Mater Dei forced to give full effort
HUNTINGTON BEACH – The No. 1 boys basketball team in Orange County had to do something different Friday night: It had to work for a victory.
Mater Dei, which had cruised through most of its games this season, had to battle Compton for all 32 minutes to get a 64-56 victory in the semifinals of the Jim Harris Memorial Tournament of Champions at Ocean View High.
The Monarchs (4-0) will play JSerra in the championship game Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The Monarchs were only down two at the end of the first quarter, 16-14.
In the second quarter, the Monarchs turned up the defensive intensity and went on a 12-4 run to end the half.
Junior Mario Soto was instrumental in the run, scoring seven points while the Tarbabes (5-2) keyed on junior Stanley Johnson. Soto made a layup, scored on a put-back and knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Monarchs up 28-23.
Johnson ended the half with a layup, giving his team a 30-22 lead.
The Tarbabes were able to close the gap in the third to 36-32, but senior guard Jordan Strawberry made sure the Monarchs stayed ahead. He scored eight points in the quarter, all on tough floater shots.
Using dribble drives and making deep threes kept the Tarbabes in the game, but late in the third the Monarchs went to a 2-3 zone that seemed to trouble the Tarbabes offense.
Junior Iziahiah Johnson scored 11 consecutive points for his club, but Johnson had the play of the game on a left-handed, no-look pass to freshman MJ Cage, who finished the play for a 52-47 lead.
From there, Soto made an and-one but missed his free throw. Johnson tipped the ball to his teammate, and Soto scored on a right-handed shot off the glass.
From there, the Tarbabes forced deep shots, allowing the Monarchs to hold on comfortably.
Johnson finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Soto had 15.