Mater Dei win goes smoothly this time


SANTA ANA – Mater Dei defeated Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Montebello, 58-46, Friday at Mater Dei in the opening round of the CIF-SS Open Division boys basketball playoffs.

The fourth-seeded Monarchs (26-3) move on to play fifth-seeded Centennial of Corona (22-6) on Tuesday in a quarterfinal at Mater Dei.

As soon as Cantwell and Mater Dei sent their starters on the floor for the tip-off, it was clear the Monarchs had the size advantage. The average height of the Monarch starters was more than three inches taller than that of the Cardinals starters.

But Cantwell (16-11) brings a big game.

These two teams also met in the first round of the playoffs in 2014, and Cantwell nearly spoiled Mater Dei’s perfect season, pushing the game to overtime.

“In this division, you know, anything can happen,” Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said. “That year we … went on to go undefeated and win the national title. And we could have lost in the first round and been done.”

With two minutes left in the first quarter, Cantwell senior guard Jacob Davison blocked a shot that led to a basket on the other end to tie the score at eight.

On the following possession, senior guard James Yan hit a 3-pointer to put Cantwell up, 11-8. Senior point guard Elias Zedan, who assisted on the play, jumped and pumped his fist in the backcourt. The packed visitors’ stands erupted.

The home stands seemed to be reminded of the close call from two years ago.

The Monarchs weren’t down for long. Sophomore point guard Spencer Freedman, who led all scorers with 17, came right back to hit a three to tie it.

Mater Dei emerged from the quarter with a 14-13 lead, and took over from there. The Monarchs outscored the Cardinals, 18-9, in the second quarter, holding Cantwell to 3-for-10 shooting.

Mater Dei senior center MJ Cage had five blocks to go with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

“The shots he alters and blocks, it makes such a big difference,” McKnight said. “Not to mention the points.”

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