Prep Basketball : Mater Dei Comes Up With Old-Fashioned Performance to Win

Times Staff Writer

In this season of transition for the Mater Dei High School basketball team--one in which it has lost to a team from Orange County (Capistrano Valley) and the Angelus League (Bishop Amat)--Wednesday's 47-43 Angelus League victory over Servite at Chapman College was a blast from the past.

Meet Mater Dei forward Kevin Rembert, the blast.

It was Rembert's 14 points in the fourth quarter--he had 23 for the game--that lifted an unsteady and centerless Mater Dei team when it appeared to be out.

It was the type of performance that Gary McKnight, Mater Dei coach, thought his team might not get this season. In the past, with players such as Tom Lewis and LeRon Ellis, Mater Dei always had, as McKnight calls it, "a go-to player." A guy who gets the ball when the game is going to be won or lost.

Well, there was Mater Dei. Down by four points (32-28) early in the fourth quarter, with its center, Char Ruppel (13 points) having just fouled out. Servite (11-7, 1-4) had outplayed Mater Dei (13-5, 4-1) for 2 1/2 quarters, holding the Monarchs to two points--two free throws--in the second quarter. Servite led, 23-19, at halftime.

"I don't think I've ever had a team not score a basket in a quarter," said McKnight. "Not even when I was coaching the San Clemente freshman team."

Servite's combination of guard Brian Kenney and center Nick Marusich were shredding the middle for points. Kenney (16 points) on drives, the 6-foot, 8-inch, 225-pound Marusich (13 points) with the crush of his body.

Servite led by as many as eight points in the third quarter (29-21), before a mild Mater Dei rally cut the lead to 30-26 at the end of the quarter.

"It looked like they were going to take over inside," Rembert said. "When Char went out I knew I was going to have to pick it up inside."

Rembert, a 6-5 senior, scored on jump shots, jump hooks and sky hooks. It was his 15-foot jump shot that brought Mater Dei to within one point (35-34) with 5:36 to play. Less than two minutes later, Mater Dei guard Dylan Rigdon made a three-point shot to tie the score, 37-37.

Rembert scored Mater Dei's next six points, matched by Kenney, who scored the next six for Servite. With the score tied at 43-43, Rigdon, a 6-3 junior, made two free throws to put Mater Dei ahead, 45-43, with 1:33 remaining.

Marusich missed a shot inside and on the transition, Rembert made a five-foot jumper to put Mater Dei ahead, 47-43, with 50 seconds left. From there, Mater Dei did a good job of freezing the ball to come away with the win.

What made Rembert's performance all the more impressive is that he did it with an injury. Rembert said he injured his left groin muscle early in the second quarter.

"It bothered me but not enough to stop me," he said.

Wednesday, in the fourth quarter, it didn't seem anything could.

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