BELLFLOWER -- St. John Bosco turned off the gym lights for player introductions, Mater Dei proceeded to shoot them out.
A sellout crowd that buzzed before tipoff went silent within minutes. It was supposed to be a marquee Trinity League battle, but it quickly turned into one team’s display of superiority.
Mater Dei flexed its muscle with a resounding 86-71 victory against St. John Bosco, taking sole possession of first place. But was the Monarchs' place atop the standings ever really in doubt?
"We wanted to prove that we're the best team in this league," Mater Dei forward Stanley Johnson said. "They were talking junk ... we wanted to prove a point."
Consider the message delivered. Colorado-bound forward Xavier Johnson had a team-high 23 points and 11 rebounds for the defending state champion Monarchs.
"We wanted to beat them huge," Xavier Johnson said.
In anticipation of a capacity crowd, school officials advised fans to arrive at least three hours ahead of the 7 p.m. tipoff. Entrance gates opened at 4 p.m., and spectators trickled in until the seats filled up an hour and a half later. A Bosco official said attendance was capped at 1,310.
The atmosphere was there. Mater Dei (19-2, 6-0 Trinity) fed off of it, opening a 21-point gap after the first quarter. UNLV-bound Katin Reinhardt poured in 17 of his 22 points in the first quarter alone, and the Monarchs sank eight 3-pointers in the first eight minutes.
"This was a hype game," said Reinhardt, who along with Xavier Johnson had been battling the flu all week. "All of Southern California wanted to come watch. We had to come out strong and put the pedal to the metal."
For now it appears as if St. John Bosco (16-5, 5-1), with talented brothers Isaac Hamilton and Daniel Hamilton, will have to wait until next season to leave its mark on the league. The Braves got to within nine midway through the third quarter, but Reinhardt answered with a dagger from the corner.
"We do that and we’re going to beat a lot of teams," Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said. "Katin is at a different level at times."
Isaac Hamilton, a junior, finished with a game-high 30 points. Daniel Hamilton, a sophomore, had 15. The only suspense left before the final quarter? Who would be the lucky winner of the 50-50 raffle.
The teams meet again in a week, on Feb. 3 in Santa Ana. Mater Dei, like always, figures to turn off the lights for player introductions.
"Our introduction is bigger and better," Stanley Johnson said, smiling.
Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.