Scott Kurtz/ESPNHSXavier Johnson skies for a rebound during SoCal final.Mater Dei pulls away in second half to beat Bullard in Division I. La Costa Canyon wins all-San Diego final while Alemany, Price and Village Christian are all heading to state as well.
The CIF Southern Regional title games were played at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario (Divisions 1-3) and at Colony High School in Ontario (Divisions 4-5). Writeups by Ronnie Flores.
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 85, Bullard (Fresno) 66
The top-ranked team in the state, the Mater Dei Monarchs, faced a Bullard Knights team looking to pull of their third consecutive upset and advance to their first-ever state title game in boys' basketball.
Bullard was not only facing an experienced team that won a state title last year with the same nucleus, it was also facing the most talented team it had seen all season long.
For one half, in front of 5,712 fans, the CIF Central Section Div. I champions hung with Mater Dei (champions of the CIF Southern Section Div. I-AA bracket), but a 23-10 advantage in the third quarter spelled doom for Bullard.
With the victory, Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight, the state's all-time winningest coach, will be headed for a CIF state final for the 13th time since the 1986-87 season, when he won his first title. He'll also be gunning for his ninth state title next Saturday against NorCal finalist Sheldon of Sacramento.
Should McKnight win, he would stand alone as the only coach in state history with nine. He's currently tied on the all-time state list with Willie West of L.A. Crenshaw.
"This is the first one for this group of guys, and that's what's important," McKnight said. "And I truthfully mean that."
Regardless of McKnight's ability to deflect attention away from his milestones, a win next week will be special for his program. But a win for Bullard would have sent shockwaves throughout the state.
Bullard (31-4) trailed by only eight points at halftime (42-34) but a 10-0 run near the end of the third period sparked Mater Dei (33-2) to its blowout win. Mater Dei was steadily pulling away earlier in the quarter, but a sequence of three plays by sophomore Stanley Johnson ignited the run.
First, Johnson hit a 3-pointer, then threw down a slam dunk off his own steal to make the score 61-44 with 2:01 showing on the clock. Elijah Brown then made a field goal off a Stanley Johnson assist where he was fouled in the act. He missed the free throw, but the bullish Johnson was there for the offensive rebound put back and all of a sudden it was 65-44 with 1:26 remaining in the quarter.
"I thought we played good defense in the third quarter," said Mater Dei assistant coach Jason Quinn. "We took it to another level. We were fearful of allowing Bullard to go on a run like they've been doing in their previous games."
Stanley Johnson finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Teammate Xavier Johnson (no relation) continued his torrid post-season run with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Katin Reinhardt, feared lost for the regional playoffs with a broken thumb and ligament strain, contributed 15 points while Brown added 14.
"I didn't get the ball much, but when I did I made something happen," Reinhardt said. "Just contributing is a big key. I said since the beginning of the year I wanted to get back to the state championship game. We just have to stay focused for next week."
Bullard senior guard Aaric Armstead, one of the most underrated players in California, finished with a game-high 33 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. He scored 20 points in the first half.
La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 47, Lincoln (San Diego) 43
In a game hotly contested with two evenly matched teams playing good defense, the difference was miniscule.
Both teams shot near 41 percent from the field, both had 10 turnovers and La Costa Canyon held a 26-23 lead on the boards. The difference ended up being a late offensive rebound and a two goal advantage on 3-pointers by the Mavericks (4-2) to send the Carlsbad school to its first-ever state title game.
The big triple came with Lincoln (24-10) holding a 31-30 lead and without either team scoring for over two minutes in the third quarter. Lincoln played good team defense on the possession, but with the shot clock running down LCC's David Travers threw up a desperation shot with 2:57 showing on the clock. The ball hung on the back of the rim for what seemed like an eternity and dropped in the basket.
The play took the wind out of Lincoln's sails a bit and it showed on the next possession as the Hornets did not get back on defense. Zach Berry scored on a breakaway for La Costa Canyon (34-2) to give the Mavericks a 35-31 lead.
Lincoln did not make a field goal in the third quarter. Berry, meanwhile, did not miss a field goal in the game. He made all five of his field goal attempts and four free throws to finish with a team-high 15 points.
"We we're playing great defense and we had a hand in (Travers’) face, it was just a lucky shot," said Lincoln junior standout Tyrell Robinson, who scored a game-high 20 points.
The other key play was an offensive rebound by Berry off a free throw attempt by Matt Shrigley with 55 seconds remaining in the game and LCC leading 43-41. Shrigley, who finished with nine points on 3-of-13 shooting, made two free throws after Berry's rebound to basically ice the rematch game of the CIF San Diego Section Div. II finals won by La Costa Canyon 58-54.
At one point in the season, Lincoln was laboring along with a 9-7 record after receiving what coach Jason Bryant considered an unfavorable draw at the Torrey Pines Tournament and facing national competition at the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Missouri. The Hornets were able to beat Mayfair of Lakewood, which came into the week ranked No. 10 in the state, 53-51 in the regional semifinals on a go-ahead, put-back basket by Robinson with 45 seconds remaining in the game. The key plays just didn't go their way this time around.
"Simple mistakes, like boxing out, we made too many of those today," Bryant said. "No, I didn't think we'd lose if Shrigley and Travers shot 4-for-24 from the field. Our game plan was to stop those two guys. There other guys stepped up and we didn't and that was the difference."
"We watched them at Torrey Pines and actually taped the game," said La Costa Canyon coach David Cassaw of San Jose Archbishop Mitty, the team's opponent in next week's state final. "They have an excellent player (Aaron Gordon), but we have seen them play and we'll be ready."
Alemany (Mission Hills) 62, St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 61
This game was a tale of two halves as Alemany dominated the opening half. St. John Bosco stormed back to take a late lead, only to see it taken away on shaky ball-handling at the end that culminated in a game-winning lay-up by Alemany's K.J. Moffett with two seconds remaining.
After turning Taft of Woodland Hills into a state D1 power, first-year St. John Bosco coach Derrick Taylor said the loss "really hurts," but would be rooting for Alemany coach Tray Meeks because he's a "Valley Guy."
Perhaps the loss wouldn't be so devastating if St. John Bosco didn't play so valiantly in the third quarter after trailing 37-21 at halftime. Alemany (32-4) actually went up by 18 points when Max Guercy made the first basket of the second half. A big third quarter, however, got St. John Bosco (25-8) right back in the ballgame.
The Braves outscored Alemany 23-8 in the period as junior wing Isaac Hamilton outscored the Warriors by himself with 13 points. He finished with a game-high 32 points.
"We played a terrible third quarter," said Meeks, who will lead Alemany into the school's ever first state title game against Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco. "I don't think we had more than two quarters all season where we scored in single digits. We got lax, settled for jumpers and guys were not listening."
Alemany led 45-44 entering the fourth quarter, but Bosco's amazing 24-point swing was completed when it went up 57-51 on a made free throw with 1:58 remaining by sophomore forward Daniel Hamilton (9 points, 13 rebounds). In the final two minutes, the Braves had some critical turnovers, none bigger than Isaac Hamilton's throw away with 39 seconds remaining.
Alemany's Marqueze Coleman (24 points) made his first free throw after the turnover. On the second, Jerico Richardson (24 points) came up with an offensive rebound. It led to a basket by Guercy to give Alemany a 60-59 lead with 33 seconds remaining. St. John Bosco's Kameron Murrell answered with a driving lay-up with 17 seconds remaining. Alemany, however, had one more answer to send the team to Sacramento.
"I was looking for Marqueze to shoot it, so I was going to get the rebound or get back on defense," said Moffett, who ended up with the ball in his hands and drove the baseline by Daniel Hamilton for the game-winning reverse lay-up with two seconds remaining. "I was ecstatic it went in. It was a great feeling. It didn't seem real."
St. John Bosco lost to Oak Park of Agoura Hills 67-66 in the CIFSS Div. III-A semifinals and was a big underdog coming in. Alemany, the CIFSS Div. III-A champions and the top-ranked Div. III team in the state, was able to avoid being upset behind Moffett's heroics.
Price (Los Angeles) 71, Serra (Gardena) 66
If there’s a team with deceiving record headed to Sacramento for the state championships, the Knights definitely fit the bill.
Saturday’s victory over Serra gave Price a 2-1 record in games against the Cavaliers and it also was the team’s second avenging win of the week, following the 53-52 victory over 2011 CIF Division III state champion La Verne Lutheran in the regional semifinals. Plus, two of Price’s losses (the team is 26-8 overall) are to D3 state finalist Alemany.
Khalil Johnson sizzled for 26 points and had 10 rebounds for the Knights. Big man Skylar Spencer topped out with 15 points, two blocks and two steals while JaQuan Green had a strong night as well with 14 points.
Serra (31-3) has been getting huge outputs from 6-foot-7 senior Daddy Ugbede. He did have 18 points against Price and Dakarai Tucker also had 19. Other than Kajon Mack (18 points), however, Serra didn’t get much production from its bench or other starters.
Two years ago, coach Mychal Lynch’s team went to the D4 state final and defeated St. Mary’s of Berkeley. Last year’s team was in the D3 bracket.
Price will be trying to win its seventh CIF state title next week against Salesian of Richmond. Lynch guided the team to four in a row in D5 from 2000 to 2003 and his team also won a state title in 2005.
Village Christian (Sun Valley) 58,
Renaissance Academy (La Canada) 57
The Crusaders (30-3) avenged an earlier 60-44 loss by edging the Wildcats and will now make their school’s first appearance in a CIF state championship basketball game.
The team features two players who were among the best freshmen in the state last season at Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth. Both Bryan Alberts (13 points) and Marsalis Johnson (13 points) had solid outings, but Village Christian’s leading scorer was senior forward Marquis Salmon, who shined with 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Jessy Cantinol connected for 22 points to lead Renaissance. Gherrie Lineau added 12 while Vince DeGuzman had 10.
Corrections or comments? Email Mark.Tennis@espn.com.