. She had 11 points and eight rebounds.

Two other solid role players that weren’t flashy but made few mistakes were senior guard Alli Brown and junior G/F Cheyenne Allen.

The lone freshman on the team has some big shoes to fill, but according to Kiernan she’s well on her way. Jayda Adams is the little sister of former Monarchs star and current USC sophomore Jordan Adams.

Don’t be surprised where you see Mater Dei in the preseason state rankings that will be released on Monday.

The Monarchs open on December 2 in a Redondo tournament that has Windward of Los Angeles in the field. After that, they head to the Nike Tournament in Phoenix, and then the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree. After that, they have a January 3 date with Berkeley St. Mary’s and then they travel to Springfield, Mass., for the Hall of Fame Game and a matchup with the Boston-area top team, Archbishop Williams.

Despite getting blown out by Mater Dei, Sierra Canyon head coach and 2013 Division V Coach of the Year Alicia Komaki was looking at the bright side.

“This is what we need to prepare us. Check us out in a couple of months,” said Komaki, the second-year head coach who played for Kiernan when he was at Fullerton Troy.

Against Mater Dei, having two D1 level players isn’t enough, but against small school competition Sierra Canyon will be a favorite to repeat as state champions.

Despite being double and triple-teamed, 6-foot-1 junior wing Kennedy Burke played very well. She handles the ball well and can fly for a big girl. Burke had 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the scrimmage.

Fellow junior and 5-foot-11 post Cheyanne Wallace was bothered by the defense of Mater Dei, but in D5 her size and strength will be huge. She had eight points against the Monarchs.

Harold Abend is the associate editor of and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend

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