Mater Dei Pays Back Ventura Buena With Interest

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mater Dei got ready for its Southern California Regional final by watching week-old videotape.

It showed the final 11 seconds of the Monarchs' game last week against Ventura Buena, the same team it faced Saturday for a berth in the state finals.

It was the clip of Ventura Buena's Nicole Greathouse elbowing Mater Dei's Melody Peterson in the nose, which has been bleeding every day since.

"This was definitely a vengeance game," Mater Dei senior Margaret Hollis said.

Mater Dei reaped its vengeance Saturday at the Pond with a 48-40 victory. Though Buena (30-2) is the Southern Section Division I champion, Mater Dei (28-3) is the regional champion and will play for the state title.

The Monarchs play Saturday at Arco Arena in Sacramento against San Jose Archbishop Mitty, a 61-41 winner over Fairfield.

Mater Dei didn't blow a 13-point second-half lead this time, but did squander a nine-point lead in the third quarter.

"The difference between this game and last," Mater Dei assistant Geri Gainey said, "is that a week ago, there was a lot of confusion and panic in [our] eyes. This time we didn't panic."

A week ago, Mater Dei made three of 16 shots in the fourth quarter and shot 25% in the second half. This time, the Monarchs made six of 13 in the fourth and shot 39.1% in the half.

Peterson, who had only seven points in the section final, had eight in the fourth quarter this time. She finished with 19, including a 10-foot runner that gave Mater Dei the lead for good with 5:45 left. She also had five steals.

Lori Hurlbut (17 points), who set a regional final record with five three-point baskets, hit No. 4 on the next possession to make it 41-36.

Hurlbut's fifth, with 1:03 to play, made it 46-40, and Peterson's layup with seven seconds remaining finished the job.

Buena took an 11-4 lead, but Hurlbut came off the bench and scored the first eight points of a 21-4 run. She made her first four shots, including three three-pointers, and had 11 in the stretch.

Her shooting enabled Mater Dei to set up on defense, which the Monarchs used to harass Buena. Unlike a week ago, they exposed the loss of Buena's Eboni Conley, who was out because of a knee injury.

Mater Dei led at halftime, 25-17, and Buena had 16 of its eventual 28 turnovers. Mater Dei's Allison Luckey finished with seven steals.

"[Players like Lori Hurlbut] differentiate you from being a good team and a very good team," Mater Dei Coach Mary Hauser said. "When you have a kid like Hurlbut who comes in and hits five three-pointers, you can beat a team like Buena."

Hurlbut, a junior, said it was the biggest performance of her career.

"I don't think I've ever made that many [three-pointers] to start off a game," she said. "They just kind of left me open. I was kind of surprised."

She said she had four three-pointers last year in a regular-season loss to the Bulldogs.

But Hurlbut's heroics might not have mattered if the Monarchs had not shut down Greathouse, who had 23 points in the section final. Greathouse, a 6-foot-2 junior, scored seven.

"[Mater Dei's defense] denied me the ball a lot," Greathouse said. "They trapped more on our guards and it was harder to get the ball inside, and they played good help defense. They were definitely more aggressive than last week."

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