June 25, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Balanced attack lifts Mater Dei past Notre Dame in CIF regional semifinal

Mater Dei celebrates during Saturday’s CIF So Cal Regional vs. Notre Dame Sherman Oaks. (Photos courtesy Mark Bausman, For OC Sports Zone).

Mater Dei High School’s boys basketball team is one victory from another trip to the CIF state finals.

The Monarchs put together a strong second half to defeat Notre Dame Sherman Oaks 79-71 Saturday night in a CIF So Cal Regional Division 1 semifinal at Mater Dei.

No. 3 seeded Mater Dei moves on to face top-seeded St. John Bosco Tuesday night in the So Cal Regional championship game at St. John Bosco. The Braves defeated Damien 63-59 Saturday night in the other semifinal.

Mater Dei (29-5) defeated St. John Bosco 83-62 and 72-66 during league play.

“We’ve played them twice, we know each other,” Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight said after the win against Notre Dame Sherman Oaks, the CIF Division 1 champion. “Different lineup than the last two times we played them. We just have to piece it together best we can.”

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

Mater Dei has been competing in the playoffs without 6-8 sophomore forward Brannon Martinsen, who suffered a broken tibia. Mater Dei finished 0-3 in pool play in the CIF Open Division but has found success in the CIF So Cal regionals.

Martinsen’s teammates have picked up the slack for him in the regionals.

Saturday night, it was junior Brandon Benjamin who had 23 points and nine rebounds and sophomore Luke Barnett, who had 21 points and made 6 of 11 3-pointers who stood out for Mater Dei. Junior Blake Davidson added 13 points and 10 rebounds and senior Brady Karich 10 points and five assists.

Mercy Miller scored 29 points and Angelino Mark 26 points for Notre Dame.

“It was a very nice win, the kids played very good again, they share the ball, they play as a team,” McKnight said. “Owen Verna had 20 something points (28) last game, and tonight you got Benjamin and Luke doing it, that’s what makes us tough because we have a lot of guys who can beat you on a given night,” McKnight said. “We got a group where everybody comes through and we got four guys averaging double figures, it makes a big difference.

“I’m really proud of how they played as a team.”

Mater Dei led 27-24 after one quarter before Notre Dame moved out to a 36-34 lead at halftime. But Barnett began lighting up the scoreboard with 3-pointers, hitting three in the third quarter to help the Monarchs move out to a 57-52 lead after three quarters.

Barnett’s 3-pointer late in the game pushed the lead to 63-53 and Mater Dei was able to close out the game outscoring Notre Dame Sherman Oaks 22-19 in the final quarter. Benjamin scored 11 points in the fourth quarter.

“This game was really back and forth,” said Benjamin, who also had six assists and two blocks. “We would come down and make a shot and then they would come down and make a shot and it was really hard to stop each other. We knew we had to come out in the third with some fire and get that lead. Mercy is a great player, I hope he goes pro, so that was our key.

“We tried to restrict him from getting 30 and he got 29 so I guess we did our job on that. I think the first half they were really hot and we just kind of stuck it out and we knew our game plan was going to work. And it finally worked toward the end of the third and got us the run to go up in the fourth. This is great, it’s something that everyone can dream for and it’s a blessing to be here.”

“It was a big win, they are tough,” added Barnett. “Their best player, Mercy Miller was really hard to guard but we did a good job of moving the ball and hitting open shots, it was a good win. I think down in the end, we executed well and hit our open three’s. I’m excited, I heard we’re playing Bosco at Bosco, they’re a good league rival, so I’m looking forward to that game.”

Mater Dei has 16 CIF So Cal regional titles and 11 state titles, McKnight said.

“If you told me we would get 29 wins this year, I would have been happy right then, especially losing Martinsen when we did.”

“I think we figured it out,” added Benjamin. “When Martinsen got hurt, it was really hard to figure out how is everybody going to figure out losing him. But I think we finally found our sweet zone to make up for that deficit and now we’re just keeping it rolling.”

Mater Dei made 54.7 percent of its field goal attempts while Notre Dame sank 39 percent of its shots. Notre Dame out-rebounded Mater Dei 31-29.

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com