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Big 2 Shoot Blanks for Simi Valley


In the hearts and minds of Simi Valley High players and coaches, there was a scenario to end Mater Dei's domination in Southern Section Division I-A basketball.

Branduinn Fullove would get hot from outside; Brett Michel would hit a few three-pointers; Dustin Villepigue would keep 6-foot-10 Jamal Sampson away from the basket, and Anish Sharda would keep a hand in the face of Cedric Bozeman.

Everything would end with a Simi Valley victory pile in the middle of The Pond, with players crying and proclaiming, "We shocked the world."

It didn't happen Saturday night, because 14-time champion Mater Dei (32-1) has too much talent and just doesn't lose in championship games.

Simi Valley (28-3) lost to the Monarchs, 53-39, on a night its two dependable, usually unflappable seniors, Fullove and Michel, were a combined three for 31 shooting.

The two four-year starters have each scored more than 2,000 points in their careers. They know what to do when a good shooter is cold--keep shooting. But Mater Dei's simple but effective man-to-man defense never let up.

"We prepared for them all week," said Bozeman, the Monarchs' 6-5 junior point guard. "They were their go-to players. We slowed them down and they couldn't do anything."

Mater Dei doesn't use any gimmicks. The Monarchs play sound team defense, always looking to help each other.

Even with Simi Valley not shooting well, the Pioneers twice pulled to within five points in the fourth quarter. But Sampson, who scored 17 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and had eight blocked shots, would never let the Pioneers come closer.

"They're a great team," Coach Christian Aurand of Simi Valley said. "Our kids battled to the end. To our kids' credit, they never quit."

Simi Valley lost by only four points to Mater Dei in a tournament game last December and even led by eight points in the second half, but the Monarchs are immensely improved. They dominated the boards, outrebounding the Pioneers, 53-24.

Over the last four seasons, Simi Valley has been beaten in the playoffs by Long Beach Poly, Artesia and Mater Dei twice. Those are programs that have become accustomed to winning championships.

"We're happy inside, but we're not showing it," Bozeman said. "It's like we're used to it."

The Pioneers didn't want to settle for second place, but the loss shouldn't take away from a season to remember.

"It's been a roller coaster ride, with tremendous highs and some lows," Aurand said.

Simi Valley still qualified for the Division I state playoffs that begin on Wednesday. The pairings are announced today.

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