Canyon Springs (30-3) vs. Mater Dei (32-1), Galen Center, Saturday, 6 p.m.
Exclamation point: Most teams don't have an advantage at point guard when they play Mater Dei, but if Jordan Adams (dislocated shoulder) is unable to play—she missed the last game—then the advantage swings to Canyon Springs and Nebraska-bound Tear'a Laudermill. Mater Dei can counter with Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, named the Gatorade National Player of the Year on Thursday, but Lewis isn't a point guard. Point guards are special. Teams win girls' basketball championships with point guards.
Making the big play: Canyon Springs center Sophia Ederaine is 6 feet 2, but she has long arms and plays taller. She averages 7.2 blocks per game. She must be disruptive in the middle, and she has to rebound. If Mater Dei controls the boards, it's over. USC-bound Alexyz Viaoletama (6-2) has been huge in the playoffs for Mater Dei as both a scorer and rebounder.
Out of the shadows: For Canyon Springs to win, it must get another performance like it did against Brea, when freshman Cheyenne Greenhouse scored 17 points, twice her average. It doesn't mean Greenhouse has to repeat that performance, but somebody has to step up in support of Laudermill, Ederaine and Jasmine Johnson. Mater Dei has a lot of those players, too, who can step up. Role players are critical in games like these. Sure, the ball will be in the hands of the stars with the game on the line, but it's what the role players do that determine if it gets to that point. Making plays or making mistakes are just as important in the first quarter as the fourth.
Handle the moment: The pressure is going to be on Canyon Springs to go into the Galen Center and perform like it's a high school gym. The Cougars were manhandled in the second half by Brea in the Southern Section semifinals in a 55-36 loss at Anaheim Arena, but then won 63-53 at Brea in the Regional semifinals. Brea was ranked No. 3 in the nation at the time. Canyon Springs can't afford to let the environment dictate its collective state of mind.
Play like you've been there: Mater Dei plays its home games in the big Meruelo Events Center and most players competed in last year's Regional final at the Galen Center. The Monarchs have the big game experience in the big environment. It's a definite advantage. Capitalize, especially early.
Don't play like you're entitled: Because Mater Dei, ranked No. 1 in the nation, expected to be here, the Monarchs can't afford to play like the world owes them something. Brea discovered that you have to make plays—Canyon Springs isn't going to roll over.
Don't be overconfident: Face it, Mater Dei is breathing easier because it's not playing Brea. The Monarchs can't afford to let down their guard. They can't be looking past anyone from here on out. There are only two games left. Win both, and they will be declared national champion.
Play with passion: There's no excuse for not bringing your A-game. Canyon Springs has nothing to lose, so they shouldn't play to not lose. Mater Dei has everything to gain, so they should play to win. It's simple really. Neither team will benefit by being cautious.