It was two years ago that Bryant Walton, former Saddleback High School guard, almost single-handedly beat Mater Dei with a 31-point performance, including a 25-foot shot at the buzzer that sent the game into overtime.
The Roadrunners ultimately lost, 53-51, but the game remains memorable because it was the closest the Monarchs have come to losing to an Orange County school since Gary McKnight became the school's coach six years ago.
Bryant, now a starting guard for the University of California, graces the cover of the Bears' pocket basketball schedule, while Mater Dei continues to produce major-college players in assembly-line fashion.
The teams will meet again at 8:30 tonight in the championship game of the Costa Mesa-Newport Harbor tournament after posting semifinal victories Thursday. Saddleback used a strong second-half performance to beat Estancia, 59-48.
McKnight gained the 150th victory of his career as the Monarchs defeated La Quinta, 72-67. The Monarchs' junior varsity team has also been successful in the tournament, defeating two varsity teams to reach the consolation championship at 5:10 today against Newport Harbor.
The Saddleback-Mater Dei rematch figures to be a tight, physical game. The Roadrunners (2-0) have shown early in the tournament that they can play with anybody, as Gylan Dottin and his younger brother, Malru, have taken turns tearing up opponents.
Gylan led all scorers Thursday night with 18 points and added 10 rebounds. Malru added 14 points, 9 rebounds and put his personal seal on the victory with a crowd-pleasing dunk with 23 seconds remaining for a 58-46 lead.
Saddleback made 16 of 23 field goal attempts in the second half to pull away from pesky Estancia (2-1). Guard Craig Marshall also did an excellent job of containing Estancia's Mike Curtis, limiting him to three points. Curtis had averaged 21 points in two previous games.
Afterward, Pat Quinn, Saddleback coach, welcomed the challenge of playing the county's top-ranked team for the tournament title.
"We'll try it again," he said. "If we don't get awed, we have a good chance of beating them. Anytime you play Mater Dei, you go into the game with the attitude of everything to gain and nothing to lose.
"There's a big incentive because they're close to us (about two miles) and (center Derek) Stone lives in our district. In fact, his sister went to Saddleback."
In other Costa Mesa-Newport tournament games:
Mater Dei 72, La Quinta 67--Guard Mike Hopkins scored 9 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including five free throws, to help the Monarchs (3-0) advance to the title game. Char Ruppel had 14 points and Kevin Rembert added 13 for Mater Dei.
La Quinta (2-1) stayed close, but the Aztecs were hurt when forwards Arri Buford and Scott Campbell got into foul trouble in the third quarter and had to leave the game. Buford fouled out in the last quarter with 10 points. Campbell led all scorers with 27 points.
Newport Harbor 80, Glenn 48--Jim Greelings and Tyler Koon each had 17 points as the Sailors (2-1) advanced to today's consolation final. Newport Harbor jumped out to a 20-7 lead and Glenn (1-2) never got closer than 10 points. Drew Sheward had 10 assists for Newport Harbor and Mike Hardin added 16 points.
University 73, La Quinta JV 42--Dave Warren and Steve Stolzoff each had 16 points to advance the Trojans (2-1) into today's fifth-place game against Los Alamitos. Trenton Julian had 10 points for La Quinta (1-2).
Los Alamitos 94, Eisenhower 67--Brett Pagett had 23 points, 9 steals and 8 assists to lead the Griffins (2-1). Greg Reyes, Dre Lamoureux and Doug Davidson each had 13 points for Los Alamitos. Lamoureux also had 10 rebounds. The Griffins play University today in the fifth-place game.
In the Cerritos-Gahr tournament:
Sunny Hills 89, Cerritos 56--Brian McCloskey, a senior forward, had 23 points and 12 rebounds in only three quarters of play for the Lancers (2-0). Sunny Hills faces Millikan in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m.
St. John Bosco 52, Kennedy 50--Mark Miller made two free throws with less than a minute remaining to lift the Braves (1-1) past the Irish. Michael Keith had 13 points to lead the Irish (0-2), who missed a shot with five seconds left.
In the Orange Lutheran tournament:
Mary Star 66, Orange 51--The Stars led at halftime, 37-27. Angelo Dileta had 17 points for Mary Star. John Rodriguez led Orange with 17 points.
Orange Lutheran 73, Newport Christian 42--The Conquerors led, 4-0, but Orange Lutheran scored the 24 consecutive points to lead at the end of the first quarter, 24-4. Jason Neben had 19 points and Pat Bagatourian 15 for Orange Lutheran (1-1).
In the Valencia tournament:
Esperanza 75, Rancho Alamitos 60--Esperanza trailed, 14-10, after the first quarter, but outscored the Vaqueros, 28-13, to take a 42-23 halftime lead. Rob May had 24 points for the Aztecs (1-1), who face La Habra Saturday in the consolation finals. Tom Talvelec had 14 points to lead Rancho Alamitos (0-2).
Valencia 59, Rosemead 46--Bernie James had 28 points for the Tigers (2-1), who jumped out to a 15-5 lead in the first quarter.