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Fairfax and Santa Ana Mater Dei prepare to meet at Nike Extravaganza

Eric Sondheimer
Contact ReporterVarsity Times Insider
Big-name teams and players head to the Nike Extravaganza, including locals Fairfax and Santa Ana Mater Dei

Since Santa Ana Mater Dei opened its Meruelo Athletic Center in 2006, the boys' basketball team has lost just two home games. One was to Kevin Love and Lake Oswego, Ore., in 2007. The other was to Fairfax in 2009 during the state playoffs.

Mater Dei (20-3) will likely have a 62-game home win streak on the line when it faces unbeaten Fairfax (24-0) on Saturday at 8:45 p.m. in the featured game of the nine-game Nike Extravaganza.

"It's a pride thing," Mater Dei senior guard La'Vette Parker said. "Our team takes it seriously. We like playing at home. We're definitely looking forward to playing Fairfax."

Gary McKnight, with 1,015 career coaching victories, doesn't like to lose and probably never envisioned his opponent being unbeaten this late in the season.

"Harvey has got it going," he said of Fairfax Coach Harvey Kitani. "They're playing well as a team. I'm pretty impressed."

Mater Dei isn't playing too bad itself. Despite having difficulty putting together its complete team because of injuries, illness and ineligibility, the Monarchs are finally at full strength, and McKnight is waiting to see what might happen.

"When we had people out, we played with more energy because we were scared," he said. "I think we're going to go higher than we were. Hopefully, it will be this week or next week. I thought, 'We have everyone back. Here we go.' But it didn't happen."

The Monarchs will play Ontario Colony on Friday night in the first day of the two-day Nike Extravaganza.

Some big-name teams and players are coming to participate. Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill, with a 27-0 record and No. 1 national ranking in some polls, is playing Chatsworth Sierra Canyon on Friday and Oakland Bishop O'Dowd on Saturday. Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, which has 6-foot-11, Duke-bound Chase Jeter along with heavily recruited 7-footer Stephen Zimmerman, is playing Etiwanda on Saturday.

Among the players to watch are 6-11 Ivan Rabb of Bishop O'Dowd, SMU-bound Sedrick Barefield of Corona Centennial, UCLA commit Lonzo Ball of Chino Hills and top junior Vance Jackson of St. John Bosco.

Of course, there also are the players to watch from Fairfax who are rising up and gaining respect: Arizona State commit Lindsey Drew, outstanding junior Donald Gipson and improving senior Lorne Currie.

And don't forget about Mater Dei's trio of Notre Dame-bound Rex Pflueger, top shooter Parker and 6-10 junior M.J. Cage. Considering that there's no Stanley Johnson this season (he's at Arizona and preparing to become a lottery NBA draft pick), Mater Dei is doing just fine. But Fairfax is the best team in the state right now, and this will be a great opportunity for the Lions to prepare for the upcoming City Section and state playoffs.

"These are great games to be able to play with a week left in the regular season," Kitani said.

Nike Extravaganza Basketball tournament schedule

at Santa Ana Mater Dei High

Friday

Santa Margarita vs. Village Christian, 4 p.m.

Mater Dei vs. Bishop Gorman (girls), 5:30 p.m.

Oak Hill vs. Sierra Canyon, 7 p.m.

Colony vs. Mater Dei, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday

Servite vs. St. Margaret's, 8:30 a.m.

Los Alamitos vs. Villa Park, 10 a.m.

Anaheim Canyon vs. JSerra, 11:30 a.m.

(Evening session)

Orange Lutheran vs. Sonora, 1:15 p.m.

Corona Centennial vs. St. John Bosco, 2:45 p.m.

Chino Hills vs. Westchester, 4:15 p.m.

Bishop Gorman vs. Etiwanda, 5:45 p.m.

Bishop O'Dowd vs. Oak Hill, 7:15 p.m.

Mater Dei vs. Fairfax, 8:45 p.m.

Tickets: $12 general admission; $22 reserved.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: LATSondheimer

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