Los Angeles Preps: Benny Battle



SACRAMENTO -- All of Mater Dei's basketball players have their nicknames stitched to the back of their warm-up shirts. Some are funny and quirky. Others are a bit intimidating, like Katin Reinhardt's, which reads, "GET USED 2 IT."

The message may be prophetic.

Reinhardt had a game-high 17 points to guide Mater Dei to a 43-36 win against Concord De La Salle in the CIF State Boys Division I championship. The Monarchs claimed their eighth state championship, tying Crenshaw for the most all time. And like Reinhardt's shirt claims, California might have to get used to it.

"Be ready for what's coming," Reinhardt said smiling. "I'm probably going to take two weeks off, try to put some weight back on and come back strong for next year."

Mater Dei erased a nine-point deficit and survived despite a horrendous first half. The Monarchs (32-2) went more than six minutes without scoring and slow-paced De La Salle (27-6) capitalized, going on a 13-0 run to pull ahead, 16-7. It was the worst-case scenario; the Monarchs were playing right into the Spartans' trap and losing.

"We didn't match their intensity," Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said. "They played more physical than us, offensively and defensively."

Mater Dei had only five points in the second quarter and just three made baskets in the entire first half. It all added up to an 18-12 deficit at the break.

"Down six to these guys is like being down 20," McKnight added. "We had to pick up the intensity."

The Monarchs outscored the Spartans 15-10 in the third quarter and regained the lead, 29-28, on the opening possession of the fourth. De La Salle managed just eight points in the fourth and had only one player in double figures, Benny Battle, with 10.

But it was how the gritty, hard-nosed Spartans wanted to play.

"Kids played their hearts out," De La Salle coach Frank Allocco said. "They did a [great] job all year and represented the north well."

This is fair warning, California: Mater Dei graduates only one starter, David Brown.

"It's a great group of guys," McKnight said. "They lost in the [Southern Section] semifinals. To come back and win a state championship says something about their character."

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