MJ Cage hopes to lead Mater Dei to another CIF Southern California Regional title.

Fairfax's turn to threaten Mater Dei's title streak


Mater Dei has done it before.

Can the Monarchs do it again?

Mater Dei’s boys basketball team has won a CIF State championship in a season in which it did not win a CIF-Southern Section championship in four of the past eight seasons.

Mater Dei this season lost in the CIF-SS semifinals. The Monarchs can get to another state championship game if they beat Fairfax of Los Angeles Saturday night in the CIF Southern California Regional Open Division final. Mater Dei has won four state titles in a row.

Mater Dei’s game against Fairfax, which tips off at 8 p.m. at Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State, is a rematch. Mater Dei beat Fairfax last month in the Nike Extravaganza.

The winner advances to the CIF State Championship game next Saturday in Berkeley to play the Northern California champion. Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland, the state’s top-ranked team, plays Modesto Christian in the Northern California final tonight.

Mater Dei has won 11 state championships, the most of any school in California history. The last time the Monarchs did not win a CIF-SS championship but won a state championship was in 2013. They also pulled that odd lose-win double in 2007, ’08 and ’11.

Obviously, Gary McKnight, in his 33rd year coaching the Monarchs, knows how to get a team re-focused after losing in the CIF-SS playoffs.

“I tell the guys … ‘You lost in the ACC Tournament, now you have a chance to win in the NCAA Tournament,’” McKnight said. “It’s a bigger and better tournament to move on to, and let’s try to win that.”

Mentally, things are set up pretty well for the Monarchs. On Wednesday they beat Bishop Montgomery of Torrance, the team that beat Etiwanda in the CIF-SS Open Division final. Etiwanda beat Mater Dei in the semifinals. And Mater Dei beat Fairfax last month.

In Mater Dei’s 47-34 over Fairfax in the Nike Extravaganza, the Monarchs held Fairfax to nine second-half points. Fairfax made only four of 23 shots in the second half. Senior guard La’Vette Parker led Mater Dei with 22 points and MJ Cage had 12 rebounds and six blocked shots.

This is Mater Dei’s 23rd regional championship game, by far the most of any team in regional history. The Monarchs have 15 regional championships.

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