Mater Dei's Connor Hughes, left and Tommy Stangl react to their team's loss to Martin Luther King during Saturday's CIF Division I-AA boys basketball championship game at the Honda Center in Anaheim.<br><a href=""><b>READ THE STORY.</b></a>

No. 1 Mater Dei cut down by King

No. 1 Mater Dei cut down by King
The Monarchs lose their first game of the season in the I-AA title game.

ANAHEIM- The No. 1 team got its No. 1 loss of the season.

Mater Dei lost for the first time, 71-56, Saturday to M.L.King of Riverside in the CIF-Southern Section Division I-AA championship game at Honda Center.

The Monarchs had beaten a lot of good teams in going undefeated through 30 games, teams like St. Benedict's of New Jersey, No. 2 in the nation when they played at the Nike Extravaganza in February. There also was that gantlet of excellent opponents in Florida at the City Of Palms Classic, a tournament that had been described as the best collection of high school basketball teams in many years.

King (27-2) was quicker and stronger on both ends of the court. The Wolves' Kawhi Leonard, a 6-foot-7 senior going to San Diego State, had been terrific through the playoffs and continued that way Saturday. He had 20 rebounds, six blocked shots and three steals to go with 11 points.

"Leonard was the best player on the floor tonight," Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said. "He dominated."

Other King players came through in clutch situations during the Wolves' 30-point fourth quarter. Taylor Cunningham, a 5-10 senior, made a 3-pointer to kick off the final period, and 6-4 senior Chris Harriel, a Portland State signee, added one to complete a 15-0 King run that started in the third quarter, and King had a 47-35 lead. Mater Dei would get no closer than eight points after that.

The Wolves finished with a flourish, too. A layup by Cunningham and a 3-pointer by 6-2 senior J.J. Campbell made it 61-48 with 1:45 to go, and that was it for the Monarchs.

"They hit some big shots," Mater Dei 6-10 senior David Wear said, "and we didn't answer."

The 15-point final margin was Mater Dei's most one-sided defeat since a 17-point loss to St. Anthony's of New Jersey in the 2005-06 season, in a game at the Hall of Fame Classic in Springfield, Mass. Saturday's game also was the first one this season in which the Monarchs trailed going into the fourth quarter.

Tony Snell, a 6-7 senior, and Cunningham shared game-high honors with 16 points apiece. Harriel scored 14.

David Wear led Mater Dei with 15 points. Gary Franklin, a junior committed to USC, endured a rough shooting night, going 3 for 12, for 13 points. Tyler Lamb, a junior committed to UCLA, scored 12 and the other Wear twin going to North Carolina, Travis, scored 10.

Both teams will play in the CIF Southern California Regionals, in Division I, which is the qualifying tournament for the CIF State Championships. Seedings and first-round pairings will be announced at 5 p.m. Sunday and will be on shortly thereafter.

"Maybe we can regroup," McKnight said. "But it won't be easy."

Like they have through the playoffs and for the final few weeks of the regular season, Mater Dei will go into the Regionals without 6-8 senior Andy Brown, a Stanford signee, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in January. Brown was All-County first team last year when he was the Monarchs' best player in the playoffs.

Franklin said Brown not only would have been an asset on offense, but Brown would have guarded Leonard, an unenviable assignment given to David Wear.

"With Andy guarding the best player on the floor," Franklin said, "that would have kept David's legs fresh on the offensive end."

Last year and in 2007, Mater Dei lost in the CIF-SS finals but went on to advance through the Regionals and win Division II state championships in Sacramento.

This year's Regionals will be more challenging for the Monarchs. This year, they will be in the Division I Regionals, which has a four-game schedule instead of the three games in the other four divisional Regionals because the CIF-Los Angeles City Section has entries in Division I but not in the other divisions. Also, the CIF-Southern Section gets eight entries in Division I but four entries in the other four divisions.

That makes the Division I Regionals a 16-team tournament instead of the eight-team tournament in the other divisions.

"Four games in six days," said McKnight, referring to the Division I Regionals schedule that goes Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with the finals at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday. "That's going to be a tough chore."

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