It was just another Angelus League game between Servite and Mater Dei High Schools Friday night. Which, of course, meant to the more than 2,000 who watched at Valencia High School that nothing else in the world really seemed important.
It was the usual rowdy, turbo-charged atmosphere that accompanies any athletic event these schools meet in.
The outcome Friday was no different. Mater Dei (4-0, 17-1) won the game, 73-68, to extend its league winning streak to 46 games.
And here's a shocker, LeRon Ellis, Mater Dei center, was the main reason the Monarchs won. Ellis scored 31 points and dominated the key area defensively. But Ellis, a 6-feet 10-inches senior, started slowly.
Servite's defensive plan was obvious: Stop Ellis. The Friars (2-2, 10-9) played a man-to-man defense in the first quarter but continually sagged toward Ellis. Whenever he received the ball, three, sometimes four, defenders converged on him.
With that pressure, Ellis had only four points in the first quarter. It was the outside shooting of Mike Hopkins, who had six points in the first quarter, that led Mater Dei to a 14-10 lead by the end of the period.
But triple team or not, Ellis seemed unstoppable in the second quarter, scoring 10 points. He made jump shots and layups; he converted free throws and almost converted a dunk, but was called for an offensive foul.
With Ellis leading the way, Mater Dei took a 35-24 halftime lead and appeared to have the game well under control.
"They're not the only team that drops men on me," Ellis said.
"Pretty much every team we face tries something like that. And so it doesn't intimidate me. We have offenses designed to free me and I know I'm going to get my shots."
It looked as if the Monarchs were going to put the game away when they took a 39-26 lead on an Ellis dunk with 7:20 left in the third quarter, but Servite went on a 10-0 run in the next three minutes with Brett Caya, Tony Smalley and Shawn Sullivan making jump shots. That cut the lead to 39-36 with 4:20 left.
But Ellis stopped the rally with a 10-foot jump shot. The teams traded baskets and Mater Dei led, 52-43, when the quarter ended.
Mater Dei again appeared in control, leading 67-54 with 3:34 left to play. At that point, each team began substituting its reserve players, a sign the game was over. Except that Servite's reserves tore up Mater Dei's reserves and brought the Friars back to within two points with two seconds left.
Mater Dei's Kevin Rembert, who had 16 points, and Chris Patton, who had 10, each made free throws to preserve the victory.