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Monarchs' Supporting Cast Shines : Patton, Rembert and Ruppel Play Key Roles in Victory

March 05, 1987|STEVE LOWERY | Times Staff Writer

Prepare yourself. You are about to tread on rarely trodden ground.

That's right, a story about a Mater Dei High School boys' basketball game that will not have LeRon Ellis as its main character.

To get it quickly out of the way, Ellis is the Monarchs' dominating 6-foot 10-inch center. He had 17 points and 7 rebounds in Mater Dei's 48-47 victory over St. Monica Wednesday in the semifinals of the Southern Section 5-A playoffs in the Sports Arena.

He's big time, he's major league, he's bound for Kentucky next season.

But Mater Dei's victory Wednesday owed just as much to guys such as Chris Patton, Kevin Rembert and Char Ruppel.

"I think this game proved that this really is a team," said Gary McKnight, Mater Dei coach. "Everyone talks about LeRon, but the four other guys out there are working their tails off. Without them, we would have lost this game."

Rembert, a 6-5 forward, had 9 points and 9 rebounds and made a layup with 1:11 left to put Mater Dei ahead, 46-45.

Patton, Monarch point guard, scored 10 points and made two free throws with 26 seconds left to give Mater Dei a 48-45 lead. Those two free throws proved to be the game's winning shots.

"I think everyone realized that we would have to pick up the slack," Patton said.

Ellis, averaging 23 points a game, was 7 for 16 from the field.

"We're not going to win with one guy doing it all," Patton said.

As a point guard, Patton is steady going on boring.

"You know, people watch Chris play and they might think he's not that good," Rembert said. "But he's so fluid, so solid. From playing with him every day, I think he's the perfect point guard. No mistakes, gets you the ball."

Rembert, a junior, may be Mater Dei's next great player. He was on the varsity as a freshman. He's made a name for himself with his jumping ability.

Mater Dei outrebounded St. Monica, 31-26, and Rembert was the difference. His nine rebounds were high for Mater Dei and tied him with St. Monica's highly touted center, Brian Williams, for game high.

"Kevin's just a great player," McKnight said. "You saw what he did at the end. I really think he's one of the best juniors around."

And then there's Ruppel, a 6-6 reserve forward. He had four points and a rebound and made a free throw with 30 seconds left in the first half to give Mater Dei a 19-18 halftime lead.

On a high-profile team such as Mater Dei, a team that will make its fifth straight appearance in a Southern Section final, Ruppel has got used to questions such as: "What are you doing on this team?"

The hair is always askew. The body does not have the classic basketball player shape. Ruppel looks more like an outside linebacker. And that's how he sees his role.

"I go in, try to get a rebound and hit some bodies," Ruppel said.

But it was Ruppel's short jump shot with 5:10 left in the third quarter that gave Mater Dei a 26-21 lead. His pass to Ellis with 3:13 left in third led to a basket, a foul and a 31-21 Mater Dei lead.

"You look at the things Char did," McKnight said. "The free throws he made and the shots. He turns out to be a big key for us."

Ruppel got so caught up in his performance that he launched an ill-advised 20-foot jump shot in the third quarter. He soon after made his way to the bench.

"They put a quick end to that," he said.

But because of players such as Ruppel, the season will continue Saturday for Mater Dei, in the 5-A final against long Beach Millikan.

"Of all the teams we've had," McKnight said. "I think this is the truest team we've had."

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