Just one short week ago, Mater Dei was shocked in a CIF-SS finals loss to Bishop Montgomery. The turnaround needed to be quick, with a hungry Westchester squad awaiting MD in Friday night's opening CIF State matchup.
Westchester got off to a fast start, but Mater Dei responded with a late second quarter surge, and never looked back in a 74-60 victory. Bol Bol dominated around the hoop with 22 points and 9 rebounds, while Michael Wang (16 points) also starred on the offensive end for Mater Dei.
"Our goal is to win the whole thing, and this is a good first step," Wang said.
Senior forward Justice Sueing (13 points) added, "We're more hungry than we were before."
Jordan Brinson, Luis Rodriguez and Chris Simmons all scored 14 points for Westchester.
"We needed to get stops and rebound the ball," Westchester head coach Ed Azzam said after the heartbreaking loss. "We missed some open looks and after some offensive rebounds, the game was over."
With just over three minutes remaining in the second quarter, Westchester held a three-point advantage at 26-23, and Mater Dei needed a spark. Star point guard Spencer Freedman was struggling with his outside shot, and head coach Gary McKnight went to junior guard CJ Parks for some energy off the bench.
Parks, who is a star defensive back on the Mater Dei football team, made an instant impact by playing great pressure defense. This burst of energy gave Mater Dei the spark they needed, and a Bol slam put them up 34-28 heading into the half.
"CJ had a great game, with their athleticism we needed to put him in there and he did a good job," McKnight said. "He really sparked us at the end of the half."
Mater Dei decided to start Parks for the second half, and that decision paid off big. A shaken Westchester squad found themselves down 37-30 several minutes into the third quarter, as Bol's 7-foot-2 frame bothered their scoring efforts inside the paint. Sueing continued to contribute as well, and a Freedman 3 put Mater Dei up 52-41 with 1:32 remaining in the period. Westchester responded with a run of their own and cut into the lead to make it 52-47 at the end of three.
Throughout the final quarter, Mater Dei moved the ball well and utilized Bol in the paint. At 62-53 with 4:47 left, it was clear that Mater Dei's depth would continue to be an issue for Westchester. Parks put an exclamation on his energetic performance with a strong move to the basket, finishing a layup to ice the game.
Straight from the tip, Westchester came out playing fast and aggressive. Freedman faced loads of defensive pressure, and his team looked stagnant in the first few minutes. Mater Dei played a zone defense, but Westchester was initially torching them from the outside. Down 7-2 early, Bol led his team back, scoring a string of buckets to cut the deficit to just two. A Freedman bucket in the final seconds tied the score at 17, and Mater Dei ended the first quarter on a high note.