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Mater Dei, Santa Monica stars in spotlight at state championships

High school basketball title games will feature Stanley Johnson and Jordan Mathews, plus Jordin Canada of Windward and San Jose Mitty's Aaron Gordon.

March 22, 2013|Eric Sondheimer
  • Mater Dei's Stanley Johnson knocks the ball away from Long Beach Poly's Jordan Bell in the first half of the CIF Southern California Open Division semifinal basketball playoff game.
Mater Dei's Stanley Johnson knocks the ball away from Long Beach Poly's… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

SACRAMENTO — Get ready for real star power on display this weekend at the CIF state basketball championships at Sleep Train Arena.

There's no LeBron and no Kobe, but there's Aaron, Stanley, Jordan and Jordin.

Aaron Gordon of San Jose Archbishop Mitty, Stanley Johnson of Santa Ana Mater Dei, Jordan Mathews of Santa Monica and Jordin Canada of Los Angeles Windward seem destined to have their high school jerseys retired.

They are having most-valuable-player seasons and keep raising their profiles as the pressure increases.

Gordon and Johnson face each other in the Open Division boys' final on Saturday at 8 p.m. Each is bidding for a third consecutive state championship in Sacramento.

Gordon, whose brother Drew played at UCLA and New Mexico, is a 6-foot-8 senior selected to play in the McDonald's All-American game. He has narrowed his college choices to Washington, Oregon, Kentucky and Arizona. In the Northern California regional final, he scored 29 points and had 22 rebounds.

Johnson is Mater Dei's 6-7 junior who missed his first 11 shots on Saturday in the regional final against Etiwanda, then scored 16 points in the third quarter, making six consecutive shots, including four from three-point range. He finished with 25 points.

"That's why he's the state player of the year," Coach Gary McKnight said.

Mathews is a 6-3 senior who signed with California. He made the game-winning three-point shot with two seconds left to defeat Loyola in the Division I regional final and send Santa Monica into Friday's Division I state final against Elk Grove Pleasant Grove. He has had playoff games of 41 and 36 points and is averaging 24.6 points and 8.5 rebounds.

There was a time when Mathews was simply known as the son of UCLA assistant coach Phil Mathews. Now, by performing so well in the postseason, he has earned a place in the discussion of who's best in the state.

"My dad says, 'Don't care what anyone thinks about your game. As long as you're confident in yourself, it will take you as far as you want,'" Mathews said. His confidence is "through the roof right now."

Canada is a 5-7 junior point guard who has led Windward's girls' team to a 32-0 record. She had 14 assists in the regional final against Mater Dei. Anyone who sees her play becomes an admirer of her dribbling skills, unselfishness and ability to come through in the clutch. She's set to take on Oakland Bishop O'Dowd on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Open Division girls' final.

Teams don't win championships without multiple contributors, but it sure helps to have an individual who can be the go-to player when things get tough.

That's what Gordon, Johnson, Mathews and Canada can do.

All 12 games this weekend will be broadcast live on Time Warner Cable SportsNet or Time Warner Cable HD Channel 700. Or you can pay $16 for a ticket.

Whatever it takes, don't miss catching a glimpse of these four teenage basketball stars. They're destined to provide lots of entertainment and create excitement for years to come.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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