ORANGE – For 2½ quarters Friday night, Canyon made a gutty effort against nationally ranked Mater Dei.
Canyon trailed by only four points. Then Mater Dei's superior talent took over.
The Monarchs outscored the Comanches, 17-2, during the final four minutes of the third quarter to take control and roll to an 84-52 victory in a semifinal game of the Dick's Sporting Goods Orange Holiday Classic at Chapman University.
Mater Dei will play Tustin (12-2) in the tournament championship game Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at Chapman.
The Monarchs (13-0) are ranked No. 1 in MaxPreps.com's national rankings and No. 10 in USA Today's national rankings. In the Orange County poll, Mater Dei is No. 1 and Tustin is No. 6.
Canyon (11-5) will play Village Christian of Sun Valley (12-2) in the third-place game today at 6:50 p.m. at Chapman.
Mater Dei got off to a fast start against Canyon and had a 12-3 lead early in the first quarter. Canyon hung in there with Mater Dei through the second quarter and in the third quarter edged close enough to trail by four points, 48-44.
That's when Mater Dei grabbed the momentum, and the game, in a very simple way — going inside to 6-foot-7 junior Stanley Johnson, who scored 14 of the Monarchs' 30 third-quarter points.
Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight complimented Canyon's spirit.
"They played like they had nothing to lose," McKnight said. "They were hitting their shots and penetrating, and they gave us and headaches. And I didn't think our guys were playing at a high level."
Then, in the third quarter, as Canyon coach Nate Harrison described what the Monarchs did, "They got serious about winning and started pounding it inside."
McKnight said that was not something Mater Dei players accidentally figured out for themselves.
"That was us," said McKnight, referring to the Monarchs coaching staff. "We just cut to the chase and started throwing it inside to Stanley."
Johnson and senior guard Elijah Brown led Mater Dei with 23 points apiece. Brown made three 3-pointers.
JoJo Ballestero led Canyon with 13 points.
Canyon made 16 of its 54 shots for 30 percent. Mater Dei was 31 of 56 for 55 percent.
McKnight expects Tustin's Tillers to come at the Monarchs with the same style Canyon did.
"They cut hard and run their motion offense hard," McKnight said. "They're going to be fired up to play us. It's going to be a good Orange County game."
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