Mater Dei girls knock off No. 1 St. Mary's
CHANDLER, Ariz. – In 2010, Karlie Samuelson helped Edison capture a division title at the Nike Tournament of Champions in girls basketball.
On Friday night, the Stanford-bound senior returned to this city and pulled off another major accomplishment in the annual holiday tournament — a victory over the top-ranked team in the nation.
Samuelson, who transferred to Mater Dei in June along with younger sister Katie Lou, scored 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting to lead the Monarchs to a 57-54 victory over No. 1 St. Mary's of Phoenix in the semifinals of the Joe Smith Division.
The Monarchs (11-0), ranked No. 3 in the nation by USA Today, snapped No. 1 St. Mary's 48-game winning streak and advanced to Saturday's Division E final against Riverdale Baptist of Upper Marboro, Md.
"When you play and beat the No.1 team in the country, that is what you live for," Monarchs coach Kevin Kiernan said. "At Mater Dei we live for big games. I didn't know if we could do it, because we are so young and so new. We got rattled a couple of times, but we really showed a lot of progress tonight."
The Monarchs raced to a 17-point lead, getting seven first-half 3-pointers and timely defense.
St. Mary's junior Courtney Ekmark (Connecticut commit) came into Friday's showdown as one of Arizona's premier scorers, but Kiernan countered with an interesting defensive duo of freshman Jayde Wood and sophomore Cheyenne Allen.
The young tandem held Ekmark to 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting.
St. Mary's (9-1) battled back from a 17-point deficit to tie the score midway through the third quarter, but Mater Dei secured the victory with a strong defensive effort over the final eight minutes. Monarchs guard Peyton Langston added 15 points.