There will be no finals rematch Saturday night at the Anaheim Convention Center, but that doesn't mean the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA championship game between
Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
is not one of the most intriguing matchups in Southern California this weekend.
The top-seeded Monarchs (30-1) are seeking their second-straight section title and their third in four seasons. Guards Elijah Brown
and James McGee
and forward Stanley Johnson
helped Mater Dei overcome a sluggish start to beat Inglewood 65-48 in the semifinals on Tuesday and now the Monarchs have reeled off 10 straight wins since suffering their only defeat, a Jan. 21 setback to St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio). Currently No. 1 in California and No. 2 in the nation in the Freeman Rankings
, No. 4 in the Xcellent 25
and No. 1 in the MaxPreps Southern California Boys Basketball Rankings
, Mater Dei is a clear favorite behind Gary McKnight, the winningest coach in state history. His teams are always prepared for big games -- and games do not get much bigger than this.
"We saw Etiwanda play here [Feb. 2] at the Nike Extravaganza. They're athletic and they have a lot of size," said McGee, who had 18 points on six 3-pointers against Inglewood. "They're also very disciplined, so we have to be smart with the ball. We don't take any opponent lightly. We have the mentality that we can lose any game and that keeps us focused on executing the game plan."
Etiwanda gave its grittiest effort of the season in Tuesday's 59-55 overtime upset of Poly (Long Beach), the second-ranked team in the state and a 63-59 loser to Mater Dei in last year's Division I-AA final. The sixth-seeded Eagles (26-2) are reputed to be one of the best defensive teams in Southern California and they will need stellar defense to slow down a Mater Dei offense averaging almost 73 points per game. Ranked second in the state and ninth in the nation in the Freeman Rankings, the Eagles avenged their first defeat to Centennial (Corona) and their only other blemish is a two-point loss at Baseline League rival Rancho Cucamonga.
Leading Etiwanda's attack are guards Jordan McLaughlin
and Sheldon Blackwell
and forwards Kenny Barnes
and Delewis Johnson
. McLaughlin had 20 points in the Eagles' semifinal win against second-seeded Poly. The Eagles have four players who are 6-foot-4 and taller and will need to use that height to negate Mater Dei's quickness in the paint. Each team is eligible for the new Open Division of the CIF State Playoffs and both will likely be selected, which could lead to an Etiwanda-Poly rematch in the Southern California regional. View all of our MaxPreps California boys basketball playoff brackets
Other key finals matchups in Southern California on Saturday:Westchester (Los Angeles) vs. El Camino Real (Woodland Hills)
The balance of power may be shifting in the Los Angeles City Section, but top-seeded Westchester will have something to say about that. Ranked ninth in the state and 52nd in the nation, the Comets (27-6) can position themselves for an Open Division state playoff berth with a victory in the Division I championship game at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Westchester has played the stronger schedule, but the second-seeded Conquistadors (28-2) have won 22 in a row behind the potent forward tandem of
and Michael Thomas
and want to keep the section crown in the San Fernando Valley. St. John Bosco (Bellflower) vs. Chaminade (West Hills)
The Southern Section III-A title game features some of the best talent in Southern California. No. 1-seeded St. John Bosco (23-6), ranked seventh in California, is led by
(22 points per game), brother Daniel Hamilton
(14.6 ppg) and point guard Tyler Dorsey
(15.4 ppg). The Braves have played one of the most demanding schedules in the state and that could make the difference against the third-seeded Eagles (24-6), who have won nine straight since a loss to Mission League rival Loyola (Los Angeles). Senior guard Jaron Martin
is averaging 21.1 points and 7.4 assists for Chaminade.Pacific Hills (Los Angeles) vs. Brentwood School (Los Angeles)
If the rubber match between these Alpha League co-champions is anything like their first two meetings, this showdown for the Southern Section Division IV-A crown could be decided on the last possession. In the season series each team won on its home court but this one will be on a neutral court at Mater Dei in Santa Ana. Should they prevail, the top-seeded Pacific Hills Bruins (23-4) could notch a state Open Division spot based on a head-to-head victory over Westchester. Second-seeded Brentwood (27-3) is led by one of California's elite point guards in
and one of its best post players, Leland King
(21.4 ppg). Lutheran (La Verne) vs. Serra (Gardena)
The fifth-seeded Trojans (25-6) pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season when they knocked out the No. 4 team in California, previously unbeaten Bishop Montgomery (Torrance), in the semifinals. The question now is whether Lutheran can finish the job by capturing the Southern Section Division IV-AA title. The Trojans have won 18 straight, but standing in their way is a Serra team that lost to Bishop Montgomery three times in the regular season. The fourth-seeded Cavaliers (24-6), however, hold a victory over Jordan (Long Beach), which dealt Lutheran its first loss.