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Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Loyola capable of Division 1AA glory

By Blair Angulo

If the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA bracket unravels as many expect it to, fourth-seeded Loyola will get a shot at top-seeded Mater Dei in a dream semifinal matchup at Anaheim Arena on Feb. 28.

Yes, the boys basketball playoffs have yet to tip off and each team still has to win three games, but we're looking ahead for the sake of projection. Some recent history also adds intrigue here: Last season, defending Division 1A champ Loyola lost to Mater Dei in the Southern California regionals, 72-70, after leading by nine heading into the fourth quarter. The Monarchs went on to Sacramento and returned home with another state crown.

Think that hasn't crossed the minds of Loyola players this season?

The Cubs (21-4), at least on paper, stack up well against Mater Dei (24-2). The Monarchs have a dynamic 3-point shooter in Katin Reinhardt, and Loyola has one too in senior guard Jacob Hazzard. Mater Dei's Xavier Johnson, a Colorado signee, is one of the most versatile forwards in the Southland, but Loyola's Julian Harrell, a Pennsylvania signee, could keep up. Each team has solid role players: Mater Dei with Eli Stalzer and Elijah Brown; Loyola with Justin Childress and sharpshooter Trey Mason.

And don't forget about forward Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei and point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, maybe the best sophomores in the area.

Loyola, which hosts Trabuco Hills in the first round on Friday, and Mater Dei, which plays Chaparral, appear to be on a collision course. And it's impossible not to consider what may lie ahead.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.