Gary McKnight, the winningest high school basketball coach in California history, was standing on the sideline Friday night with his arms crossed in a frozen stance watching the onslaught taking place before his eyes. His 22-time Southern Section champion Santa Ana Mater Dei team was being dismantled by Chino Hills, the No. 1-ranked team in America.
"I haven't seen a running clock ever before," McKnight said afterward. "Our guys looked shell shocked."
Down, 12-0, to start the game, down, 33-6, after one quarter and down, 89-40, after three quarters, Mater Dei ended up losing, 102-54, in perhaps the worst defeat inflicted on a McKnight-coached team in 34 seasons.
Chino Hills (30-0) came out focused, and no one was more fired up than UCLA-bound Lonzo Ball, who twice was eliminated from the playoffs by losses to Mater Dei.
"I remember that," he said.
Before a sometimes raucous sold-out crowd at Ayala High that got louder with every dunk by Chino Hills and every blocked shot by 6-foot-9 freshman Oneyka Okongwu (he had six), the Huskies played probably their best game of the season.
"We wanted this game," Coach Steve Baik said. "We respect McKnight and Mater Dei for what they are. If things click for us, we can overwhelm teams."
In advancing to next Saturday's Southern Section Open Division championship game against Chatsworth Sierra Canyon at 6:30 p.m. at Honda Center, Chino Hills more than just won the game. The Huskies have become the greatest show around. They don't just win — they entertain.
They have reached 100 or more points 16 times this season, two away from the state record. The Ball brothers — Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo — were talking on the court trying to come up with plays to excite the crowd. LaMelo had a behind-the-back pass on a fastbreak that led to a dunk by Eli Scott. Lonzo had several dunks off lob passes. It's as if they had been practicing the plays in their backyard — and they had.
LiAngelo finished with 34 points, Lonzo had 25 points and Scott added 23 points and 12 rebounds.
"They're very unique," McKnight said. "It reminds me a lot of the Loyola Marymount teams of Paul Westhead."
Mater Dei (27-4) came out and made turnover after turnover against Chino Hills' trapping defense. The Monarchs finished with 31 turnovers. MJ Cage led Mater Dei with 16 points.
Sierra Canyon knocked off No. 2-seeded Torrance Bishop Montgomery, 78-69, in the other semifinal. Devearl Ramsey scored 20 points, Remy Martin 17 and Cody Riley 14.
The challenge for Sierra Canyon will be dealing with the Huskies' up-tempo attack and the fact the Ball brothers love big games.
"The bigger the stage, the better they play," Baik said.