In a matchup between two of the state’s top five-ranked teams at the Stockton St. Mary’s MLK Showcase, unbeaten Miramonte of Orinda gets out to a quick start and goes on to knock off national powerhouse Mater Dei of Santa Ana 65-47. The 2015 State Junior of the Year, Sabrina Ionescu, leads the way but many others had strong outings as well.
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Judging by all of the success in recent years enjoyed by the Mater Dei of Santa Ana girls basketball team – both in terms of CIF state titles and top national rankings – many around the state probably were a bit stunned to see the Monarchs on the short end of a 65-47 score during Saturday’s MLK Showcase held at Morelli Gym on the campus of Stockton St. Mary’s.
But the Monarchs actually were lucky it wasn’t worse as Miramonte of Orinda showed its unbeaten record and No. 2 state ranking – only the host school is ranked higher – is no fluke.
Miramonte (15-0) assumed leads of 8-2, 15-4 and 21-6 in the first quarter and was out in front 40-18 at halftime. The Matadors’ largest lead was 50-27 in the third quarter.
“Looking at this from the big picture, this is the biggest win in school history outside of the playoffs,” said Miramonte head coach Kelly Sopak, whose team lost in last year’s CIF Northern California Open Division title game to Stockton St. Mary’s (which later beat Mater Dei for the CIF Open Division state crown). “But from the smaller picture we were just trying to control what we could. We learned a lot and played great, but we still have to get better.”
Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year favorite Sabrina Ionescu (who also should find out on Sunday she’s been named to the McDonald’s All-American Game) didn’t really get going until the second half but led all scorers with 26 points. She also had eight rebounds, eight steals and four assists.
Senior forward Uriah Howard almost had a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds while junior forward Elle Louie had nine and sophomore guard Claire Steele hit a couple of 3-pointers and scored seven.
“I lot of people might have doubted us,” said Howard when asked about the margin of victory. “But this shows how much we compete and how much we want to win.”
Mater Dei, which came into the game at 17-1 and at No. 4 in the state with its only previous loss to Good Counsel of Maryland, was noticeably absent of outside shooting prowess, a key trait of its recent teams.
UCLA-bound center Ally Rosenblum, however, had a fine game. She scored off of press breaks on layups and converted on contested inside shots, finishing with 18 points to go along with 10 rebounds. No one else for the Monarchs scored more than seven.
“I don’t think Sabrina actually played at her best, but many others stepped up,” Sopak said. “I also was really happy about our effort on the glass. I wanted to make them get more physical and we did.”
Mater Dei also might have been a bit rusty since it had three easy wins in the week just after New Year’s, hadn’t played in seven days and hadn’t played a difficult opponent since before Christmas.
The Monarchs (17-2) have another nationally ranked opponent to play at their own Nike Extravaganza on Feb. 5 when they meet Centennial of Las Vegas and despite the loss shouldn’t be considered a longshot in the CIF SoCal Open Division. This just might be a rare season in which there are three or more NorCal teams that are better than any in SoCal.
Miramonte has one week off before it plays Carondelet of Concord at the Lamorinda Classic. The only current State Top 20 team left on its regular season schedule, however, is No. 8 Pinewood of Los Altos Hills. Miramonte plays at Pinewood on Feb. 20.