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SOUTHERN SECTION BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS : Mater Dei Gets Wake-Up Call, a Section Title : Division I-A boys: Rather than get run out of the building, the Chargers run out of time after staging a late rally. Monarchs win, 65-59.

March 06, 1994|CHRIS FOSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Mater Dei's basketball team did what was expected Saturday night. It was Edison that did the unexpected.

The Monarchs wrapped up what was already considered their Southern Section Division I-A boys' title at Anaheim Arena. But getting it took more of an effort than anticipated.

Mater Dei hung on for a 65-59 victory over Edison in front of 13,395 somewhat stunned fans. Everyone was expecting the Chargers to be run out of the building. Instead they only might have run out of time.

Edison charged back from 15 points down in the final five minutes. Twice the Chargers got to within four points in the final minute. Both times Miles Simon coolly sank a free throws to stave off what could have been one of the biggest upsets in Orange County high school basketball history.

Mater Dei (31-0) came into the game ranked second in the nation by USA Today. Edison (19-10) had finished tied for fourth in the Sunset League.

But Simon made six of eight free throws in the final 49 seconds to prevent the shocker.

"In that situation, if we were going to lose, I wanted it to be my fault," said Simon, who scored 26 points. "I wanted the ball on the line."

Said center Shaun Jackson: "That's just Miles. He steps up in big games. He took over."

That the Monarchs needed saving stunned even themselves. There were a lot of long faces on the Mater Dei bench afterward even though they had won the school's ninth section title in 12 seasons.

But the Monarchs managed a smile or two, in between those sighs of relief.

"I don't know if we overlooked them, but we came out flat," Simon said.

Said Coach Gary McKnight: "Maybe we had an off night. Maybe it was Edison."

The Chargers had won seven consecutive games, including a league playoff game against Ocean View just to nail down the league's fourth automatic playoff berth. Edison defeated Century in overtime, upset third-seeded Orange and then rallied from 16 points to beat Palmdale in the semifinals.

But that run was suppose to be stopped with authority by Mater Dei, which hadn't had a game closer than 18 points since beating Long Beach Poly by three in overtime in the final of the Tournament of Champions back in December.

Still . . .

"Whether you're ranked No. 2 in country or where ever, once the kids get out on the court, they forget about that," Edison Coach Larry Hirst said.

It could have been a sound bite to keep his team's spirits up. But the Chargers bought it, hook, line and sinker.

Mater Dei tried to pull away on several occasions.

A 12-3 run gave the Monarchs a 22-11 lead early in the second quarter and they led, 32-22, at halftime. Mater Dei shot 58% the first half. Simon made seven of 10 shots and had 14 points.

But the Chargers wouldn't go away. They were four points behind with three minutes left in the third quarter.

Ben Beard (24 points) and Micah Kroeger (22 points) carried the Charger offense. At one point Beard even went head-to-head Schea Cotton, the Monarchs' 6-foot-5 freshman. Beard ducked and faked, then hit a jump hook over a stunned Cotton.

Kroeger scored all of his points in the second half, including 13 in the fourth quarter.

Simon and Cotton (25 points) countered with jumpers, layups and dunks. But they couldn't bury the Chargers.

Simon ignited a 12-2 run that gave Mater Dei a 53-38 lead with 4:17 left. It appeared over, to everyone but the Chargers. Kroeger and and Beard rallied Edison again, getting to 61-57 with 37 seconds left. But the Chargers couldn't get any closer.

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