For the Mater Dei Monarchs, playing on a big stage such as the 2017 Nike Extravaganza is something they are accustomed to, and their experience paid dividends as they clashed with Village Christian. But Mater Dei didn't bring out their typical starting five of Spencer Freedman, Justice Sueing, Harrison Butler, Michael Wang and Bol Bol for Friday night's action, instead coming out with a new look.
A fresh starting five didn't change the outcome for one of the nation's best teams. Led by Bol Bol, the usual starters entered, took a game that was close at the half and turned it into a blowout, defeating Village Christian 74-42 on Friday night at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana.
The Monarchs started juniors Reagan Lundeen and Alex Bozorgi, along with freshman Aidan Prukop, sophomore Clay Donohue, and senior big man Miles Brookins. While Brookins and Lundeen came out strong for Mater Dei, Village Christian showed they were ready to battle right from the start. After a tightly contested first few minutes, the typical Mater Dei starters were brought in.
Sueing hit a jumper on his first touch for Mater Dei, but Village Christian took a 12-11 lead while matching the Monarchs in intensity. Seven-foot-2 center Bol Bol instantly impacted the game with his length for Mater Dei, and the Village Christian guards felt his presence immediately. Mater Dei took a 25-22 lead into the half, and seemed to refocus right away in the third quarter.
Village Christian continued to hang tough, but with solid team play, the Monarchs found themselves up 35-28 midway through the third. However, one lob up to Bol from Freedman would completely change the trajectory of the game. Once Bol became energized, the Monarchs continued to feed him the ball. On the other end for Village Christian, Jalen Riley was frequently aggressive in getting to the rim. Riley and Village Christian did their best to hang tough with Mater Dei as long as they could, but the Monarchs proved to simply be too deep and athletic to contain.
By the end of the third quarter, Mater Dei had a 49-31 advantage, partly due to a strong quarter from Freedman. The depth and size of Mater Dei clearly bothered the guards and forwards of Village Christian, and by the end of a hard-fought contest the Monarchs had pulled away.
Sueing and Freedman of Mater Dei spoke about the overall atmosphere of the Nike Extravaganza, as well as their individual and team success.
"The atmosphere was great out here tonight, in the Meruelo Athletic Center," Sueing said. "Out there on the floor, I was just trying to really play hard on the defensive end."
Freedman added, "We really have been playing well on the defensive end, and the key is to continue that and offensively to work as a unit, by moving the ball and getting good shots."
Bol finished with 19 points and nine rebounds to lead Mater Dei. Strong, balanced performances for Mater Dei from Sueing, who finished with 13 points, Freedman (12 points) and Butler (13 points) propelled them to victory. Wang also came up huge for the Monarchs with 10 boards.
Village Christian's Jalen Riley finished with 10 points and four rebounds, but his team shot just 32 percent from the field in the loss.