ANAHEIM, Calif. -
With three seconds left, Stanley Johnson
toed the free throw line. His team, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
, was one point away from sealing another Southern Section championship.
"I kind of did a little prayer in my head," Johnson said. "Everybody around here was just telling me, 'Keep your head in it. You can make one of these and get us home.' "
The Monarchs led
Long Beach Poly
, 62-59, and were trying desperately to nurse a slim lead as the Jackrabbits mounted a late-game comeback Saturday inside the Anaheim Convention Center.
Johnson put up the first free throw attempt, which was no good. He told himself, "If I make one of these two, we're going to make it out of here with a ring."
The Mater Dei bench looked on with anxiety as the tension built. "I was looking up at a lot of my friends that are in heaven saying, 'Please help me right now,' " Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said.
Johnson put McKnight's fear to rest when he sank the second free throw attempt.
Poly point guard Chris Croom
's last second shot fell harmlessly to the floor and with it, Mater Dei won the game 63-59 to captured its 21st Southern Section title, this one of the Division I-AA variety.
"It's historic battles – us and Poly," McKnight said. "This is the high point. I don't get tired of these at all."
Mater Dei (29-2) came in No. 6 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national rankings and Long Beach Poly (27-2) at No. 15.
Mater Dei's only two losses this season came in overtime to Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas) on December 19 and to Gill St. Bernard's (Gladstone, N.J.) January 7.
Since the Gill St. Bernard's game, the Monarchs have reeled off 16 straight wins.
"The team is expected to win and when you wear that on your back every night, it's really tough," said McKnight. "There's a bulls-eye on your back when you have four guys back who won a state championship."
Johnson scored 14 points in the game, and made five of 10 from the free throw line.
Senior forward Xavier Johnson
led Mater Dei with 19 points and 20 rebounds.
McKnight said his team was most concerned with rebounding and keeping Poly off the offensive glass. "No. 1 priority," McKnight said. "They are tenacious on the boards."
The Monarchs out-rebounded Poly, 44-32.
"I think that was the difference," Poly coach Sharrief Metoyer said.
Poly had 11 offensive rebounds by halftime, but managed just four more offensive boards in the second half.
a 6-foot-8 power forward, led Poly on the glass with 11 rebounds, while scoring eight points.
"My job was to keep Jordan off the glass," Johnson said.
Mater Dei held Poly to just eight of 32 shooting in the first half. The Jackrabbits shot just 33.9 percent for the game.
Croom scored 19 points on six of 11 shooting. Teammate Roschon Prince
scored 16 points, but struggled from the floor, making just three of 12 field goals.
"The face guarding was really effective," Prince said.
Mater Dei primarily used man-to-man defense to bother Poly, but mixed in a 3-2 zone that kept the Jackrabbits from running offense in the paint and low post.
Mater Dei senior guard
finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. "We had to come out and be physical with them from the beginning," Reinhardt said.
Poly began their comeback with 5:57 left in the game when Joshua Munzon
hit a 3, cutting the deficit to 53-45.
Bell followed up with a steal and two-handed dunk, which brought Poly to within six points.
With 46 seconds left, Croom added a free throw, making the score 60-59. It was the closest Poly would get. DIVISION 1-A
Gabe York scored a game-high 28 points leading Orange Lutheran
(23-10) to a 64-58 win over Mission Viejo
. York was 10 of 19 from the field.
Mission Viejo (27-4) fell behind, 22-14, by the end of the first quarter and shot just 39 percent for the game. Michael Cramer
led Mission Viejo with 16 points on six of 11 shooting, including three of six from three-point range.
Mission Viejo outrebounded Orange Lutheran, 44-33, but gave up 24 points off turnovers.