Under the bright lights of the Galen Center and with 10,000 people watching, all eyes were on Chino Hills' LaMelo Ball and his team's chase for a second straight CIF crown. Standing in the way of the Huskies were the Mater Dei Monarchs, who were clearly ready to play.
The second CIF-Southern Section Open Division semifinal produced a stunner, with Mater Dei upsetting Chino Hills 83-80 in overtime.
Justice Sueing led Mater Dei with 25 points, while Bol Bol (14 points, 15 rebounds) and Spencer Freedman (17 points) also contributed.
"Heading into the overtime, we sat there and looked at each other and said 'we want this, we want this bad, so let's go get it,'" Freedman said. "We stayed the course and maintained, and it worked out in the end for us."
Famed sophomore guard LaMelo Ball poured in 28 points for Chino Hills, and his brother LiAngelo scored 26. The overtime period saw Mater Dei come out firing, and never really looking back. Mater Dei went on a run to start, and after the teams traded baskets for a few possessions, junior big man Bol Bol stuffed LaMelo Ball at the rim, which changed the trajectory of the game.
With momentum on their side, Mater Dei was able to prevail by nailing several clutch free throws from Freedman and Sueing.
Overcoming a national power in Chino Hills might have felt like a great triumph, perhaps worthy of a trophy, but Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight kept the excitement in check after the win.
"It was a good win tonight, we've had some tough losses but also some good wins against them," he said. "This wasn't the championship game -- that's next Saturday."
After trading baskets to start the fourth, Chino Hills knocked in shots from the outside to extend their lead to 72-66 with over four minutes left. The Ball brothers became stagnant on offense and stopped making shots, which gave Mater Dei a chance to take advantage. The Monarchs came roaring back, and the game was tied at 72 with the ball in LaMelo Ball's hands and just seconds remaining in regulation. A missed 3-pointer sent the contest to an extra period.
The first half of play was tightly contested, with both teams gaining and losing momentum. Down 39-34 at halftime, Mater Dei needed to find a way to overcome Chino and the Ball brothers, which they were able to do.
Mater Dei will clash with Bishop Montgomery in the CIF Open Division Championship, next weekend at the Honda Center.