Mater Dei needs late push to beat JSerra


SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO - In its first Trinity league game, top-ranked Mater Dei found itself locked in a battle with JSerra.

The Monarchs rallied in the fourth quarter to come out on top, 53-47, behind 19 points and 12 rebounds from Stanley Johnson on Wednesday night at JSerra High.

Mater Dei (15-0) closed out the game on a 17-8 run, including four clutch free throws from James McGee.

The first half saw Johnson score just three points, all coming from the free throw line, as Mater Dei trailed 20-19 at the break.

Monarchs coach Gary McKnight said with as difficult of a league that the Trinity is, his team needs to come out more focused to begin games.

“We need to come ready to play in the first half,” he said. “Our league is going to be so difficult, that when you go on the road it’s going to be tough for all of us.”

Sixteen of Johnson’s game-high 19 came in the second half, a half in which he took control of and dominated from the outset.

“Stanley is tough to deal with both inside and outside,” McKnight said. “He really stepped up in the second half.”

The JSerra team Mater Dei had to fight off was a far cry from the one that it defeated easily, 87-66, earlier this season at the Tournament of Champions at Ocean View.   

McKnight said that the Lions (9-3) are a much better team than when they last played.

“They have a couple guys back who didn’t play last time because of injury,” he said. “They played very inspired tonight, and I thought we were very flat.”

Despite the less-than-convincing performance, McKnight said that he’s happy to get out of this one with a win.

"We didn’t shoot the ball very well, and that put us in a hole,” he said. “We didn’t do a couple things very well, but we got the win.”

Johnnie Vassar paced JSerra with 13 points, including three 3-pointers.

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