It had been a rather painful week for Mater Dei High School forward Tom Lewis.
Several times, during the seven days the Monarchs had to prepare for Friday night's playoff game against Compton, Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight showed his players the videotape from last year's 45-44 overtime loss to Long Beach Poly in the Southern Section 4-A championship game.
The Monarchs had won 26 straight games since that defeat, and McKnight, hoping to deter any complacent feelings, wanted to remind his team what it was like to lose.
The film also stirred some sour memories for Lewis, who had played a subpar game against Poly and had his 10-foot shot, which might have won it for the Monarchs, blocked as time ran out.
With that videotape fresh in his mind, Lewis scored a game-high 34 points Friday night to lead Mater Dei to a 75-39 win over Compton in a 5-A quarterfinal game played in front of 1,500 at Compton College. The Monarchs (27-0) will meet Serra in Tuesday's semifinals at the Long Beach Arena.
Lewis, who led Orange County with a 31.7 points per game average, scored 15 points in the fourth period and teamed with Mike Mitchell, who added 21 points, to turn the game into a rout in the second half. Mitchell made 6 of 7 shots in the last two quarters, and Lewis made 10 of 13 to help the Monarchs overcome a sluggish first half.
"I was thinking about all the ex-Mater Dei players and how we felt last year in the final," Lewis said. "That was the last time we were all together, and it wasn't a lot of fun."
Friday night wasn't shaping up as one of those fun nights, either. The Monarchs were only leading the Tarbabes, 25-14, in the first half because Compton had played poorly, hitting 7 of 27 (26%) from the floor.
Mater Dei, which seemed a little intimidated by Compton's aggressive style, was missing layups and turning the ball over on a variety of mistakes, ranging from traveling calls to poor passes.
It had been a week since the Monarchs' opening-round win over Verbum Dei, but it looked as if they hadn't played in a month. They couldn't get their fast break going and seemed to be moving in slow motion at times.
To add to Mater Dei's troubles, the Monarch locker room was broken into during the first half. When the team arrived for its halftime talk, clothes were strewn about the room, and several gym bags, a wristwatch and some money were taken. McKnight said the value of the stolen goods was about $300.
All that seemed to inspire the Monarchs, who came out in the second half and blew the Tarbabes off the floor with a series of slam dunks, fast-break baskets and some accurate outside shooting.
"It might have been having our stuff ripped off, or the coach's great halftime speech," Lewis said, when asked about the Monarchs' turnaround. "He (McKnight) said we were only going to do this once, and he was pretty upset about the stuff being stolen, too.
"But I thought the key was that Mike Mitchell played a great game."
Mitchell's slam and ensuing free throw with 5:02 left in the third quarter gave Mater Dei a 34-20 lead and brought the Monarch fans to their feet. He added another three-point play with 1:49 left and scored 11 points in the period. Lewis took over in the fourth.
"We were pumped up and came out hungry," Mitchell said. "We played a tighter man-to-man defense in the second half and were able to break a little more. It just took us awhile to get into the game."
The Monarchs, who shot 41% in the first half, made 22 of 26 shots in the second half (85%) and finished the game at 62% (33 of 53). The Tarbabes were very patient on offense, often working the ball around for for 30 seconds before shooting.
But that did not mean Compton was getting shots. The Tarbabes made 17 of 57 shots (30%) in the game. Only four players scored for Compton, which was led by Darren Posey (16 points) and Barry Heads (14).
Now, only Serra, the Camino Real League champion which prefers the running game, stands between Mater Dei and its third consecutive appearance in a Southern Section championship game.
"That could be one of the biggest track meets ever," McKnight said. "It might even top the Sunkist meet. It will be a great spectator game."