ANAHEIM — Both sides seemed to find the silver lining they were looking for in the feature game at the Wooden High School Invitational Thursday night at the Pond.
Perennial Southern Section power Mater Dei, which got 17 points and 10 rebounds from junior forward Mike Bayer and 16 points and seven assists from sophomore guard Steve Scoggin, beat Encino Crespi, 61-43.
The Monarchs, who don't return a starter off the 1996-97 Southern Section Division I-A champion, shook off early jitters and pulled out to a 34-19 halftime lead. Despite a lineup that occasionally comprised two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, the Monarchs (1-0) never had trouble with Crespi (0-2).
Nonetheless, after the game, Crespi Coach Dick Dornan claimed moral victory, citing his team's hustle in the second half. The Celts cut the lead to 39-29 with 2 minutes 3 seconds left in the third quarter on a layin by Andy Owens.
"The second half you saw tonight is going to be the focal point of our team for the rest of the year," Dornan said. "We did not give up in the second half. I think we earned a lot of respect."
Crespi made five of 24 field-goal attempts in the first half and 13 of 55 for the game. Mater Dei blocked 11 shots and held a 37-33 rebound advantage.
Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight said he saw the result as the first step in a rebuilding process he thinks will take about two years.
"It's kind of neat to sit there on the bench and think that I have all five starters back next year," McKnight said. "There's no rush. We have to take the preseason games one at a time and become a good team by January."
Bayer kept the Monarchs in the game early, but it was Scoggin who put this one in the books. He made three consecutive baskets midway through the second quarter, including a nice seven-foot baseline pull-up shot that gave Mater Dei a 24-13 lead. The Monarchs continued the run, thanks to three consecutive Crespi turnovers. Bayer's rebound and layin, another basket by Scoggin and a rebound and basket by Christian McGuigan gave the Monarchs a 32-13 lead with 1:25 left in the half.
Bayer said it will take time for this team to develop.
"We just have to come together as a team," he said. "We only have two returning players. We're all up from the junior varsity and freshman teams, so we have to become cohesive as a unit."
In the opening game:
Glendora 62, Chino Hills Ayala 43: The Tartans (2-0) showed why they are expected to be one of the top teams in the Southern Section. They jumped out to an 18-6 first-quarter lead and increased that to as many as 24 points in the second half.
Forward Chris Clark had a game-high 23 points, nine rebounds and four assists and 6-6 guard Casey Jacobsen, an all-Southern Section choice last season, had 21 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Earl Sanchez scored 14 points and had five assists.
The Tartans put this away with an 18-8 run in the third quarter that gave them a 52-30 lead.
Ayala (1-1), which made only 17 of 54 field-goal attempts, got 12 points from guard Jay Espinoza and 10 from forward Shane Unrein.