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PAUL RODRIGUEZ, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Mater Dei guard Rex Pflueger drives hard past Bishop O'Dowd guard Austin Walker trying to score with only seconds left on the clock in the CIF State Open Division boys basketball championship on Saturday in Berkeley.

Mater Dei title streak ends with loss in OT

STAFF WRITER

BERKELEY – Mater Dei wanted to prove it could win without that other guy.

The Monarchs almost did so Saturday. They took state No. 1 Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland to overtime but lost, 65-64, in the CIF State Open Division championship game at Cal.

Mater Dei was trying for a fifth consecutive state title. The Monarchs had a four-year streak of state titles when that other guy, Stanley Johnson, last year’s national player of the year, was on the team.

It was a great game with a bizarre finish. With the game tied, 64-64, O’Dowd’s Ivan Rabb was fouled on an inside move as time expired. The officials decided that Rabb was fouled with 0.8 seconds to go.

Rabb air-balled the first free throw. He made the second. The Monarchs inbounded the ball to La’Vette Parker but his 60-footer heave was very short of the target.

It is O’Dowd’s first state championship since 1981. The Dragons had lost eight straight state finals since then.

Mater Dei finished 29-5. The Monarchs lost to Etiwanda in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs, in the Open Division semifinals, then won a string of state tournament games to get to the state championship game.

The Monarchs are 11-5 in state finals. Their 11 state championships are the most of any California school.

Rabb, a 6-foot-11 senior, scored 19 points after having only six points at halftime. He had a game-high 21 rebounds. Speedy point guard Paris Austin scored 21 for the Dragons, who finished 28-4.

Four Mater Dei players finished with double-digit scoring. Senior Rex Pflueger, whose next game will be with Notre Dame, scored 19 points. KJ Smith, another senior, scored 13 with eight rebounds. Seniors Bailey Stout scored 12 with four 3-pointers and Parker scored 11.

MJ Cage, a junior, scored nine points with a team-high 13 rebounds.

Mater Dei had its chances to win in regulation. Smith converted a three-point play off of a tough offensive rebound to give the Monarchs a 58-54 lead with about a minute remaining. Austin made two free throws to trim that lead to 58-56.

Parker missed a free throw with 22 seconds to go. At the other end, O’Dowd’s Austin Walker made his only basket of the game, a driving layup through the key, to tie it, 58-58.

Parker tried a baseline floater that hit the heel of the rim, Cage got the rebound but his putback effort rolled off of the rim. O’Dowd got the ball and there might have been a Dragons player who signaled for a timeout that O’Dowd did not have – a technical foul on the Dragons, if that is what happened and if the officials had seen that.

Smith’s 3-pointer early in overtime gave the Monarchs a 63-59 lead. But O’Dowd came back and finally took the lead on that Rabb free throw.

Mater Dei had a 40-37 lead after the end of the third quarter and a 26-21 advantage at halftime.

Stout was the unlikely early scoring leader. His main contributions to the Monarchs are as a defender and passer. He made a couple of early 3-pointers and had nine points at halftime as Mater Dei enjoyed a 26-21 lead.

Contact the writer: sfryer@ocregister.com


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