Division I: Aliso Niguel (26-3) at fourth-seeded Mater Dei (24-3), Meruelo Athletic Center, 7:30 p.m. (after the Fairfax-Mater Dei girls' game at 6 p.m)
Don't lose before tipoff: When Aliso Niguel steps on the court, the Wolverines will see the banners hanging from the ceiling, the deep bleachers and Gary McKnight wearing something red (and maybe black). Mater Dei has all the tradition. Tough enough that this game is on the road, Aliso can't let the aura of the Monarchs add a few more points to the scoreboard. If Aliso doesn't believe it can win, it won't win.
The hot hand: Aliso Niguel was bounced out of the Southern Section Division 1A playoffs when Capistrano Valley's Taylor Hamasaki went off; he scored on six consecutive possessions without a miss. A six-point deficit became a 16-point deficit. It can't let Mater Dei seize the momentum like that and get separation. The Wolverines have to play their best game as it is; playing from behind will only make it tougher.
The magic number: A high scoring game favors Mater Dei. The magic number therefore is 61. Only five times this season did Mater Dei score 61 or less, and it lost on three of those occasions. Had the Monarchs scored 61 points in those three games, they would have won twice. Aliso averages 63.2 points, led by Bryan Fisher's 16.6. If Mater Dei breaks 61 points, it will probably win; Aliso needs to score every bit of its average to have a chance.
Rally around the moment: Aliso leans heavily on Steven Vizcaino. He is the Wolverines' second-leading scorer, but in the three losses—two to Mission Viejo—he scored only nine points. Twice he was held scoreless, including his last outing. As a senior, that has to hurt. He has a chance make up for it.
Play like seniors: Nine of Mater Dei's top 10 players are underclassmen, including juniors Xavier Johnson, Katin Reinhardt and freshman Stanley Johnson. But the Monarchs are playing their 28th game. By now, everyone is a year older. There's no excuse for losing their confidence, as was suggested in the Division 1AA semifinal against Corona Centennial. As for Aliso, which is playing its 30th game, it will have several seniors in the lineup; it needs to take advantage of the physical and emotional maturity that should be an advantage.