RIVERSIDE, CA- The nightcap and second boys’ semifinal of the Southern Section Open Division featured three-seed Mater Dei breaking two-seed Etwianda’s 24-game win streak, in a hard fought 76-66 victory. Mater Dei moves one step closer to capturing their 23rd Southern Section title, and first in six years.
Michael Wang put together a near triple double, scoring 23 points with 10 rebounds and eight assists.
“It was a tough game to play and we’re very excited to get back to the CIF finals,” Wang said. “We watched film, knew what we needed to do both offensively and defensively and executed really well.”
Point guard Spencer Freedman controlled the flow of the game for Mater Dei, posting 22 points.
“We really grinded it out, and I feel like wins like this will bring us closer as a team,” Freedman added.
Senior six-foot-three guard Elijah Harkless scored 23 points to lead Etiwanda.
“All of our starters got in foul trouble and it was tough for us to play,” said Harkless. “They were keying in on me every time I got the ball, so I tried to move the ball more against their defense.”
A top three team in the state, Etiwanda will still be poised to make a run in the state tournament, but has a tough third place game ahead against Bishop Montgomery.
Freedman was clutch throughout the final minutes for Mater Dei, knocking down multiple free-throw attempts in a row to close the game out. Etiwanda trailed 44-42 with 2:15 remaining in the third quarter, but failed to score down the stretch. The Eagles found themselves down by two again in the fourth quarter with under six minutes left, 51-49. Freedman and Wang were too much to handle, however, as Mater Dei slowly extended their advantage.
Leading 64-58 with 1:54 to go, Wang and Etiwanda shooting guard Ebony Cooper got into a tussle. A technical foul was called against Mater Dei, and Wang picked up his fifth and final foul. Sophomore Aidan Prukop replaced Wang and played well for Mater Dei, knocking down a free-throw and snatching steal that led to a pair of Freedman foul shots.
The Monarchs improve to 22-6 overall and have won 11 straight games, their last defeat coming to the hands of Florida’s Montverde Academy in the City of Palms classic. Mater Dei earns a trip to the finals against Duane Washington Jr.-led Sierra Canyon, coming off an emotional victory over national powerhouse Bishop Montgomery.