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Mater Dei Stars Need Help to Defeat Upland


Mater Dei, usually synonymous with standouts Cedric Bozeman and Jamal Sampson, needed help from some of their teammates in the closing minutes Thursday to pull out a 61-56 victory over Upland in a Southern California Regional Division I semifinal at Ocean View High.

Guard Ricky Porter hit a pull-up jumper and two free throws. Guard Brian Baker contained dangerous Highlander guard Sheldon Pace. And forward Mike Strawberry rejected a shot by Pace that could have tied the score with less than 30 seconds to play.

The top-seeded Monarchs needed every bit of the assistance as they advanced to play Fresno Clovis West, a 82-57 winner over Corona Centennial, Saturday in the regional championship at the Forum. Clovis West defeated Mater Dei in last season's regional final.

While the Mater Dei role players stole the show late in Thursday's game, Sampson and Bozeman got their points too. Sampson, playing on aching feet, scored 15 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked eight shots in one of his most spirited performances of the season. Bozeman scored 19 points and had seven assists.

Porter scored nine of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Monarchs (31-2) rallied from a five-point deficit at the end of the third quarter.

"That was a great comeback victory," Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight said.

Forward Kirk Snyder scored 23 points and Pace added 17 for Upland (32-2).

The Highlanders led, 52-51, with about two minutes left after Jason Harris drove to the basket and scored over Sampson.

But Porter responded with a three-pointer, and Sampson took an inbounds pass from Bozeman under the basket on the Monarchs' next possession and put it in to give Mater Dei a 56-52 lead.

"I could see it in our eyes that we weren't going to take the loss," Porter said. "I think with our experience, all of us had been in this situation before. We didn't panic."

Upland pulled to within two points when Snyder drove the lane and scored over Sampson's fully extended arms. And Pace countered a clutch pull-up jumper by Porter with a scoop layup to make the score 58-56, Mater Dei, with 30 seconds left.

That's when Pace stole an inbounds pass thrown to no one in particular. He drove the lane but his shot was blocked by Strawberry. Porter then sealed the victory when he converted both ends of a one-and-one.

"I was more concentrated than I've ever been in my whole life," Porter said of his late free throws.

Sampson gave Mater Dei its final point when he made one of two free throws with 12 seconds to play, but acknowledged that he was only one of many stars Thursday.

"Everyone made somewhat of a big play at the end and contributed to the win," said Sampson, who played despite a bone spur in his right foot and tendinitis in his left.

After the final horn sounded, Mater Dei players hooted and hollered en route to the team's makeshift locker room, a double-wide trailer. This was in stark contrast to the Monarchs' blase reaction to their victory over Corona Centennial last Saturday that gave them the Southern Section Division I-A title.

"Bring on Clovis West, baby!" Mater Dei guard Wesley Washington said.

Said Sampson: "That's the perfect team to play. They knocked us off last year in the same situation. We need to tie it up at one game each."

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