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Santa Margarita's Joe Furstinger, center attempts to shoot under the basket while guarded by Mater Dei's La'vette Parker, left, and Isaiah Juarez, right, during a basketball game on Wednesday at Mater Dei.

Mater Dei needs late surge to beat Santa Margarita


SANTA ANA — For three quarters, Santa Margarita’s passion and 3-point shooting kept its hopes of upsetting No. 1 Mater Dei alive.

The Monarchs put on a show for the final eight minutes.

Mater Dei’s talent rose above No. 9 Santa Margarita in the fourth quarter, both literally and figuratively, to turn a one-point game into a blowout. The Monarchs started the quarter on a 17-0 run to defeat the Eagles 71-49 in a Trinity League opener at Mater Dei on Wednesday.

MJ Cage scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. Stanley Johnson led the Monarchs with 19 points, while Devonte Klines led the Eagles with 13.

Mater Dei (15-0, 1-0) outscored Santa Margarita, 27-6, in the fourth quarter after leading just 44-43 through three. The Eagles (10-4, 0-1) turned the ball over six times in the fourth quarter and made just one field goal.

Cage got the run started by scoring the first six points of the fourth quarter, including a two-handed slam that put Mater Dei up 48-43. A La’vette Parker 3-pointer extended the lead to 53-43 and forced a Santa Margarita timeout.

The Eagles didn’t score until there was 1:59 remaining. Their first two points were answered by an alley-oop from Rex Pflueger to Cage to put the Monarchs up, 63-45. The play even wowed Pflueger, who turned toward the courtside seats to say “that was nice” while raising one arm.

“Second half we played real well,” Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said. “Obviously Stanley’s an important part of the ballclub, but Cage had a real good second half. Four guys in double figures.”

Santa Margarita turned the ball over 20 times. But when Johnson was relegated to the bench for the last 5:52 of the first half with three fouls, the Eagles made a run to stay in the game.

The Mater Dei star picked up his second foul attempting to block a Brett Oosdyke shot, then was given a technical foul when he disagreed with the call and walked away from the basket with the basketball.

The Eagles went on an 11-4 run to close the half tied at 28.

“They took it to us pretty good,” McKnight said. “That was the worst beating we’ve taken in a quarter this year and it took a little bit to get them woken up.”

Johnson returned for the start of the third quarter and drained a 3 on Mater Dei’s opening possession. He never picked up a fourth foul.

Santa Margarita’s Ray Shou hit back-to-back 3-pointers to help close an eight-point deficit to one at the end of the third quarter. But the shooters went cold in the fourth and the turnovers caught up to the Eagles.

“Credit to them, Stanley Johnson and Cage, they’re men and they played like it in the second half,” Eagles coach Jeff Reinert said. “Stanley took over the game and we just couldn’t control him. We couldn’t score baskets to slow them down.”

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