LONG BEACH, CA - Mater Dei sophomore Aidan Prukop stepped to the line with a chance to put the Monarchs up three. Prukop made one-of-two, giving Sierra Canyon one last chance to tie or win the game in regulation with 8.7 seconds remaining. Duane Washington Jr. drove, K.J. Martin missed a tip-in as time expired, and Mater Dei captured the Southern Section Open Division crown, 55-53.
The title is the Monarchs' first since 2014, and 23rd under head coach Gary McKnight. Leading by two after the third quarter, Mater Dei made every big play down the stretch to squeak out with a championship.
“Just to know all of the trials and tribulations we overcame this year, to come out with the most incredible group of guys is just so special,” said point guard Spencer Freedman.
Michael Wang, who scored 14 points in 26 minutes for Mater Dei, picked up his fifth and final foul with 5:42 left. Prukop replaced with a 46-41 lead, and Cassius Stanley of Sierra Canyon went one-for-two at the free-throw line. A Harrison Butler airball was taken by Frank Terren who hit a jumper at the other end to pull Sierra Canyon within two.
Freedman responded with a huge three-pointer, and L Simpson was called for an offensive foul moments later. Mater Dei capitalized on the turnover, as Freedman scored through two Sierra Canyon defenders and drew a foul. After a made free-throw, the Monarchs had extended their lead to eight.
Scotty Pippen Jr. scored back-to-back buckets at the rim and dished to Martin for a layup to combat Mater Dei’s run, tying the score at 52 with under one minute left. Freedman put Mater Dei back in-front with a baseline jumper, but Martin drew a foul one play later. He missed the first but made the second to put Sierra Canyon down one with 27 seconds left.
Two unusual Freedman missed free-throws in the double bonus kept Sierra Canyon alive for the final sequence, but the Trailblazers couldn’t capitalize. Freedman finished with 13 points and Butler scored 12. Reagan Lundeen provided valuable minutes for Mater Dei as well, scoring eight points and grabbing eight rebounds.
Martin led Sierra Canyon with 18 points and 11 rebounds. “I think we played hard in the second half, if we gave that effort the whole game we could’ve gotten the win,” he said.
The Trailblazers slow start put them behind 14-9 after the first quarter, and by 10 at halftime. Stanley was three-for-ten in the first half, not a good sign for Sierra Canyon.
Pippen Jr. supplied nine with four assists and Stanley scored 12 points on 15 shots. Sierra Canyon out-rebounded Mater Dei by four and finished with five team steals. The Trailblazers claimed a second-seed in the state tournament bracket, released Sunday. A first-round matchup against Mission Bay awaits, and a potential rematch against Bishop Montgomery could be Sierra Canyon’s second round test.
Mater Dei’s Southern Section ring is the program’s first since current-NBA forward Stanley Johnson’s senior season. The Monarchs earn a top seed in the state tournament and host Fairfax in the first round.