Fri, Mar 01 2013 11:59 AM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders girls basketball team didn’t need any extra motivation when facing its opponent, the Bishop’s School Knights, in Tuesday’s San Diego Section Division IV semifinal game.
The Knights had provided a playoff roadblock for the Crusaders in each of the past five years, dealing Mater Dei Catholic defeats in four semifinal contests and one championship game.
Now, the Crusaders did get their revenge in the 2009 state playoffs by eliminating the San Diego Section champion Knights en route to claiming the Division IV state title.
But pairing up against Bishop’s in the CIF playoffs has been a thorny issue. The Knights toppled Mater Dei Catholic in the 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012 division semifinals. Each time, Bishop’s advanced to meet Coastal League rival La Jolla Country Day in the section championship game.
The Crusaders sure must wish someone would come along soon and remove that thorn. It’s starting to downright hurt after the Knights scored a deflating 61-53 victory Tuesday.
Now make that six times in the last six years that Bishop’s has gotten the better of the Chula Vista team in the section playoffs.
“We got into foul trouble and we didn’t block out like we should have,” MDCHS coach David Monroe said. “If you don’t block out and you make turnovers, you lose.”
Mater Dei Catholic (20-6) led 29-26 at halftime and built a 37-31 lead midway through the third quarter before the Crusaders’ wheels began to come off.
Foul trouble and turnovers contributed heavily to second-seeded Mater Dei Catholic’s latest demise against the third-seeded Knights.
And an inspired performance by Bishop’s six-foot-three superwoman Imani Littleton didn’t help. Littleton led all scorers in the game with 23 points and pulled down 15 rebounds to make a statement.
In fact, it was Littleton who gave the visitors a 41-40 lead at the end of the third quarter. They would never trail again.
Despite being in foul trouble and needing to “rest” players throughout the second half, the hosts remained within striking distance for most of the fourth quarter before standout Brittani Lusain had to leave the game with leg cramps. While she was on the sideline, Littleton and Co. finally managed to build a slight cushion on the scoreboard.
Besides the havoc that Littleton caused under the basket, the Knights’ other two twin towers — six-foot-one Sierra Ducey and six-foot-three Devon Roeper — proved just too much to deal with.
Roeper had 20 points, including 10 from the charity stripe, while MDC’s Kandiss Barber tallied 17 points and Alexandria Young, the Crusaders’ six-footer bound for USD, contributed 12 points.
Still, the game remained in doubt until the final minute.
Bishop’s (19-11) led 52-49 with 2:23 to play. At this point, with a glimmer of hope still alive for the host team, the sound was deafening inside the MDCHS gym. But the Knights’ lead proved insurmountable as they cashed in on foul shots at the free throw line as time ticked down on the Crusaders’ season.
The visitors led by nine points with 24 seconds to play.
Monroe was visibly disappointed by his team’s unrealized potential.
“Getting this win would have capped a great season for us,” he said. “Now, all I can say is that it was a good season.”
The section is moving toward revising its playoff divisions next season; it will be interesting to see just where Bishop’s and Mater Dei Catholic land.
The Crusaders bounced seventh-seeded Coronado, 66-23, in last Friday’s quarterfinals to pick up their 15th consecutive victory.
Mater Dei Catholic made no mistake as to which was the better team on the court by bounding to a commanding 30-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. The host Crusaders whipped up another scoring frenzy with 24 points in the third quarter.
Barber paced the hosts with 25 points while teammates Lusain and Young each contributed nine points. Lusain collected eight steals while Billie Driver hauled in seven rebounds.
Eight different Crusaders scored points in the game.
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