Mater Dei found itself in a rare position Friday night. The Monarchs, the defending state Division I boys' basketball champions, went into their season opener as the underdog against Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy.
The result was just about what everyone predicted, but the game was far from a stunning meeting of national powers.
Instead, with some of the nation's top college coaches courtside, including Lute Olson of Arizona and Roy Williams of Kansas, Oak Hill managed a rather average 50-41 victory in the Nike Extravaganza at the Bren Center.
Many observers figured this one would be a blowout, although Oak Hill is not thought to have one of its best teams.
Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight had other ideas. The Monarchs, weakened by illnesses and injuries and starting the standout defensive lineman from the football team at center, did what they could to slow the pace.
Oak Hill held a 20-17 halftime lead, and it wasn't until the final minutes of the fourth quarter that Mater Dei fell out of contention.
"I don't like to run that type of basketball," McKnight said. "You know Mater Dei likes to get up and go. But we had to run that style to stay close to a team like that, if we even wanted to have a chance to win."
Kevin Augustine led the Monarchs with 20 points and four rebounds. Brad Williams, who two weeks ago was wearing football pads for the Monarchs, did admirably blocking up the middle, although his statistics showed only two points and two rebounds. Augustine and Jason Vallas each had four rebounds.
That's the kind of game it was for the Monarchs. Statistically, there wasn't much to brag about.
Not that Oak Hill executed that well, either, although a trio managed to get into double figures.
"We had a distinct height advantage and we didn't take advantage of it in the first half," Oak Hill Coach Steve Smith said of an effort that included five three-point attempts in the first 10 shots taken. "I felt we should have punched it inside a little bit more early in the game and then maybe we could've gotten them to play our tempo.
Oak Hill improved its record to 3-1. Ed Sheffey had 15 points, Randy Barnes had 12 points and nine rebounds and Ricardo Crumble had 10 points. Jackson Stephen added eight rebounds.
In another game:
Tustin 58, Woodbridge 55--Center David Lalazarian scored 28 points and Ray Hobbs made three free throws down the stretch for Tustin. Lalazarian, a 6-foot-7 senior, made 10 of 21 field goal attempts.
Woodbridge center Chris Burgess scored 21 points on 10 of 24 shooting. Burgess, a 6-10 junior, made one of eight from three-point range and missed a three-pointer with five seconds remaining that would have tied the score.