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PAUL RODRIGUEZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
With seconds left in the game, Mater Dei's Elijah Brown, left, and Stanley Johnson are congratulated by their coach Gary McKnight in the CIF Open Division Southern California Regional final Saturday. The Monarchs beat Etiwanda 60-37.

Mater Dei earns third trip in a row to state title game

OCVARSITY.COM

ONTARIO – One half belonged to Jordan Strawberry. The other half was Stanley Johnson's.

Put them together, and the result was a 60-37 victory for Mater Dei over Etiwanda in the CIF Southern California Regional Open Division championship game Saturday at Citizens Business Bank Arena.

With Johnson missing all 10 of his first-half shots and Elijah Brown on the bench because of fouls, Strawberry scored 13 points in the first half. Johnson finally put the key in the ignition in the third quarter, scoring 16 points with four 3-pointers in the quarter to finish with 25 to go with 12 rebounds.

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Fast start puts Mater Dei on right path

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Strawberry and Johnson carried the Monarchs to their third consecutive CIF State Championships game. Mater Dei will play Northern California Open Division champion Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in the state Open Division game Saturday at 8 p.m. at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.

Mater Dei twice has won two state championships in a row, most recently the past two seasons when they won Division 1 state titles. The Monarchs boys basketball program has won nine state titles overall.

The Monarchs (33-2) lost to Etiwanda, 54-51, in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA championship game two weeks ago.

Strawberry said the Monarchs were determined to avoid a repeat.

"When we were up at halftime, even before the coaches came in to the locker room, we said, 'We can't stop, we've got to keep attacking them," he said.

That's when Johnson attacked. Having missed all 10 of his shots in the first half, Johnson scored 16 in the third quarter in which he was 4 for 4 on 3-point attempts.

"After I hit that first 3, it was all good for me," Johnson said.

Strawberry, a senior guard, scored 17 with seven rebounds and four assists.

Just as crucial as the scoring of Johnson and Strawberry was the defense of Chris Nealey. His assignment was to guard Etiwanda's best player, Jordan McLaughlin. McLaughlin, averaging 16 points a game, made only one of 15 shots for four points.

Contact the writer: sfryer@ocregister.com


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