Mater Dei's Katie Lou Samuelson (33), Ally Rosenblum (22) and Kendyl Toomey, center, enjoy a playoff romp.

Samuelson, Mater Dei find great pain reliever


SANTA ANA - Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan was driving his daughter to school Friday morning when the 6-year old made an astute observation from the back seat.

“She asked why I didn’t cry,” Kiernan explained, referring to the Monarchs’ devastating one-point loss to Chaminade of West Hills in last Saturday’s CIF-SS Open Division final.

“I told her I was crying inside,” he continued. “And then she said, ‘Dad, why don’t you make the other team cry tonight.’”

While her X’s and O’s are still developing, Mater Dei rolled with a game plan thought up by a 6-year old on Friday evening, and executed it flawlessly.

Katie Lou Samuelson broke the school’s single-game scoring record with a career-high 42 points and the second-seeded Monarchs raced past Palisades, 99-73, in the first round of the CIF Southern California Open Division Regional.

Mater Dei (29-2) will host third-seeded Long Beach Poly (26-3) Tuesday in the regional semifinals. Faced with the same situation last March, the Jackrabbits ended the Monarchs’ season en route to a state championship.

Mater Dei’s focus Friday was to get back to its winning ways six days after a heartbreaking loss in the Southern Section finals.

“It has been a tough week,” Kiernan acknowledged. “We can’t get that (Chaminade) game back no matter what we do.”

There were no signs of an emotional hangover early on as the Monarchs jumped out to a 17-2 lead midway through the first quarter.

Samuelson and teammates benefitted from the game’s rapid pace, knocking down shots in space in addition to feeding the post early in the shot clock.

“That was like the old Loyola Marymount games back with Paul Westhead and Hank Gathers,” Kiernan said. “It was just up and down, up and down. They were giving us a lot of open court. ... We’re just glad we got a comfortable lead and were able to maintain it.”

A 32-12 first-quarter lead turned into a 57-38 halftime advantage for the Monarchs.

Junior forward Ally Rosenblum was unstoppable down low and finished with 21 points, and Andee Velsaco added 11.

The night belonged to Samuelson, though. The senior wing scored 12 of her 42 points in the fourth quarter, exiting the game to a standing ovation after she broke the single-game record (41 points) shared by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Nirra Fields.

“Towards the end, my teammates were getting antsy (about her breaking the school record), and I hate when they freak out cause it makes me freak out,” she joked. “But my team does such a great job finding me. They’re just awesome because they’re so happy for me. And that’s the best part – that I can share it with them.”

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