In a showcase of bona fide hoops prowess, the Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders made a profound statement by sweeping the Eastlake Titans Wednesday night to tip off Mesa League play.
Behind freshman Katie Doran’s season-high 19 points, the defending champion Crusaders girls team (8-5) overwhelmed the host Titans 92-24.
Meanwhile at nearby Mater Dei Catholic High School, the Crusaders boys squad rallied to record a thrilling 47-44 win over defending league champion Eastlake.
Junior Spencer Vering stamped his name on the MDC boys victory with a game-high 21 points. He used his six-foot-six, 210-pound frame to dominate the boards both offensively and defensively.
Iman Chatman-Dixon contributed 14 points as the Crusaders (13-4) broke a 39-39 standoff with a 8-5 run in the final 4:11.
The final seconds were frantic.
The Titans (11-7) had a chance to send the game into overtime but a three-point attempt by Aaron Baltazar (19 points) prior to the buzzer bounced off the rim.
Fans flooded the court as time expired in a surreal moment.
“It’s an important win — it sets the tone for the whole season,” said Vering, who made a key defensive steal under the EHS bucket with 21 seconds to play. “We want to win league and go to CIF, and if we go any further, we’d love to do that, too.”
MDC had not defeated Eastlake in a league boys contest since joining the Mesa League in 2008-09.
There’s a first time for everything, of course.
“We’re strong and fast and playing with a little more confidence but we’re still young,” Crusaders boys coach Kenny Caesar said. “We would like to be competitive. I’ve had these guys since they were freshmen and now they’re juniors. They’ve gotten bigger and faster. We don’t have any goals other than to get better each day.”
In the girls game, Mater Dei Catholic led 49-10 at one point and was up 60-13 at halftime. Junior Kandiss Barber and senior Alexandria Young each poured in 15 points while senior Brittani Lusain was the fourth Crusader to score in double digits with 10 points.
Doran, who sank five treys, posted a breakout performance while senior Billie Driver had 11 rebounds for the winners.
The EHS girls team, which was missing three starters, fell to 12-5.
MDC girls coach David Monroe feels his team should be ranked No. 2 in the San Diego Section, sitting behind longtime small schools power La Jolla Country Day.