Once the defensive intensity increased Saturday afternoon, No. 1 Mater Dei High School defeated Servite, 64-44, in the Angelus League finale at Chapman College's Hutton Sports Center.
The win completed the Monarchs' perfect regular season (10-0 in league, 25-0 overall) and extended their winning streak to 54, the second-longest in CIF Southern Section history. They were tied at 53 with Compton (1951-53). Compton set the record of 66 from 1968-70.
The Monarchs played a sloppy first half that included eight turnovers and nine missed free throws, five of which were the front ends of one-and-one situations. Despite the poor play, Mater Dei led at the half, 29-25.
"It was our defensive intensity that turned the game around," Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight said. "After a few words at the half, they came out and just went to work."
The Monarchs limited the Friars to five points in the third period. Three of those came on a three-point play by junior forward Tony Smalley with 17 seconds left. Servite had been scoreless in the previous six minutes.
With the Friars' 6-foot 8-inch center John Arabia hampered by foul trouble, Monarch forward Stuart Thomas became more active, scoring 11 of his game-high 23 points in the period. He made both ends of a one-and-one, after Arabia's fourth foul, to put Mater Dei ahead, 35-27. The lead increased to 44-30 at the end of the quarter.
Servite Coach Larry Walker decided against benching Arabia in the fourth quarter. Smalley and forward Nick Marusich were already on the bench with four fouls. Arabia fouled out two minutes later, as Servite was sinking quickly. Smalley and Marusich also fouled out.
Servite was called for 30 fouls and Mater Dei 19.
Servite employed an aggressive physical style to stay close to the Monarchs in the second quarter and led four times. But by halftime, Smalley, Arabia and Marusich already had three fouls.
The Friars outplayed Mater Dei for most of the second quarter, when junior forward James Rollins scored 9 of his 11 points. He made the front end of a one-and-one to tie the game at 16-16, then made two more free throws to give the Friars their first lead, 18-17.
"We can play with these people," Walker said. "I wouldn't call our play physical. We just had to do the things it takes to play with these people. I thought we played a good, hard game."
The loss dropped the Friars (5-5, 10-11) into a three-way tie for second place with St. Paul and Pius X. The tie was broken by the head-to-head competition among the schools. Servite lost to St. Paul twice and split with Pius X, which eliminated the Friars from postseason play.
SERVITE (44)--Sullivan 10, Coady 2, Smalley 18, Rollins 11, Arabia 2, McCloskey 1.
MATER DEI (64)--Thomas 23, Ellis 7, Mounce 2, Dwyer 6, Peabody 16, Rembert 6, Patton 2, Quigley 1, Schmitt 1.