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Mater Dei Hopes to Cure New Year’s Eve Hangover : Basketball: Top-ranked Monarchs, routed Tuesday in San Diego, face No. 2 Capistrano Valley tonight.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Seldom has the Mater Dei High School boys’ basketball team been as thoroughly dominated by an opponent in the past 11 seasons as it was on New Year’s Eve. The Monarchs were soundly beaten, losing to Oak Hill Academy, 69-50, in the championship game of the Torrey Pines Above the Rim tournament.

Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight rated the team from the private school in Mouth of Wilson, Va., as one of the best Mater Dei has played during his tenure. Four of Oak Hill’s starters have signed with Division I colleges, and junior point guard Jeff McInnis figures to be among the top 50 players in the nation next season.

Mater Dei has been hurt in the past by opposing players such as Cherokee Parks of Marina, Chris Mills of Fairfax and John Williams and Stevie Thompson of Crenshaw. But the Monarchs had problems matching up with all of Oak Hill’s starters.

“How do you defense five studs?” asked assistant Coach Dave Taylor.

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Mater Dei point guard Reggie Geary, who has signed with Arizona, said the Monarchs weren’t intimidated by Oak Hill.

“We thought we could play with them, but we found out tonight that we’re not as good as we thought we were,” said Geary, who scored six points against Oak Hill.

Tonight at 8, Mater Dei will play host to Capistrano Valley, in a nonleague game in the Bren Center. Mater Dei (14-1) is the county’s top-ranked team, Capistrano Valley (11-2) is No. 2.

The teams met last month in the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions at Ocean View. Mater Dei beat a flu-stricken Capistrano Valley team, 69-55. The Cougars played without center Matt Moore and two other starters, David Sedgwick and Aaron Rhoades, played sparingly.

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Capistrano Valley is coming off a 61-45 victory over Santa Clara in the championship game of the Orange Holiday tournament Saturday.

McKnight expects the rematch to be physical.

“They’ll come out aggressive and play rough,” McKnight said. “They’re going to bang inside. The first game was no indication of how tough they are. They had guys who were sick. They’ve also had four days to prepare for us, and we’ve had one.”

Mater Dei point guard Kamran Sufi averaged only eight minutes in his past three games after battling the flu.

“He’s lost eight pounds and that would be comparable to me losing 100 pounds,” McKnight said.

Capistrano Valley’s three-point specialist, Tom Airey, scored 18 points in the first game, but he was limited to five points in the first half.

“I hope we can play better this time,” Capistrano Valley Coach Mark Thornton said. “The effort wasn’t there the last time we played them. We can give them a game.

“We’ve got the depth and the players to compete with them. We won’t be intimidated, I just hope we play better than the first game.”

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Thornton is one of a handful of county coaches who has managed to lead a team to victory over Mater Dei in the McKnight era. Mater Dei is 266-25 under McKnight.


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