Seeded No. 7 out of eight teams in the Southern Section Open Division basketball playoffs, Santa Ana Mater Dei was hardly on anyone’s radar to be a disruptor in pool play.
But the Monarchs (24-6) pulled off the feat of beating No. 2-seeded Corona Centennial and No. 3-seeded Temecula Rancho Christian in consecutive road playoff games. Standout point guard Devin Askew, a Kentucky commit, came through with a career-high 43 points on Tuesday night in a 76-71 win over Rancho Christian. He was seven of seven from three-point range.
Those upset victories still don’t guarantee the Monarchs a spot in the Feb. 28 championship game at The Pyramid in Long Beach. They will have to defeat Studio City Harvard-Westlake on the road Friday night. Harvard-Westlake received 19 points from Truman Gettings and `16 from Mason Hooks in a 68-57 road victory over Corona Centennial. Harvard-Westlake could make the final if it defeats Mater Dei and Rancho Christian loses to Centennial.
Otherwise, the Monarchs will be seeking their 24th section title under coach Gary McKnight. The Monarchs ended the regular season with few signature victories. McKnight was waiting for a sign his team might finally live up to its preseason hype as No. 2 behind Chatsworth Sierra Canyon. After finally getting healthy following illnesses and injuries, it could be happening.
The other four-team pool has gone as expected. Rancho Cucamonga Etiwanda (28-2) and Sierra Canyon (26-4) are set to play Friday night at Calabasas to decide the other final berth.
Etiwanda used a suffocating defensive effort to defeat Bellflower St. John Bosco 60-38. Jaylen Clark scored 16 points to lead the Eagles.
Sierra Canyon had its usual flurry of dunks in a 61-49 win over Long Beach St. Anthony. Amari Bailey finished with 17 points, BJ Boston 12 and Ziaire Williams 11. But the Trailblazers did not play at the level that surely will be needed Friday against Etiwanda.
“That wasn’t the best display of what we’re capable of,” Bailey said.
Said coach Andre Chevalier: “We were complacent. One, we were happy with the first win and two, we were looking forward to playing Etiwanda on Friday. Not taking anything away from St. Anthony … they played their butts off, but we were not focused.”
Now the focus will be on an Etiwanda team that lost to Sierra Canyon 57-53 in December. Etiwanda has added Clark and Sierra Canyon has added Williams.
“They’re the toughest defense in Los Angeles by far,” Chevalier said. “They’re physical and this year they have five guys who can score. It’s going to be a war.”
Bailey said he planned to go home and start studying.
“I’m going to watch my last game,” Bailey said. “I’m still trying to figure out how their defense is. I’m going to do my homework.”
In Division 1, Los Angeles Windward brought an end to the fabulous four-year high school career of Joshua Christopher with a 67-65 win over Lakewood Mayfair. Christopher finished with 25 points. Dior Johnson led Mayfair with 33 points. Marcus Joseph had 18 points for Windward, which will play San Juan Capistrano JSerra in the semifinals.
Riverside Poly defeated Sherman Oaks Notre Dame 77-49. Evan Oliver had 25 points.
In 2-AA, St. Francis upset No. 2-seeded Heritage Christian 71-53. Andre Henry scored 22 points. Chaminade received 24 points from Kenneth Simpson in a 73-57 win over Capistrano Valley Christian. Eastvale Roosevelt rallied for a 64-57 overtime win over Alemany. Paul Ezeanyim scored 22 points.