CHANDLER, Ariz. —
Call it sister magic.
Usually, it's twin magic -- that is, the connection between twins on the court that makes the pair more than the sum of their parts. The Hood twins from La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla, Calif.)
brought that to the Nike TOC last year, and back in the day, it was Courtney and Ashley Paris from Piedmont (Calif.)
.Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
standouts Karlie Samuelson
and Katie Lou Samuelson
aren't twins. In fact, Karlie is a senior and Katie Lou (everyone calls her Lou) is a sophomore, but they've played together in high school, on their club teams, and in the back yard forever.
Their brand of sister magic proved to be way too much for
and high-scoring Saniya Chong
in the first round of the Nike TOC Thursday night.
After the 89-67 win, the Monarchs will move on to play No. 4 St. Mary's of Phoenix in Friday's semifinals (the other half of the bracket is No. 1 Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland, Calif., vs. No. 5 Riverdale Baptist of Maryland), and Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan will look for more of the same for his two transfers.
Yes, this is the same Mater Dei that lost three players to the Pac-12 last year, and also had its starting point guard quit the team early in the game. But with sister magic and a load of talented players (there are 20 on the roster), the Monarchs are No. 9 in the nation and looking to rise.
If Karlie and Lou combine for 56 points, as they did Thursday, Kiernan's job will be a lot easier. Karlie made 16 of 19 free throws en route to 22 points, but Lou cemented her ranking as one of the top five Class of 2015 players in the country with a spectacular 34-point outburst.
The Samuelson name is becoming a West Coast brand for 6-footers who are long-range shooters, as oldest sister Bonnie is now at Stanford, and Karli will follow her there. When the family moved close to Mater Dei, Kiernan suddenly found himself with an infusion of talent — and a new way of playing.
"We had to step back and change the way we were playing," said Kiernan. "When you've got two 6-footers who shoot like that, you better junk that high-low."
The sisters also had to adjust, even though Edison, their previous school, was 23-4 last season. "The games are bigger," said Karlie. "Even in practice, everything has to be perfect."
"We play a lot quicker on defense," said Lou (who said she only hears here full name of Katie Lou when she's in trouble at home). "I've had to play a little more post."
That means she has to play a little more physical, which Lou is used to. As the youngest of three sisters, she got no breaks growing up.
"They tried to beat me up as much as possible," said Lou, who most experts consider the best of the trio.
Said Karlie: "She (Lou) is really good."
Karlie noted that her days of dominance in the backyard one-on-one games with her younger sister may be over.
"Maybe it's time to retire," she laughed.
But retirement from the traditional five-on-five will have to wait several years, and right now the focus is on the top bracket at the Nike TOC.
"It's the top of the top," said Karlie.
Lou isn't worried about the pressure.
"Our team builds off pressure," she said.
It helps to have Karlie there to relieve it.
"We know what the other is about to do," she said.
* Ossining's Chong had 28 points in the loss, but it took a lot of shots (either stepbacks or drives to her left — Chong never went to her right hand the entire game, even though she's right-handed) to get that many. In Ossinning's system, the UConn signee is required to do almost all of her team's shooting.
* Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland, Calif.)
, the nation's No. 1 team, struggled with Rock Bridge of Missouri for a while before finally putting the team away 44-37. Ariell Bostick
finished with 14 for the Dragons.
* Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.)
rolled over Centennial of Nevada by attacking the Bulldogs' guards with relentless pressure, a tactic the Crusaders will need to emulate with the same level of success Friday to counteract O'Dowd's size advantage.
* St. Mary must have had a special interest in Thursday's games at Hamilton, as three schools bearing her name were in action. St. Mary's of Phoenix and St. Mary's of Berkeley (Calif.) both won, while St. Mary's of Stockton (Calif.) lost by three. St. Mary must have been on break down the stretch of that one.