Mater Dei High School met the challenge and answered with a victory once again.
The Monarchs totally outplayed Capistrano Valley in the second half to earn a 67-54 victory Monday night in the championship game of the 21st Orange Holiday tournament.
A turnaway crowd of 2,200 packed the Hutton Sports Center to watch the top two teams in Orange County. Mater Dei had the reputation of never having lost to a county school under Coach Gary McKnight. The Monarchs also had a 41-game winning streak.
The lastest challenger was Capistrano Valley, who many thought could beat the Monarchs with a balanced offense led by point guard Nathan Call. The Cougars stunned Mater Dei by opening an 11-2 lead in the first quarter and had a 21-14 advantage midway through the second quarter.
But with 4:54 remaining in the first half, Cougar center John Waikle picked up his third foul, went to the bench and Capistrano Valley was never the same team. The Monarchs outscored Capistrano Valley, 20-6, to take a 34-27 lead and were never threatened after halftime.
Guard John Mounce made three consecutive shots to open the second half, giving the Monarchs a 32-27 lead and the momentum had clearly shifted to the Monarchs. Mounce finished with 19 points, making 8 of 12 field goal attempts.
"This game should dispel any notions that we don't have any guards," McKnight said. "Our guards were tremendous. I hopes this brings some credibility to (Tom) Peabody and Mounce."
Peabody, who was named the co-Most Valuable Player of the tournament along with teammate Stuart Thomas, did a great job guarding Call. Call made only one basket in the second half and finished with just 12 points.
Shawn Reed, the Cougars' most consistent player this year, also had an off night. He scored only four points and was never a factor.
"Their man-to-man defense took us completely out of our offense," said Mark Thornton, Capistrano Valley coach. "We got too far down, and our outside shooting went away."
Jason Trask paced Capistrano Valley with 16 points and 14 rebounds, but the absence of Reed's outside shooting and a subpar game by Call hurt the Cougars (11-2).
Mater Dei outscored the Cougars, 41-27, in the second half, and McKnight was asked what he told his team at halftime.
"We shot 34% in the half and were outrebounded, 13-10," he said. "But we were only down by one point. It was no time to panic.
"We just went over a few things. Our game plan all along was to stop Reed. What I really like is that we got down, and the kids got feisty. We really came back at them."
In other Orange Tournament action:
Marina 51, Santa Clara 42--Sophomore forward Steve Guild 12 of his team-high 15 points in the second half and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead the Vikings to the win in the third place game. Mike Meyers added 12 points for Marina (10-4).
Fountain Valley 54, Saddleback 47--The Barons scored 23 unanswered points in the first half to open a 31-12 lead at halftime. Fountain Valley finished fifth and improved to 8-5; Saddleback is 5-5.
Foothill 58, Westminster 51--The Knights missed only one shot in the fourth quarter and won the consolation championship. Foothill is 8-3, Westminster 3-8.