For all other final MaxPreps Holiday Classic coverage go here; Day 3 notebook; Day 2 notebook, Day 1 notebook. Lincoln feature. Arik Armstead feature.
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. –
Orange County doesn't quite carry the street cred as Brooklyn. Not along toughness lines anyway.
But inside a gym, on the hardwood, the
Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
High School Monarchs are some pretty tough cookies.
Tougher on this night than the Railsplitters of Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Mater Dei (13-1) broke to a 15-point first-quarter lead behind the play of Division MVP Katin Reinhardt
and all-tournament selection Stanley Johnson
, and then withstood every spirited Lincoln body shot and rally to post a 76-69 victory in the finals of the MaxPreps Holiday Classic at Cathedral City High School Friday night.
The UNLV-bound Reinhardt drilled four first-half 3-pointers en route to a game-high 20 points, while Johnson was active and physical from the get-go and finished with 19 points and eight rebounds as the Monarchs, No. 7 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national rankings, won this showdown of coasts over the No. 19 Railsplitters.
Lincoln (9-1) was led by 5-foot-11 junior point guard Shaquille Davis
with 17 points and 12 from high-touted sophomore Isaiah Whitehead
"I think we play a pretty tough brand of basketball too," said Reinhardt, who was more proud of holding highly touted Lincoln guard Isaiah Whitehead to one basket in the first half. "We don't intimidate easily."
Coming off a state title and playing a national schedule has certainly left the senior-laden Monarchs battle tested and poised.
Though hyperbole ran rampant before the game and much was made of the left and right coast showdown, Mater Dei was the much more poised team to start and that ultimately proved the difference.
Lincoln fought up hill all night and though it pushed hard all night, the closest it got was five.
"We knew they were going to come in and try to intimidate us and play rough, but we've been through it before," said Stanley Johnson, a big strong 6-7, 205-pound sophomore wing. "We just ran our stuff and hit open shots and got on them."
It didn't help, Lincoln coach Dwyane Morton said, that his team got in early foul trouble, ran in different personnel and "never really got in the flow."
The Railsplitters actually made more field goals, but was outscored at the line 25-13.
"Hey, we took some bad shots and panicked a little," Morton said. "But I like how we competed. We're a young team and this was our first big test.
"I tell you what. I'd like to play them on a neutral site where we could belly up with them a little more."
Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight concurred with Morton that the game was called close and it lacked much flow.
Coming off a trip to Florida at the City of the Palms Tournament, most of the Monarchs were making the 90-mile trey from Orange County to Palm Springs everyday.
Lincoln, of course, was 3,000 miles from home but staying in Palm Springs.
"We've been traveling too much and playing most just games," said McKnight, California's winningest coach with now 904 wins. "We need practice time. I don't think we played that well tonight."
But they did show resilience time after time.
Lincoln's last most spirited run came when Tafari Whittingham, a sleek 6-7, 190-pound junior, made a spectacular block that lead to a tomahawk jam by Whitehead, making it 69-59 with 3:30 to play.
The Lincoln backers went berserk and the team's bench rose to its feet.
But rather than panic or try to make a bigger play, the Monarchs worked the ball around, took the entire shot clock before Stanley Johnson made a nice moved to the hoop and converted a 3-point play.
"We don't really panic," Johnson said.
To its credit, Lincoln took the dagger and delivered eight straight points to close to 72-67 with 27.4 seconds left following a pair of free throws by Ian Vasquez
and Mario Soto
closed it out for Mater Dei with two free throws each. The Monarchs finished 25 of 30 from the line. They also got a combined 20 from all-tournament picks Xavier Johnson
"They're very smart and very disciplined," said Whittingham, who along with Davis were all-tournament selections. "(Reinhardt) killed us early with those 3-pointers. I was worried we were gonna get buried which wouldn't have gone real well back in New York. We fought back, but it wasn't quite enough." Mater Dei 76, Lincoln 69
Lincoln 10 19 14 26 - 69
Mater Dei 21 16 17 22 - 76LINCOLN (9-1):
Tre'Vonn Morton 4 0-2 10, Isaiah Whitehead 5 2-2 12, Travis Charles 3 3-5 9, Tafari Whittingham 4 3-5 11, Shaquille Davis 8 1-1 17, Ian Vasquez 1 2-2 4, Rakin Lesane 2 2-2 6. Totals 27 13-17 69. MATER DEI (13-1):
Katin Reinhardt 6 4-4 20, Xavier Johnson 3 5-6 12, Stanley Johnson 6 6-6 19, Elijah Brown 3 1-2 7, James McGee 1 2-3 4, Josh Cook 0 2-2 2, Mario Soto 2 2-2 8, Eli Stalzer 1 2-4 4. Totals 24 25-30 76.