An hour before the 7:30 p.m. tipoff Wednesday, the sold-out sign was already up outside the Bishop Amat High School gym.
Inside, about 2,000 fans were shoehorned into a gym designed to hold 1,200. They sat on the gym floor, on folding chairs along the end line and wherever they could find space in the bleachers.
They had been waiting a long time to see Bishop Amat beat Mater Dei and win an Angelus League championship.
And the fans did not go away disappointed--Bishop Amat beat Mater Dei, 72-57.
Though there is still one game left in league play, the Monarchs' five-year reign as Angelus League champions has ended. A win by Bishop Amat (23-2 overall, 8-1 in league play) over St. Paul Friday would give the Lancers the title outright. A loss would leave the Lancers and Monarchs with identical 8-2 league marks, provided that Mater Dei beats Servite Friday,
However, Bishop Amat would be declared the champion because it has beaten Mater Dei (16-7, 7-2) twice this season.
Poor first-quarter shooting and a lack of a big man sealed Mater Dei's fate Wednesday.
Bishop Amat was too fast and too big for the Monarchs to handle. A string of three straight Bishop Amat three-point shots, two by Stephon Pace, put the Lancers up, 21-4, with 1:19 left in the first quarter.
Pace, who had a game-high 21 points, and Terry Lamb, who scored 18, took care of the outside. Center Geoff Lear, who had 17, controlled the inside and effectively stopped the Monarchs' Kevin Rembert.
"Kevin's 6-feet 4-inches, Lear is 6-8, it's tough for him to score on him," Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight said. "We just couldn't come back from that big deficit. We played a good three quarters."
Mater Dei managed to make one strong run at Bishop Amat. Trailing by 22 points, 47-25, with 4:31 left in the third quarter, the Monarchs outscored the Lancers, 16-3, to pull to within nine, 50-41, at the end of the third.
Mike Hopkins, a senior guard, had 6 of his team-high 10 points during the run. But the Monarchs couldn't get over the hump, and Pace and Lamb sealed the win with late free throws.
Rembert had only seven poins on just two field goals. Guards Mark Ramstack and Dylan Rigdon each had nine points.
"We said at practice Monday and Tuesday we wanted to run every chance we got, and we did," Bishop Amat Coach Alex Acosta said, explaining the Lancers' game plan.
For much of the game, the Lancers had Mater Dei backpedaling. Pace and Lamb led one fastbreak opportunity after another. And if it didn't always result in a layup, the Lancers' running set up some easy short-range jumpers.
Mater Dei had an easy time getting its shots, it just had problems making them. And once the Monarchs fell behind, there was just too much ground to be made up.
"We were happy with our offense, but they (Bishop Amat) just shot so well," McKnight said. "How do you defense that? Maybe that's why they're 23-2."
Servite 85, Bishop Montgomery 65--Brian Kenney scored 24 points and Nick Marusich added 20 to lead Servite (12-10, 2-7), at Bishop Montgomery. The game snapped a five-game Servite losing streak. Tom Aloia led Bishop Montgomery (0-9 in league play) with 21 points, including five three-point shots, and Andy Zimmerman added 17 points.