How's this for a bit of irony?
Todd Marinovich, formerly of Mater Dei High School, made a three-point play with 27 seconds remaining to lift Capistrano Valley to a 57-55 victory over the Monarchs Saturday night in front of an overflow crowd of 2,000 at Saddleback College.
The loss ended the Mater Dei mystique in Orange County. The Monarchs came into the game with a record of 156-10 in six seasons under Coach Gary McKnight and had never lost to a county school.
Marinovich ended the Monarchs' mastery when he drove the lane for a short bank shot and was fouled on the play. He completed the three-point play with a free throw for a 55-51 lead, and then teammate Charles Lockard added two more free throws with 19 seconds remaining to seal the win.
"It's tough seeing an ex-Monarch beat you," McKnight said. "There's two guys (coaches) in Orange County I don't mind losing to. One is Jim Harris of Ocean View, and the other is Mark Thornton of Capistrano Valley."
Mater Dei (9-4) trailed throughout most of the game after taking a 15-11 lead in the first quarter. Capistrano Valley center Jim Waikle gave the Cougars a 25-23 lead at halftime when he scored on a follow shot at the buzzer, and the Cougars never trailed again.
Mater Dei went four minutes without scoring in the third quarter before center Char Ruppel hit with 3:58 remaining, and by then, the Monarchs had fallen behind by 10 points, 35-25.
Waikle, a 7-foot senior, created all kinds of problems for Mater Dei. His presence in the middle of the Cougars' two-three zone forced Mater Dei to repeatedly alter its shots or move out into three-point field goal territory.
Forward Kevin Rembert, Mater Dei's best player, made only 4 of 11 shot attempts through three quarters. The Monarchs also made only 1 of 9 three-point shots in three quarters before getting untracked in the final quarter.
Capistrano Valley (13-4) held an 11-point lead, 45-34, with 7:02 remaining following a three-point shot by Marinovich. But the Monarchs rallied and eventually trimmed the deficit to one point, 52-51, when Rembert made two free throws with 58 seconds left to play.
That's when Marinovich came up with the play of the game. The Cougars were in a deliberate offense when Marinovich saw an opening in the middle of the key. Capistrano Valley was clinging to a one-point lead, and Marinovich's play appeared to be a gamble, but the senior sent the capacity crowd into a frenzy when he made the shot.
"We were running our four-to-score offense, and Todd took the big shot," said Thornton. "He won the game for us, but that doesn't surprise me. Todd Marinovich is a winner.
"For a little while, I thought the Mater Dei magic was going to work when they made that run at us at the end."
Marinovich led all scorers with 24 points, including three three-point shots. Teammate Charles Lockard added 14 points. Rembert led the Monarchs with 19 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out with 19 seconds remaining.
Waikle scored only six points, but McKnight said he was the difference.
"The big guy presented a lot of problems," he said. "Everyone on our team had to adjust their shots, and then they got hot in the second half. I thought we were going to catch them, but sometimes it's difficult to come all the way back when you're down by 11 points in the last quarter."
The victory will likely catapult Capistrano Valley to the top ranking of the Orange County Sportswriters' Assn. poll next week. The loss was the fourth for Mater Dei this season, marking the first time the Monarchs have lost four games in a season under McKnight.
But then it was a night of firsts for the Monarchs.
In other nonleague games:
Santa Ana Valley 81, Magnolia 56--The Falcons led, 38-33, at halftime but outscored Magnolia, 33-6, in the third quarter to put the game at Magnolia out of reach. Five Santa Ana Valley players scored in double figures, led by guard Dedric Bentley with 17 points. Brett Beale scored 12, Roshawn Lacy 13, Steve Calhoun 12 points and Jason Baughan 11 for Santa Ana Valley (8-6).
Magnolia's center Mike Goff scored 20 points, and also had 20 rebounds, including nine on offense. Jason Nester added 14 for the Sentinels.
Mira Mesa 64, Dana Hills 63--Mike Feddon hit two free throws with 28 seconds left, but Mira Mesa worked for the final shot and made it to defeat Dana Hills (7-7) at San Clemente. Center John Lloyd led the Dolphins with 15 points and Tyrone Meizsell added 14.