Mater Dei tops Bishop Montgomery to reach regional final

Eric Sondheimer
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Mater Dei uses height advantage in 65-59 victory over Bishop Montgomery

M.J. Cage and K.J. Smith are the sons of former NBA players. They know how to perform when the lights come on and the crowds get big. And they were at their best Wednesday night in helping Santa Ana Mater Dei knock off No. 1-seeded Torrance Bishop Montgomery, 65-59, in a semifinal game of the Open Division Southern California Regional.

Cage, a 6-foot-10 junior who enjoyed a huge height advantage, came through with 17 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks. Smith, a senior guard whose family is going to be part of a TV reality show on TBS next month, contributed 14 points on six-of-12 shooting.

They combined with La'Vette Parker, who scored 21 points, to send the Monarchs (28-4) into Saturday's 8 p.m. championship game against Fairfax at the Pyramid at Long Beach State.

"It was a pretty good team effort," Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight said. "We had a pretty good week of practice. The kids were motivated."

Bishop Montgomery suffered its second defeat in 33 games. The Knights could never get their star player, Stephen Thompson Jr., going offensively, and Cage's dominating play inside was too much to overcome.

"Once they double-teamed him, we had open shots," Smith said.

Thompson finished with 15 points on six-of-17 shooting. Christian Oshita added 15 points and Ethan Thompson had 12.

The strategy from the beginning was to take advantage of Cage's height inside. And he had no sympathy for the smaller Knights.

"On the court, show no mercy," Cage said.

Cage's development has given the Monarchs a second chance on their season. They lost to Etiwanda in the Southern Section Open Division semifinals and now they're one win away from a trip to Berkeley and playing for a fifth consecutive state title.

"I'm having more fun," Cage said. "I'm not getting as nervous."

The Mater Dei-Fairfax game will be a rematch of Mater Dei's 47-34 victory at the Nike Extravaganza last month. Fairfax probably will be without standout junior guard Donald Gipson, who is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam on his left knee Thursday after injuring it in Tuesday's semifinal win over Etiwanda.

Smith is friends with Fairfax's Lindsey Drew, another son of a former NBA player. The NBA dads figure to be quite energized Saturday as they watch their sons perform.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: LATSondheimer

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