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CHRISTINA HOUSE, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Mater Dei still is dangerous without Andy Brown, who was the Monarchs' best player in last season's postseason run.

Nation's No. 1 team loses key player to torn ACL

Nation's No. 1 team loses key player to torn ACL

OCVarsity.com
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Mater Dei could face major challenges after Brown's season-ending injury.

It's still the best boys basketball team in Orange County, and by a good margin, too. But the loss of perhaps its best player, Andy Brown, to a season-ending knee injury could reduce Mater Dei's chance at CIF sectional and state championships, and a national championship, too.

Brown, a 6-foot-8 senior who signed with Stanford, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Wednesday. As he landed after a breakaway dunk during the Monarchs' 102-57 home victory over Servite, Brown collapsed and grabbed his left knee. He needed assistance getting up, then went to the locker room and did not return to the gym.

Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight confirmed Thursday that Brown tore his ACL. He said Brown would, within the next two weeks, undergo surgery for knee reconstruction - that's what they call it when a torn ACL is repaired.

During the days before surgery, any swelling must subside and, if he is able to do it, Brown likely will do some pre-surgery rehabilitation that could help his post-surgery progess.

He was All-County first team last year when he was the Monarchs' best player during their playoff run to the state championship.

Brown is a hard-working player and is young and in great condition, so he will recover and be as good as ever. He's right-handed, so his left leg is his push-off leg. That's important to his rehabilitation.

Mater Dei still has the Wear twins, David and Travis, and Gary Franklin and Tyler Lamb. Those players might occupy four of the five sports on this year's All-County first team, and with Brown it was a possible Monarch monopoly on the first team.

It often has been said over the years that Mater Dei's top five reserves would be the No. 2 team in the county. While these Monarchs have decent depth, and their second five would be good enough to win championships in several other county leagues, the feeling here is there is a drop from the starting five to the next group. It is a drop that could be exploited by their better opponents, although nobody did that last month when Mater Dei played in Florida in the ultra-tough City of Palms Classic and won it.

McKnight said the fifth starting position "will be done by committee," depending upon who is playing well and the Monarchs' opponent.

Key reserve Connor Hughes, a 6-6 senior forward who also is one of the county's top volleyball players, generally replaces a Wear when he goes in. Tommy Stangl, a 6-foot junior guard and a very good defender, usually goes in for Franklin. Michael Pierce, a 6-1 junior reserve guard, started last week against Orange Lutheran when Travis Wear was out with tonsillitis.

Mater Dei has a heck of a schedule coming up: vs. St. Benedict's of Newark, N.J., No. 3 in the nation in USA Today, on Feb. 7 in the Nike Extravaganza at Mater Dei; at Orange Lutheran in the regular-season finale on Feb. 12; and then the CIF-SS playoffs, in which the Monarchs will play in Division I-AA.

That division includes six teams ranked in calhisports.com's California top 20: No. 1 Mater Dei; No. 4 Dominguez of Compton; No. 9 M.L. King of Riverside; No. 10 Los Alamitos; No. 11 Etiwanda; and No. 13 Long Beach Poly.

With that group in I-AA, it's way too early to think about the state playoffs. But if Mater Dei does get there, it would play in Division I, a division that might include Westchester and Fairfax of Los Angeles, which are ranked No. 2 and 6, respectively, in California.

"It's a dark day around here," McKnight said, from the Mater Dei basketball office. The Monarchs still have enough going for them to have a very bright conclusion to this season.

Contact the writer: sfryer@ocregister.com


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