SANTA ANA, Calif. --
America's top recruit played well as a center in the late hours of Saturday's Nike Extravaganza finale. And he wasn't half bad as a decoy, either.
Whitney Young (Chicago)
star Jahlil Okafor
was denied the ball consistently in the first half by the Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
defense and that opened the door for Miles Reynolds
to dazzle the near-capacity crowd. Reynolds' hot start cooled off and Okafor ended up heating up the second half, but the Dolphins were no match for Stanley Johnson
and the Monarchs in a 69-57 win for the home team at the Meruelo Activities Center.
Fans saw Reynolds nail five 3-pointers and a free throw to give his team a 16-15 lead after one quarter - yes, he scored all his team's points - and they didn't see Okafor touch the ball on the offensive end for almost five minutes. Give credit to the determined Monarchs, as they weren't letting the Dolphins get the ball to their big man down low.
"We just wanted to make sure he couldn't get the ball. We were double- and triple-teaming him," Mater Dei's M.J. Cage
said. "If he can't get the ball he can't score."
Okafor got just four points in the first half, and that was pretty much all because he managed eight rebounds (four offensive) in the half. Then he caught fire starting the second half with nine points in about five minutes of play to get his team a 42-41 lead with a dazzling underhand shot while being fouled and then nailing the free throw.
The Dolphins would tie it a little later but would not hold the lead again, as Johnson found another gear and the Monarchs picked up the pace to pull away.
Johnson, who finished with a game-high 27 points, played a key role in an 11-2 run to close the third quarter. Consecutive buckets and then a steal with a nifty assist to Cage for a dunk roused the home fans and he secured a 58-49 advantage with 4 seconds left in the quarter with a bucket that came after trailing to grab the rebound of a missed layup. The lead stayed around that number for the rest of the way.
America's No. 6 recruit in the 247Sports Composite Rankings
also finished with nine rebounds and five steals for Mater Dei. Teammate Rex Pflueger
was stellar as well from the perimeter, garnering 16 points.
The focus was on Okafor early and the emphasis on him allowed Reynolds to get plenty of open looks. The senior finished with a team-high 21 points.
"Before the game
we knew they would double and triple him because that's the only way to
stop him. I came out in the first quarter and I was feeling it, getting in the
zone. They made adjustments and slowed me down," Reynolds said. "I knew
they were going to make the adjustment and that's when Jahlil got going and Paul White
hit some shots. It was good game between two great teams."
Indeed it was. Mater Dei entered as the No. 1 team in the Xcellent 25 and Whitney Young was 18th. The Monarchs moved to 23-0 and the Dolphins fell to 15-5, with the final buzzer coming after 1 a.m., Chicago time.
Okafor was the star of the postgame, with young children abound asking for autographs and posing for pictures. All eyes were on him, and his final stat line ended up being 17 points and 14 rebounds, including a pair of dunks.
"Pretty much every team's game plan is to double and triple me in the zone.
In the first half Miles played phenomenal and that kept us in the game. I'm fine just trying to rebound," Okafor said, adding that he thoroughly enjoyed escaping the cold of Chicago for sunny Southern California.
"It's a lot of fun in this weather. We're hoping our flight gets cancelled so we can stay a little while more. But I wish we would have won."
And that's a line that every team on Mater Dei's schedule has had to utter after games.Other Saturday evening scores from the Nike Extravaganza:DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) 61, Westchester (Los Angeles) 56 (OT)Corey Henson
tallied 33 points for the Stags and Elijah Stewart
poured in 32 for the Comets.Etiwanda (Calif.) 62, St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) 53 (OT)Jordan McLaughlin
scored 30 of his 32 points after halftime and sent the game into overtime for Etiwanda. Tyler Dorsey
had 11 rebounds for Bosco.Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) 68, JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) 53Chase Jeter
scored 19 and Conner Pensivy
added 17 for Gorman. Johnnie Vassar
scored 21 for Jserra.Orange Lutheran (Calif.) 60, Foothill (Santa Ana, Calif.) 54Rogers Printup
scored 17, and the Lancers also got 14 from Keisean Lucier-South
and 13 from CJ Hankins
. Eric Patton
tallied 16 points in a losing effort.Centennial (Corona, Calif.) 67, Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.) 60
The Huskies got 19 from Deontae North
and 17 from Sedrick Barefield
. Redondo saw Ian Fox
lead the way with 17.