Mater Dei wins twice, makes final in Vegas


LAS VEGAS – Mater Dei found itself in an interesting spot during its quest to reach the final of the inaugural Jerry Tarkanian Tournament.

First, the Monarchs had to go through 6-foot-9 sophomore Ivan Rabb and Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland.

That was easy, as Mater Dei (9-0) buried the Dragons (5-1), 67-46, to advance to the semifinals against Our Savior New American of Centereach, N.Y.

The difference between the first and second games Friday?

While O'Dowd featured one gifted 6-9 athlete, the Pioneers brought a front-line that ran 6-9, 6-8 and 6-7.

In what Coach Gary McKnight described as his teams' toughest test to date, Mater Dei defeated Our Savior, 55-39, behind 15 points from Stanley Johnson to advance to the final of the Tarkanian Classic.

McKnight was most pleased with how his team was able to keep up its energy is the second game of a doubleheader.

"The kids bounced back and played two games in one day," he said. "They were two different types of teams. This morning (against Bishop O'Dowd) they were taking charges, and this team is long and tall and blocked shots."

Halfway through the opening half against Our Savior (4-1), the Monarchs found themselves tied at 12, but a quick 9-0 run gave Mater Dei its confidence back.

The Monarchs went into the break with a 23-17 advantage.

Mater Dei took control in the second half with a 17-4 run capped by a 3-pointer from Chris Nealy and a coast-to-coast layup from Jordan Strawberry.

The spurt gave Mater Dei a 38-21 lead, and that was enough cushion to coast into tonight's championship game against Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas.

The 55 points scored by the Monarchs is their lowest output of the season, but McKnight agreed that it's a positive that his team showed it can win a slow-paced game.

"The kids worked hard," he said. "It's still preseason and we're still trying to get better. We have a long season ahead of us and we just have to keep working and get better."

Seven Mater Dei players scored, including Elijah Brown, who finished with 13 points.

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