SACRAMENTO, Calif. —
California's initial Open Division finale was a beauty, pitting two nationally ranked teams and two of the country's top players.
When the smoke cleared and the sneakers stopped squeaking, Stanley Johnson
and his Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Monarchs were kings on the Sacramento Kings' home floor.
Johnson outdueled Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.)
superstar and McDonald's All-American Aaron Gordon
by scoring 26 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a 50-45 California State title victory Saturday at Sleep Train Arena.
The 6-foot-7 junior guard drilled five 3-pointers and scored 17 in the first half and from there, Mater Dei (34-2) got big second-half 3-pointers from James McGee
, Jordan Strawberry
and Elijah Brown
(11 points) to knock off two-time defending Division II champion Mitty (29-5).
Mater Dei became the first team in California history to win three straight large-division titles.
"He's a competitive kid and for a large part he carried us," said Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight, who notched his 968th win and 10th state title, both state records. "When he slowed down, other guys picked it up." See the Saturday roundup for the other title games
Gordon's finale wasn't nearly so sweet, though he had 22 points and 20 rebounds. When his team fell behind by double digits in the second half, he tried to do too much and committed nine turnovers. Five came in the fourth quarter.
It wasn't the way he planned to finish an illustrious career.
"I hate it," Gordon said. "I can't stand it. To end a career with a loss…"
Asked what the key to the game was, he didn't hesitate.
"Stanley Johnson," he said of his Oakland Soldiers AAU teammate. "I've never seen Stanley shoot like that. I guess he worked on it all week. It's a credit to him."
Mitty actually did a terrific job on defense — Mater Dei averages 72.1 points per game and made just 25 percent of its shots (14 of 56) — and outrebounded the Southern California power 47-31.
But like many high school teams at Sleep Train, Mitty, the two-time defending Division II champions, had trouble shooting as well, making just 17 of 48 shots. Gordon was 8-for-15, but everyone else was 9 of 33.
Gordon took the loss extremely hard and blamed himself. Much was made of the battle between he and Johnson, a 6-7 guard considered one of the top three juniors in the country. Gordon is ranked the No. 5 senior in the country.
"Aaron has nothing to be ashamed of," Mitty coach Tim Kennedy said. "He left it all on the court. If anyone, I feel responsible because I didn't put us in good position to score. We held them to 50 which was our goal, we just didn't score enough. That said, Mater Dei played great defense. Give them credit."
The showdown between Johnson and Gordon was tremendous from the start. Gordon scored four quick hoops but Johnson drilled three 3's in the first quarter and added a breakaway dunk to put Mater Dei up 13-10.
It was 24-22 by halftime and Johnson had 17 points and Gordon added 13 with a 3-pointer to cap the second.
"Stanley really loved the competition with Gordon and has great respect for him," McKnight said. "That was one of the best (individual) matchups we've ever seen in California. Those are two special players."
The legendary coach said the key, besides Johnson, was at the defensive end. It's been that way all season.
Mater Dei lost three Division I players off last year's state championship team and few thought it had a chance to repeat. McKnight said it was one of his most satisfying titles.
"I really had a lot of fun coming up here this time," McKnight said. "Normally I'm all stressed out, but no one expected us to make it back up here. With 13 seniors on the team, that makes it very special."Mater Dei 50, Archbishop Mitty 45MATER DEI (34-2)
Elijah Brown 2-14 6-7 11, Jordan Strawberry 1-6 2-2 5, M.J. Cage 1-3 0-0 2, Stanley Johnson 8-24 5-7 26, Andrew Tisdale 0-2 0-0 0, James McGee 2-7 0-0 6. Totals 14-56 13-16 50. MITTY (29-5)
Connor Peterson 2-12 3-3 8, Brandon Abejelo 2-6 0-0 5, Davis Messer 2-8 0-0 4, Brandon Farrell 3-5 0-0 6, Aaron Gordon 8-15 4-8 22, John Paul 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-48 7-11 45.
Mater Dei 13 11 14 12 - 50
Mitty 10 12 8 15 - 45
3-point shots – Mater Dei 9-25 (Johnson 5, McGee 2, Brown, Strawberry), Mitty 4-18 (Gordon 2, Peterson, Abajelo). Rebounds: Mater Dei 31 (Johnson 12), Mitty 47 (Gordon 20). Assists: MD 1, Mitty 6. Turnovers: Mater Dei 9, Mitty 22.