Mater Dei's Stanley Johnson pulls down a rebound defended by Santa Margarita's Ryan Merritt Friday night at Meruelo Athletic Center.
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Mater Dei gets comfortable at home


SANTA ANA – After a whirlwind tour around the nation, playing games in Chicago, Las Vegas and locally at Ocean View High and Chapman College, it was finally home sweet home for the Mater Dei boys basketball team.

The top-ranked Monarchs went out and took care of business, defeating visiting Santa Margarita, 65-47, in Friday night's Trinity League game, the team's first home game of the season.

Stanley Johnson led the Monarchs (16-0, 2-0) with 17 points, and added nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and four steals.

Elijah Brown and Mario Soto had 12 and 10 points, respectively, for the Monarchs. Soto had seven rebounds and Brown added six.

James McGee came off the bench with nine points. Joe Furstinger led Santa Margarita (12-5, 0-2) with 10 points.

OCVarsity Hot Shots: Friday's basketball games

"It felt great to be home," Johnson said. "Nothing like Mater Dei and the Meruelo Athletic Center, the atmosphere is crazy and we usually don't lose here, so it is always good to have confidence like that."

The Monarchs made sure they weren't going to lose Friday thanks to their performance in the first quarter. Mater Dei hit six 3-point field goals in taking a 24-13 lead after the first period.

"We got rebounds, we got stops and we got down the floor and ran," Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said. "The subs also came in and did well."

Mater Dei held Santa Margarita to 22.7 percent shooting from the field in the first half in stretching its lead to 41-23 at the half.

"I thought the guys did a real good job in the first half," McKnight said. "The second half, I didn't think our intensity was the same, but the first half, we did a pretty good job."

Santa Margarita outscored the Monarchs, 12-11, in the third quarter, but Mater Dei put the game firmly out of reach with an 11-0 run to open the fourth quarter.

For Mater Dei, it is time to hit the road again. Its next three games are at St. John Bosco (Wednesday), Orange Lutheran (Friday) and Servite (Jan. 16).

Mater Dei and St. John Bosco are both 2-0.

"The next three games are very crucial," McKnight said.

Santa Margarita opened league play with a 51-43 loss to Servite on Wednesday. Mater Dei defeated JSerra, 53-47, earlier this week.

The teams will meet again Jan. 25 at Santa Margarita.

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