LOS ANGELES – It will be remembered as one of the grittier performances in Mater Dei’s amazing boys basketball history.
Mater Dei defeated Chino Hills, 83-80, in overtime Friday in a CIF-Southern Section Open Division semifinal playoff game at Galen Center, which was filled to its 10,258 capacity.
Mater Dei (30-1), ranked No. 4 in California by CalHiSports.com, will play No. 3 Bishop Montgomery of Torrance (26-2) in the championship game next Saturday at Honda Center. The Monarchs will be shooting for their 23rd CIF-SS boys basketball championship. They won their most recent one, the Open Division title, in 2014.
Chino Hills had defeated Mater Dei twice in the past year – 84-73 on Dec. 20 at the Tarkanian Classic tournament in Las Vegas and a thunderous 102-54 win in the Open Division semifinals last season.
Senior forward Justice Sueing slashed and powered his way to a team-high 25 points for Mater Dei. Monarchs junior point guard Spencer Freedman scored 17 points with nine assists.
Bol Bol, the 7-foot junior who transferred to Mater Dei and became eligible in early January, scored 14 and had 14 rebounds. Bol blocked five shots and altered at least a half-dozen others.
Sueing, who will go to Cal, was clutch at the free-throw line, too. He made a pair with 49 seconds left in overtime to put Mater Dei ahead to stay, 81-79.
After Chino Hills’ Onyeka Okongwu made a free throw with 36 seconds left to make it 81-80, Freedman dropped in two free throws with nine seconds left to push the Monarchs’ lead to 83-80.
After that, LiAngelo Ball hoisted another long 3-point shot. This one hit the front of the rim and bounced over the backboard, giving Mater Dei the ball, and the win, with one second to go. All Mater Dei had to do was inbound the ball, which they did, and that was it.
“We wanted to come out and play as hard as we could,” Freedman said. “And the result would be the result.”
The season is not over for state No. 2 Chino Hills (29-2). The Huskies, like all teams in the Open Division, are in the CIF Southern California Regionals, which determines the teams that play in the CIF State finals.
Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said he thinks the Monarchs and Huskies could have a rematch in the regionals.
“In two weeks we might play each other again,” said McKnight, in his 35th season coaching the Monarchs. “It’s like I told the guys, ‘Win and move on.’”
The Ball brothers, senior LiAngelo and sophomore LaMelo, combined for 54 points.
LaMelo had 28 and LiAngelo had 26. But they took a lot of shots, and missed a lot of them. Together they were 17 for 65 from the floor – LaMelo was 8 for 33, and LiAngelo was 9 for 32. On 3-pointers, LaMelo was 8 for 28, and LiAngelo was 5 for 18.
Chino Hills had a 38-34 lead at halftime. It looked like the Huskies were going to pull away when they had a 54-44 lead, their biggest lead of the game, in the third quarter.
Mater Dei rallied, slowly but surely. The Monarchs took their first lead of the second half on a remarkable exchange – Bol blocked a shot, pulled down the rebound, quickly sent an outlet pass to Freedman who then fired a pass to Harrison Butler for a breakaway layup and a 64-63 lead.
The game remained close the rest of the way. The Huskies had a couple of chances to win the game late in the fourth quarter, but the Ball brothers both missed long-range 3s in the final minute.
Mater Dei was getting beaten badly on the boards in the first half. Chino Hills had 17 offensive rebounds in the first half.
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