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BOYS' BASKETBALL / DIVISION I REGIONAL SEMIFINAL : Cougars Edge Out Huntington Beach

March 14, 1993|SEAN WATERS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Santa Ana Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight boldly predicted that the Southern California Division I regional championship would be an all-Orange County affair between the Monarchs and Huntington Beach.

The Monarchs beat Huntington Beach for the Southern Section Division I championship, and McKnight was so confident that the two teams would meet for a fourth time he told Oiler Coach Roy Miller, "See you next Saturday, Roy."

But City 4-A champion Crenshaw pulled the curtain on the Orange County party, beating Huntington Beach, 66-61, Thursday in a Division I semifinal game at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

"I told my kids that Mater Dei beat (Huntington Beach) three times," Crenshaw Coach Willie West said. "They don't deserve to play them a fourth time."

Crenshaw returned to prominence, winning its 12th City title and two regional preliminary games. The Cougars (26-2) played their old nemesis Mater Dei (33-1) in the Regional finals at the L.A. Sports Arena on Saturday. (See Sports, Section C, for results). The winner plays the Northern California Regional representative Saturday for the State Division I championship at the Oakland Coliseum Arena.

"We've been looking forward to playing Mater Dei all season from the get go," said Crenshaw forward Kris Johnson.

Saturday's game at the Sports Arena was the fourth between the two schools in the past 11 years. Mater Dei, which lost to Alameda St. Joseph in the State final last season, won state titles in 1987 and 1990. The Cougars have won four State titles, the last in 1989. "We've been taking a vacation the last couple years so we're glad to be back in it," West said.

Crenshaw led for most of the game against Huntington Beach, but the Cougars had to make six of their last eight free throws to preserve their victory. Johnson, who had a game-high 28 points, made four free throws in the final 36 seconds.

The Cougars held a seven-point lead, 60-53, with 2:30 left, but the Oilers came back when Bryan Chang made two three-point baskets from way beyond the 19-foot-9 inch arc.

"Those were NBA threes, not college threes," West said. "Our players didn't think he would shoot from that far out."

Forward Matt Ambrose scored from three feet to give Huntington Beach a 61-60 lead with 59 seconds left, but Crenshaw responded eight seconds later with two free throws from Maurice Robinson and never trailed again.

"They're good, they really hustled," Ambrose said. "They boxed out well. We didn't get too many second opportunities."

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