Mater Dei escapes, beats Poly in 1AA, 63-59

March 3, 2012

ANAHEIM, CA - Trying to defend their CIF Southern Section Division 1AA title with four new starters, Long Beach Poly found themsleves trailing 62-59 with just seconds left in the game and junior guard Roschon Prince had the ball in the front court with a chance to tie. Mater Dei forward Stanley Johnson stole the ball away with just three seconds remaining to help the Monarchs secure the win, 63-59, for the 21st sectional championship in school history.

It was a chippy ending to the final. As the Jackrabbits (27-2) made their push, Xavier Johnson and Prince were assessed double fouls. 

Long Beach Poly guard Joshua Munzon and Mater Dei guard Elijah Brown received double technical fouls. 

The Jackrabbits, who trailed by eight at the end of the third quarter and by as many as 11 points in the second half, had suddenly cut it to one when Munzon banked in a three from the top of the key to make the score 59-58 with 1:27 left in the game. 

All of a sudden, Mater Dei head coach Gary McKnight had thoughts of Linsanity.

"I had visions of (New York Knicks guard) Jeremy Lin," said McKnight.  "Jeremy Lin hit that bank shot against us (in the 2006 state championship game)."

Chris Croom, who carried the Jackrabbits for the majority of the second half, had an opportunity to tie the game with 46.5 seconds left but could only convert on one of two free throws.

The door remained open when Stanley missed four of six free throws in the game's final 30 seconds, but he made up for it at the end. With the Jackrabbits having another opportunity to tie the game, Stanley came up with the championship clinching steal, robbing Prince.  The defense on Prince was key for the Monarchs. 

"I don't feel like they were extremely physical but they (were) face guarding me the whole game," said Prince who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.  "The face guarding affected me." 

The Monarchs (29-2) gave the Jackrabbits multiple looks defensively, switching from man to a 3-2 zone and even a triangle and two throughout the game. 

"We wanted to switch defenses on them and not let them get comfortable.  Stanley did a great job (on Prince) and then he got his second foul," said Mater Dei associate head coach Jason Quinn.

"Our coaches told me from the jump don't let him get the ball in the post," said Stanley. "In the post he started getting in front of me so I had to get physical with him."

The Monarchs won the rebounding war, 44-32. The king of the boards on Saturday night was Xavier Johnson, who finished with 19 points and 20 rebounds. 

"My job was to keep (Poly center) Jordan Bell off the glass," said Xavier. "He's a great athlete and I just rebounded the ball."

Limiting the Jackrabbits' second chance points was "priority No. 1" for Mater Dei.

Poly had 11 offensive rebounds in the first half and finished with 15 in the game.

The Monarchs were the favorites all season long to win a sectional title and on Saturday they took care of business. 

"The team is expected to win and when you wear that on your back every night it's tough," said McKnight. "I'm very proud of how they've worn that shield and fought because there were some tough games and we were who (our opponents) were coming at."