No. 1 Mater Dei upset in Paul Pierce Winter Classic

INGLEWOOD, Calif. –Consider it a lesson learned.

When No. 1 Mater Dei faced Albany Saint Mary’s at the Tournament of Champions last month in Arizona, it was the Monarchs that made the second half adjustments to pick up a win.

Friday night at the Paul Pierce Winter Classic at Inglewood High School, it was Saint Mary’s adjustments that were key as they defeated Mater Dei, 55-41, and dropped them from the ranks of the unbeaten.

The adjustment was simple: defense.

"That’s what we do," said Saint Mary’s head coach Nate Fripp. "We play defense."

The Panthers (7-2) used their length to block shots and get steals while turning them into fast-break layups.

A small Mater Dei (12-1) lead at the half evaporated into a 10-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter.

"Saint Mary’s is an awesome team," Mater Dei head coach Kevin Kiernan said. "One of the top teams in the country and the played like it tonight. We just didn’t match their energy in the second half."

Senior Peyton Langston started the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run of her own to cut the deficit in half but with leading scorer Katie Lou Samuelson having an off night, it was tough sledding for the Monarchs.

Samuelson scored 20 points — well below the 30 points she averages a game — but took 23 shots.

"It just wasn’t going in tonight," Samuelson said.

While Saint Mary’s learned from their experience in Arizona and turned it into a win in Inglewood on Friday night, the Monarchs are hoping for a similar fate.

They went 30-2 last season. Both of their losses came in the playoffs.

"We don’t need to be undefeated going into playoffs," Kiernan said. "That didn’t work last year."