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March 13, 2013
SANTA ANA, Calif. - There were two separate story lines laying in wait before Tuesday night's match up between Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei and Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, but it remained to be seen which tale would manifest itself.
The first was revenge for Mater Dei.
With a win, the Monarchs had a chance for a rematch with Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Etiwanda who beat Mater Dei in the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division IAA championship game.
The other, reprisal for Poly.
If the Jackrabbits found a way to top Mater Dei, four-star junior Kameron Chatman would be able to return to the Poly lineup after being ruled ineligible by the CIF due to transfer rules.
It was clear from the get-go that Poly was determined to get Chatman on the floor as the players donned warm up shirts with "#FREEKAM" on the front, and "3/16/13" on the back - the date that Chatman would be eligible to return.
Both scenarios played out, however, as Mater Dei defeated Poly, 83-63, in a CIF-SS Regional semifinal game at Mater Dei High.
While Mater Dei's wire-to-wire win and rematch with Etiwanda are completely within the rules, the Jackrabbits' decision to insert Chatman into the game with 1:12 to play, trailing 81-63, was not.
It's likely that the CIF will deem this game a forfeit based on the decision of Poly to use an ineligible player, but it shouldn't take anything away from a strong Mater Dei showing that was nothing short of dominant.
Butler commit Elijah Brown had a game-high 32 points, while pulling down 11 rebounds. Arizona recruit, five-star junior Stanley Johnson, finished with 21 points and six rebounds, while Monarchs' steady-handed point guard Jordan Strawberry had 10.
Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said he wanted his guys to get back on track after playing so poorly in the loss to Etiwanda.
"It was nice to get back home for two games against two formidable opponents," he said. "I thought we played really well as a team and did really well defensively. Holding (Roschon) Prince down is not easy."
Prince, a USC commit, finished with 25 points and eight rebounds, but only scored 12 in a first half that put Mater Dei ahead for good.
The Monarchs jumped out to a 21-9 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back, as their first half lead grew to as large as 16 at one point in the first half.
Mater Dei shot 16 of 25 from the field in the opening half, something that McKnight took notice to.
"I thought the boys shot the ball really well in the first half," he said. "We moved the ball really well, and Elijah had some really great moments."
Poly cut the Mater Dei lead to seven, 50-43, with 1:48 left in the third quarter after a three-point-play from Prince, but that was the closest the Jackrabbits would get as Prince fouled out with 3:10 left in the fourth, and Bell followed suit just seven seconds later.
Bell, who is headed to Oregon, had 12 points for Poly, while junior Kameron Murrell finished with 13.
Mater Dei and Etiwanda will play on Saturday to see who will represent Southern California in the State Championship game on Mar., 23. Saturday's game will be at 8 p.m. at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.