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Simi Valley Hits the Skids

TIMES STAFF WRITER

One had to wonder if Simi Valley High left something behind on the long bus ride to UC Irvine.

Tentative during warm-ups, the Pioneers were even tighter in the first quarter, making only four of their first 14 shots and committing five turnovers in an eventual 56-43 loss to second-seeded Santa Ana Mater Dei in a Southern Section Division I-A boys’ basketball semifinal Thursday night.

Mater Dei (30-3), which played exceptional defense, particularly in the post, will play top-seeded Glendora, an 81-77 winner over San Bernardino Pacific, at the Arrowhead Pond on Saturday. It marks the eighth time the Monarchs will play in a section final this decade.

This was not the way most figured Simi Valley (28-3) would go out.

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“We’ve played a lot of big games, but we came out flat tonight,” forward Brett Michel of Simi Valley said.

Michel scored seven of his 10 points in the first two quarters, helping to prevent an early blowout.

“I don’t know the explanation for it,” Michel said. “We started out very sluggish.”

Try eight for 28 from the field in the first half, with 12 turnovers.

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“We wanted to be in the big game,” Coach Dean Bradshaw said of Simi Valley.

“We had high expectations, and when you have high expectations, you will have big letdowns.”

Bradshaw said Mater Dei’s defensive pressure had a lot to do with Simi Valley’s problems, a point echoed by Coach Gary McKnight of Mater Dei, who said he thought the Pioneers played like they were “in shell shock.”

“I don’t think they’ve seen that kind of defense,” McKnight said of the Pioneers.

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At the outset, the game looked like a big mismatch.

Mater Dei was playing without 6-foot-9 sophomore center Jamal Sampson, who figured to go head-to-head with 6-9 Dustin Villepique of Simi Valley.

Forward Mike Bayer, who finished with 13 points but only three rebounds, has been slowed while recovering from mononucleosis, and swingman Cedric Bozeman, who figured to help out in a double-team on center Rafael Berumen of Simi Valley, was out with a knee injury.

McKnight started 6-9 Eric Soderberg in the spot that might have been occupied by Sampson.

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Soderberg was one reason Berumen made only two for eight shots, with only four points in the first half.

Imran Sufi, making his second start in place of Bozeman, took over point guard duties. His three-point basket with 2:05 left in the first half gave the Monarchs a 28-17 lead.

The Pioneers struggled, making only three of nine shots in the second quarter to that point.

Sufi said the Monarchs could sense early that something wasn’t right with Simi Valley.

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“I think we played really hard defense in the first five minutes,” Sufi said. “We knew that Simi Valley had never trailed at the end of the first quarter this year and the fact that we got up on them was a key.

“When we made our run in the second quarter, it took them out of the game.”

So predictable was the outcome, that the crowd got into the game only once. That came with 4:46 to play, when a three-point play by Berumen cut Mater Dei’s lead to 44-37.

But the Monarchs went on a 10-4 run over the next two minutes.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Playoff Watch

RESULTS

SOUTHERN SECTION BOYS

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Division I-A, Semifinals

* Mater Dei 56, Simi Valley 43

* Glendora 81, Pacific 77

Division V-AA, Semifinals

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* Santa Clara 77, Pacific Hills 56

* Pasadena Poly 55, Desert 42

SOUTHERN SECTION GIRLS

Division I-A, Semifinal

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* San Clemente 55, Buena 39

TODAY

SOUTHERN SECTION GIRLS

Division V-AA, Semifinal

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* Western Christian vs. Santa Clara at Oxnard College, 7:30 p.m.

FRIDAY

SOUTHERN SECTION BOYS

Division V-A, Final

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* Antelope Valley Christian vs. Price Christian at UC Irvine Bren Center,3 p.m.

Division V-AA, Final

* Santa Clara vs. Pasadena Poly at 4:45 p.m. at UC Irvine Bren Center.

SATURDAY

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SOUTHERN SECTION BOYS

Division III-A, Final

* Chaminade vs. Corona del Mar at The Pond, 9 a.m.

CITY SECTION BOYS

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Division Final

* Poly vs. Jefferson at Loyola Marymount, 3 p.m.

TO BE SCHEDULED

SOUTHERN SECTION GIRLS

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* Harvard-Westlake will play Morningside in the Division III-A final either Friday or Saturday at the Pyramid. If Santa Clara wins today, the Saints will play in the Division V-AA championship game. The title game schedule for girls will be announced today.


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