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Mater Dei starters restore order against Eisenhower
SANTA ANA – Eisenhower of Rialto clung to a one-point lead at the end of the first quarter, its cushion as surprising as Mater Dei's starting lineup — seniors Andrew Tisdale, Chris Nealey, James McGee and Billy Fay and freshman Jayce Johnson — for the game.
The top-ranked Monarchs eventually turned the game over to their usual starters — Stanley Johnson, Elijah Brown, Jordan Strawberry, Mario Soto and MJ Cage — and order was restored, although they labored through a 78-63 victory against Eisenhower on Friday night in the Nike Extravaganza at Mater Dei.
The Monarchs (23-1) didn't completely put away Eisenhower (10-12) until a pair of layups by Brown and another by Stanley Johnson late in the fourth quarter.
SLIDESHOW: OCVarsity Hot Shots: Friday's basketball
Mater Dei, which on Wednesday beat St. John Bosco of Bellflower in a Trinity League game, will play Westchester of Los Angeles tonight in the event's finale.
"Our (usual starting five), a lot of the guys didn't have the intensity that they normally do. ... They weren't as focused as they should be," Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said.
"To play St. John Bosco, Eisenhower and Westchester, three games in four days, is not an easy thing."
Brown scored a team-high 18 points, Stanley Johnson had 15 and Soto 10. Cage, a freshman center, had 17 points, nine rebounds and three blocks and altered several more shots inside in perhaps the finest game of his Monarchs career.
"MJ is starting to come into his own," McKnight said.
The Monarchs defense allowed just five field goals inside the 3-point line and held Eisenhower to 32.2 percent shooting. The Eagles made just one field goal during a seven-point second quarter.
But Mater Dei's offense never found its usual rhythm.
"We struggled the whole game. We're going to play through it," Stanley Johnson said.
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