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Prep roundup: Zack Davidson leads Mater Dei boys’ basketball team to Division 1 title

Mater Dei's Zack Davidson holds the boys' basketball Southern Section Division 1 championship plaque.
Mater Dei’s Zack Davidson holds the boys’ basketball Southern Section Division 1 championship plaque after the Monarchs’ win over Etiwanda at the Honda Center on Saturday.
(Luca Evans / Los Angeles Times)
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He is the big brother, both spiritually and literally.

It would seem to be a tough position, the only senior on a historically dominant Santa Ana Mater Dei program to receive consistent minutes. Tasked with assuming the top scorer’s burden while keeping a group of underclassmen in line. But ever since a rocky fall tournament at the Border League in Las Vegas, the Monarchs’ Zack Davidson has taken on his role with no complaints.

“With a bunch of freshmen and sophomores on my team that are pretty inexperienced,” Davidson said back in October, “I have to show them what to do, what not to do.”

It’s that young core — 6-foot-8 Brannon Martinsen, sniper Luke Barnett, Davidson’s younger brother and sophomore Blake — that’s kept 40th-year head coach Gary McKnight on the Mater Dei sidelines for another season. And he’s been able to rely on Davidson as an on-court stabilizer, a steady post presence who scored 23 points to lead Mater Dei to a 66-53 win over Etiwanda and a Southern Section Division 1 championship Saturday at the Honda Center.

Davidson worked from the high and low post in the first half as Mater Dei mounted a slight lead. A trusty hammer, he pounded away again and again in the second half, the hub of the Monarchs’ workmanlike offense.

After he slung a layup just long in the third quarter, the 6-8 Montana commit galloped back down the court to snare a rebound on the other end, then hightailed back down the court to receive a pass for an emphatic and-one to push the Monarchs’ lead to 11. It was a special blend of skill and heart, a four-year guy throwing every drop of sweat into a performance his Monarchs needed.

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“We knew he was going to be a tough player to defend,” Etiwanda co-head coach Danny Ryan said. “And we game-planned for it. But sometimes, guys are just that good, they’re that big, they’re that strong.”

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For three years, Davidson’s been nursing the sting of a freshman-year loss to Chatsworth Sierra Canyon in an Open Division championship game. And even as he was swarmed by photos after the final buzzer, presented with the championship plaque, his teammates had to urge him to smile wider.

“When I was on the bus ride here — there’s nothing that was going to stop me from feeling like that again,” Davidson said postgame, reflecting on that freshman-year loss. “Because winning’s cool. But there’s nothing worse than losing.”

For three quarters, as Mater Dei built a lead, the vast Honda Center stayed mostly silent in a game that just felt a little — boring. The Monarchs, at heart, are best when they’re a little boring, a well-oiled machine of shooting and heady playmaking, with Martinsen stretching to the rim Mr. Fantastic-style and Barnett cutting backdoor.

But with Mater Dei trying to hold a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, Etiwanda fans came alive after senior Curtis Williams drove, absorbed contact from Barnett, and finished an and-one layup that could’ve cut the Monarchs’ lead to seven.

Except, with McKnight’s heart “throbbing,” he said, the referees altered the call. Charge. Whether right or wrong, it was such a vacuum of emotion, such a tide-changer, that longtime Etiwanda head coach David Kleckner was still barking at the referee as the seconds ticked down on a Mater Dei win.

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“It was very degrading,” Etiwanda’s Jimmy Baker said.

The Eagles had one last ace up their sleeve, though, rattling Mater Dei late in the fourth quarter with a swarming full-court press. But there was Davidson, again, consistently making the right read and draining free throw after free throw — 11 of 13 on the game — to seal the win.

“He kinda just calms everyone down, when we’re all nervous in a game,” Barnett said.

Boys’ basketball

Rancho Christian 63, La Mirada 55: Sophomore Julien Gomez scored 32 points for La Mirada in the 2A championship game.

St. Pius X-St. Matthias 73, La Serna 48: In Division 3AA, Tyrone Riley scored 33 points to lead the No. 1-seeded team from Downey to victory.

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Bosco Tech 88, Lynwood 81: In Division 5AA, Jaden Erami scored 30 points and Ryan Osborne added 29 points to help Bosco Tech overcome a 35-point performance from freshman Jason Crowe Jr.

Valencia 65, St. Bonaventure 62: In Division 4AA, Mikah Ballew scored 30 points and Bryce Bedgood had 12 points and 11 rebounds to lead Valencia.

Long Beach Jordan 68, Sage Hill 57: Dennis Redmond Jr. scored 23 points for Jordan in the Division 4A final.

Girls’ basketball

Orange Lutheran 63, Marlborough 45: The Lancers won their seventh title and first Division 1 championship behind Shea Joko, who scored 17 points and finished four of eight from three-point range. Princess Cassell added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Assistant Alex Helmage directed the team in the absence of Lindsay Charity, who is on maternity leave. Lauren Munoz made four threes for Marlborough.

Oak Park 76, St. Monica 41: The Eagles won the 5A championship under first-year coach William Burr. Lindsay Gould scored 27 points, making six threes for Oak Park. Delaney White added 26 points.

Flintridge Prep 68, Los Osos 52: Ashley Chea scored 24 points to help deliver a 3AA championship for Flintridge Prep.

Rialto 46, Buena Park 44: In 4AA, Rialto came back from a 12-point halftime deficit. Carrington Davis scored 27 points for Rialto.

Brentwood 79, Leuzinger 66: The Eagles won the 2A championship. Lev Feiman scored 17 points and Jocelyn Pascual had 14 points for

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La Salle 63, Hart 54: Kaden Cortes scored 21 points to help La Salle capture the Division 2AA championship.

Girls’ soccer

El Camino Real 4, Cleveland 0: Erin Lee, Sharon Alcocer, Nikki Velasco and Taylor Webster scored as ECR recorded its 15th consecutive shutout to win the City Section Division I title, its 15th in school history.

Moorpark 2, Marina 1: Zaina Barakat’s goal in overtime gave Moorpark the Division 3 championship.

Santa Margarita 0, Los Alamitos 0: Santa Margarita won the Division 1 championship on a penalty kicks shootout.

Boys’ soccer

JSerra 2, Sunny Hills 0: The Lions won the Division 1 championship with Angel Reyes and Tanner Casey contributing goals.

Birmingham 3, El Camino Real 1: Jerry Ramos scored two goals and Oscar Vargas added another goal to deliver a City Section Division I championship for Birmingham.

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