Mater Dei's Eli Stazler celebrates following the Monarchs'… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)
Reporting from Sacramento — With its shots not falling and frustration growing as Concord De La Salle kept running time off the clock on nearly every possession, Santa Ana Mater Dei found itself in an uncomfortable situation for much of Saturday night's CIF Division I state championship game.
The Monarchs' deficit reached nine points in the third quarter before Katin Reinhardt began to contribute some badly needed offense. He had 10 of his 17 points in the quarter, and Mater Dei was able to grind out a 43-36 victory in the lowest-scoring Division I final ever at Power Balance Pavilion.
It was a record-tying eighth state title for the Monarchs and Coach Gary McKnight, tying them with Los Angeles Crenshaw.
Mater Dei (32-3) took the lead for good at 31-30 with 6:20 left on a basket by Eli Stalzer. Then it was a
possession-by-possession struggle in the fourth quarter. Xavier Johnson and David Brown each contributed key baskets for the Monarchs. Freshman Stanley Johnson had 15 rebounds.
A crowd of 3,828 was present for a night session that concluded a historic weekend for private schools, which won all 10 state titles for boys and girls.
Mater Dei's triumph produced a big smile from McKnight even though it wasn't the prettiest of games. What the Monarchs pulled off was an achievement few would have predicted. Mater Dei had to knock off Long Beach Poly and Corona Centennial, two veteran teams, just to make it to Sacramento, and the Monarchs did it with only one senior among their top 10 players.
"It's great," Reinhardt said. "We're young and we're coming back next year."
De La Salle held an 18-12 halftime lead, running down the 35-second shot clock on seemingly every possession while creating lots of frustrating first-half moments for the Monarchs. Xavier Johnson picked up three fouls, and Mater Dei made repeated turnovers while settling for three-point shots that didn't fall.
The Spartans kept setting screens while testing the Monarchs' patience. It's not as if Mater Dei didn't know what was coming. The two schools played a scrimmage before the season, and De La Salle is well known for trying to make the game end up in the 40s.
But the toughness and strength of De La Salle on defense was taking its toll on the Monarchs. Mater Dei had 10 first-half turnovers and made just three of 16 shots. The Monarchs finished shooting 33% (12 of 36).