Sophomore guard Steve Scoggin arrived at Ocean View High Friday night for Mater Dei’s Southern Section Division I-A quarterfinal boys’ basketball playoff game and saw a copy of the final Orange County Top 10 Poll posted on a bulletin board inside the team room.
The Monarchs, winners of six consecutive section titles and seven of the last eight, were nowhere to be found on the list.
“We took a lot of heat from people at school,” Scoggin said. “Others would write that we were the worst Mater Dei team on record. A couple of weeks ago we decided to prove that it’s not the case.”
Scoggin scored 24 points, including four of seven from three-point range, to help unseeded Mater Dei upend third-seeded Arlington, 71-63. Freshman guard Cedric Bozeman scored 15 points and sophomore forward Steve Henderson 13 to send the Monarchs (21-7) up against San Bernardino Pacific in the semifinals Tuesday.
Jimmy Miggins scored a game-high 26 points for Ivy League champion Arlington (24-6), 18 of those in the second half to help erase a good chunk of Mater Dei’s 20-point lead.
The Lions cut Mater Dei’s lead to 62-58 with 1 minute 17 seconds remaining in the game with an 11-2 run. But Henderson’s wide open layup beat Arlington’s half-court trap and then Scoggin sank two free throws.
When the season began, Scoggin said, it didn’t look as if Mater Dei would even make the playoffs, let alone be two games away from another title. But in winning its eighth consecutive game, Mater Dei, which starts two juniors, two sophomores and one freshman, demonstrated a lot more of the execution that made it such a powerhouse this decade.
“The first half was as great a defensive effort as you will see,” Monarch Coach Gary McKnight said. “For this team to be in the semifinals. We weren’t even in that Top 10.”
The Monarchs benefited at the free-throw line, making 17 of 21 attempts. Arlington made two of three tries, a disparity Lions Coach John Seydel questioned.
“It took awhile for us to settle down and we had our chances,” Seydel said. “We certainly can’t blame our slow start on the fouls, but Miggins averages 12 free throws a game and he didn’t get one attempt tonight.”
Mater Dei’s strategy was to surround the 6-foot-7 Miggins with two or three defenders, led by Henderson, and force the Lions to shoot over them.
Miggins took only five shots in the first half and made four, but his teammates were a combined three of 17. Mater Dei led, 32-15.
Scoggin made three of his three-pointers in the third quarter and when Henderson scored with 1:21 left, Mater Dei held a 52-32 lead.