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ROSE PALMISANO, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Mater Dei point guard Eli Stalzer, left, is trying to help the Monarchs repeat as state Division 1 champions.

Stalzer becomes the key guy for Mater Dei

OCVARSITY.COM

ONTARIO – It can be said that a point guard conducts the offense, or orchestrates the fastbreak.

Those analogies are more appropriate than usual when discussing Mater Dei point guard Eli Stalzer.

Stalzer is an accomplished pianist. He took his first lessons when he was 8, and the senior has plans for a career in music.

He is one of those gifted musicians who can hear a song, then play it by ear without the need for sheet music. Stalzer likes a wide variety of music, and most recently has a growing appreciation for the works of Chopin.

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Southern Regional final preview: Mater Dei vs. Bullard

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"I just like to play," Stalzer said. "There are certain types of music I like listening to, but after so many years of playing I'm still learning about different music."

His parents, Randy and Chinita, "pushed me into it," Stalzer said of the piano lessons. "But then I fell in love with it."

He wants to study music management in college, where he will continue his basketball career, too. University of Hartford, which has a music management program, offered him a basketball scholarship, as has Colorado, which does not.

Before he makes a decision on his college destination, Stalzer hopes he can help Mater Dei get to the state capitol. If the Monarchs beat Bullard of Fresno in Saturday's CIF Southern California Regionals Division 1 game, they will play next week in the CIF State Championships in Sacramento.

Mater Dei beat De La Salle of Concord in last year's state Division 1 final. Stalzer thinks this year's Monarchs, which won the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA championship two weeks ago, might be better.

"We have more mature players this year," he said. "Sometimes, immaturity got to a couple of our guys last year. Being more experienced this time gives us that extra edge."

The 6-foot-3 Stalzer missed a couple of games at midseason because of flu-like symptoms, and he missed a Regionals game for the same reason this month. But Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight has been impressed by Stalzer's determination to return to action.

"When Eli was sick in the middle of the year, he lost 10 pounds, but bounced back from that," McKnight said. "He put in a gutsy performance the other night when we played Loyola (Tuesday in the Regional semifinals), even though he was not feeling very well."

Stalzer did not score against Loyola, but blocked a couple of shots, had a pair of rebounds and fulfilled his usual role of controlling the offensive tempo.

Stalzer has two older brothers who went to Servite.

"But I wanted to go to a place that might give me a better basketball future," said Stalzer, so he chose Mater Dei.

He has been on Mater Dei CIF-Southern Section and CIF State championship teams, and has been a key contributor when he has his hands on the basketball. Eli Stalzer'slong-term future, though, more likely will involve having his hands on the keys.

Contact the writer: sfryer@ocregister.com


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