Mater Dei Makes It Look Easy; Ellis Scores 28 in 69-51 Victory

Times Staff Writer

Mater Dei High School seemingly has it all.

The Monarchs' basketball team has been nationally ranked for the past five seasons. LeRon Ellis is considered to be one of the best high school centers in the nation.

All that has been missing in the past five years under Coach Gary McKnight has been a state championship trophy. On Saturday night, the Monarchs took care of that, defeating Ygnacio Valley of Concord, 69-51, in front of 14,211 fans in the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Arena.

The Monarchs (31-1) became the sixth straight team from Southern California to win the Division I title, and they made it look easy. Mater Dei opened a 15-6 lead in the first quarter and was never threatened.

Ygnacio Valley (28-7) was no match for the Monarchs. The Warriors entered the Northern California Regionals as an at-large team, then recorded three straight upsets to reach the final.

Ellis, who led all scorers with 28 points, said: "They weren't the toughest team we've played this season.

"You get here, it's the state championship and you're going to get up for the game. But we have played tougher teams."

Ellis did his best to stay interested in the second half with an assortment of dunks. He scored on a give-and-go play with guard Chris Patton with 4:30 remaining to put the Monarchs ahead, 59-41.

Later, his reverse dunk signaled the end for Ygnacio Valley. Ellis, a 6-foot 11-inch senior, made 13 of 21 field-goal attempts, blocked four shots and had six rebounds in his last high school game.

McKnight called the Monarchs' first-half performance his team's best half all season. The Monarchs made 68% of their shots (15 of 22) and had a 13-point lead.

"We cannot shoot any better than we did in the first half," McKnight said. "I thought it was important to get an early lead against this team because they like to control the tempo.

"We tried to get the tempo up after trying to slow it down against Fairfax last week. This was a tremendous team effort. The passing was so crisp, and we attacked and didn't quit for a change."

Junior forward Kevin Rembert also had an excellent game for the Monarchs, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He missed only one shot. Guard John Boyle added 11 points.

"That's one heck of a fine basketball team," said Jim Grace, Ygnacio Valley coach. "I'd hate to have to play them day in and day out.

"Ellis is much better than I thought going into the game. He was awesome, and their defensive pressure was unrelenting."

McKnight has almost run out of superlatives for his blue-chip center, but he dug deep and found one more.

"There's no comparison between LeRon and anyone else around," he said.

The same can be said for Mater Dei's basketball team in this state.

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