Santa Ana Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight, in his 33rd season, was having so much fun on Saturday night in the Nike Extravaganza because of the challenge he faced. He needed to find a way to hand unbeaten Fairfax its first defeat.
He was standing from the opening tip, and the Monarchs came through with a smothering defensive performance in the second half, limiting Fairfax to nine points in a 47-34 victory. It was the first loss in 26 games for Fairfax.
"They've been playing so well," McKnight said. "It was a challenge. It was fun. We played great half-court defense."
Leading the Monarchs (22-3) was senior guard La'Vette Parker, who scored 22 points. Center M.J. Cage was a dominant figure inside in the second half. He finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks.
Fairfax made just two of 19 shots from three-point range and had 15 turnovers. Lorne Currie was the only player to reach double figures, with 11 points.
"They were contesting shots," Fairfax Coach Harvey Kitani said. "We had too many turnovers in the third quarter."
Fairfax held a 25-20 halftime lead after falling behind, 9-0. The Lions seemed to have momentum, but the third quarter featured missed shots, turnovers and lost opportunities. Mater Dei seized the opening and took charge.
Mater Dei has lost only two games on its new home court since it opened in 2006. There was a crowd of close to 3,500 on Saturday night watching nine games. And what they learned is that the Monarchs without Stanley Johnson still have a team to reckon with.