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Mater Dei Runs Out of Magic in Final

Boys' basketball: Late shots don't fall this time for Monarchs, who lose, 71-64, to Fresno Clovis West in regional championship game.

March 12, 2000|BEN BOLCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The patented Cedric Bozeman driving layup missed. The count-it Steve Scoggin three-pointer rolled out of the rim. The typically strong ballhandling never materialized.

The crown was on the other head for a change Saturday night as Fresno Clovis West held off Mater Dei for a 71-64 victory in the Southern California Regional Division I boys' basketball championship game before an estimated 5,000 at the Great Western Forum.

Mater Dei, which led by five points early in the fourth quarter, late in the game didn't act like the top-seeded team that had rallied for comeback victories in the first two rounds of the regional.

Bozeman missed a one-handed layup that could have brought the Monarchs to within a point with 46 seconds left.

Scoggin could not convert a three-pointer that could have tied the score with 30 seconds to go. And sure-handed guard Ricky Porter threw the ball away on Mater Dei's next possession after Clovis West missed two consecutive free throws to keep the Monarchs' hopes alive.

"We didn't take care of the ball and made poor decisions in the open floor," said Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight, whose team made 24 turnovers. "We looked like a tired team. Cedric was just gassed.

"I'm very disappointed," McKnight said. "I'm disappointed for the kids. It's hard to come back with focus after such an emotional game Friday night [a 72-64 victory over Los Angeles Westchester], but they came back."

Clovis West, which Friday night defeated Long Beach Poly, 90-68, relied on the inside-outside combination of guard Chris Hernandez (23 points, including four free throws in the last 13 seconds) and center Charlie Rodriguez (17 points).

The Golden Eagles made the 4 1/2-hour drive from Fresno immediately after their semifinal victory Friday and arrived at their hotel in Southern California at 2:30 a.m. Saturday. They were still fresh enough to harass Mater Dei defensively while committing only 14 turnovers.

"I'm just really happy for these kids," said Clovis West Coach Vance Walberg, whose team has won 30 games for three consecutive seasons. "As a coach you always tell them to believe. Now they might believe."

The Eagles (39-2) won their first regional title and tied the state record for most victories in a season, held by Lodi since it set the record in 1911.

Clovis West will play Concord De La Salle, which won the Northern Regional title, in the state championship game next Saturday at Arco Arena in Sacramento.

Mater Dei (34-2) looked like it had put on a game-winning run when it scored 11 consecutive points to take a 10-point lead in the third quarter. But the Eagles scored eight unanswered points of their own to make it a tight game heading into the fourth quarter.

Scoggin's three-pointer with 5:48 to play gave the Monarchs a five-point edge, 60-55, but McKnight still wasn't confident. "Nah," he said. "We had a 10-point lead at one point and it was gone. They're a feisty team."

Clovis West came back and built a 67-62 lead thanks in large part to a Hernandez three-pointer and a one-handed driving basket by Tyrone Jackson. The Monarchs then started their collapse after Porter made a spectacular one-handed scoop under the basket to make the score 67-64.

"I don't think we had an outstanding player today," McKnight said. "We were pretty flat."

Bozeman scored 14 and Porter, Scoggin and Sampson each had 12. Center Jamal Sampson had 13 rebounds, 12 blocks and eight points as the Monarchs lost their bid to defend their regional title and tie Crenshaw for a record eighth championship overall.

Mater Dei led by two points at halftime after trailing big early. Clovis West took advantage of poor shooting and ballhandling by the Monarchs in racing to a 17-6 lead.

The Monarchs clawed back steadily in the second quarter and tied the score, 23-23, on a Christian McGuigan layup. Mike Strawberry's three-point play gave Mater Dei a five-point advantage with 1:30 to go before halftime, but Jason Walberg's buzzer-beating three-pointer cut the Monarchs' lead to 34-32.

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