Mater Dei center MJ Cage slams the ball between Santa Margarita forward Jake Kyman, left, and forward Adrease Jackson in Friday's game at Mater Dei. Cage had 12 rebounds.

Mater Dei maintains composure in showdown


SANTA ANA – Maybe it changed the momentum. Maybe it did not.

A goaltending call and a technical foul turned Mater Dei’s one-point lead into a four-point lead in the fourth quarter. Mater Dei went on to beat Santa Margarita, 57-48, Friday in a Trinity League boys basketball game at Mater Dei.

It was a matchup of the top two teams in the Orange County top 10. No. 1 Mater Dei pushed its league record to 4-0. The Monarchs are 17-2 overall.

No. 2 Santa Margarita is 11-6 overall, 2-1 in the league.

Mater Dei had a 44-43 lead midway through the fourth quarter when the Monarchs’ Bailey Stout drove the lane and, just before the shot clock expired, lofted a 7-foot runner in the lane. Santa Margarita’s Jordan Guest went up for the block, but the ball was on a downward arc when Guest swatted it away.

Just after an official signaled goaltending, a tussle occurred in the lane. Santa Margarita was whistled for a technical foul. Mater Dei’s Spencer Freedman made one of two technical foul shots and the Monarchs’ lead grew to 47-43.

Santa Margarita coach Jeff Reinert acknowledged that the sequence might have evaporated the momentum the Eagles had regained during the fourth quarter.

“Regardless of that,” Reinert said, “Mater Dei played well. We didn’t make enough shots to be successful.”

Santa Margarita made only 26 of 61 shots for 26 percent. Mater Dei made 22 of 49 for 45 percent. The Monarchs shot poorly at the free-throw line, where they were 11 for 20.

Mater Dei 6-foot-5 sophomore Harrison Butler, son of former UC Irvine star Ricky Butler, scored a game-high 14 points, including eight in the fourth quarter. Monarchs 6-10 senior MJ Cage had 12 rebounds.

Santa Margarita 6-7 freshman Jake Kyman had 12 points and 13 rebounds.

The Monarchs had a 9-2 lead early in the first quarter. They took a 14-9 lead into the second quarter and led 27-24 at halftime. Santa Margarita had its only lead of the game in the third quarter, when the Eagles went ahead, 31-29. Mater Dei regained the lead and carried a 38-35 advantage into the fourth quarter.

“In the first half they were tougher than we were,” Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said. “I was disappointed in our guys in the first half because I thought they weren’t playing as hard as they should have been playing. But we’re 4-0 in the Trinity League and that’s a great start.”

Mater Dei plays Oak Hill Academy of Mouth of Wilson, Va., Monday in the HoopHall Classic in Springfield, Mass. The Monarchs resume league play next Friday with a home game against St. John Bosco. Both of Mater Dei’s losses happened in the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina two weeks ago.

Santa Margarita plays at home against Bullard of Fresno on Monday at 2:30 p.m. The Eagles’ next league game is a home game Wednesday against Servite.

Mater Dei and Santa Margarita are ranked third and sixth, respectively, in CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA. Both are on the “watch list” of CIF-SS Open Division candidates, as are the Trinity League’s other four teams.

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