Late surge carries Mater Dei to victory


SANTA ANA — The Mater Dei boys basketball team has won 21 CIF section titles and a state-record eight CIF state titles, all since Gary McKnight took over as coach in 1983. The Monarchs have claimed both titles in the same season five times but not once since 2003.

McKnight said it’s not a coincidence.

“The parity in Division 1 is so tough,” McKnight said. “It’s hard to win 10 straight games. Some divisions you might get some skates, but here there are none. And when you’re Mater Dei and you’re No. 1, they’re all after you.”



A competitive 66-47 Mater Dei victory against Crescenta Valley in the first round of the Division 1 Southern Regionals on Wednesday at Mater Dei High attested to that. The top-seeded Monarchs, ranked No. 1 in the state and four days removed from winning the CIF-SS Division 1AA title, led by just six at halftime and briefly trailed in the third quarter.

Crescenta Valley forward Davis Dragovich’s layup capped an 8-0 run to begin the second half, giving the Falcons a 29-27 lead. But the Monarchs scored the next eight points, and by early in the fourth quarter they had doubled their scoring output to take a comfortable 55-41 lead.

They shot 71.4 point from the field in the second half.

Mater Dei (30-2) will be host to Mission Viejo in the Southern Regionals quarterfinals on Saturday.

Monarchs forward Xavier Johnson led all players with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Forward Stanley Johnson had 11 points and forward Mario Soto had 8 points and 5 rebounds in reserve.

Guard Katin Reinhardt, battling health issues, went scoreless in 16 minutes.

“When you have three guys like Xavier, Stanley and Katin, two out of three usually gets you a win,” McKnight said. “The boys really came alive in the second half, played hard defensively and executed offensively.

“I was expecting us to play like we did in the second half. But they had a lot to do with it. Teams that hit threes are going to stay close and they really shot the ball well.”

Crescenta Valley (26-6) made 8 of 19 3-pointers but shot just 10 of 27 elsewhere to finish at 39.1 percent. Guard Cole Currie had a team-high 13 points.

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