Posted On: 03/3/18 7:40 PM
LONG BEACH — Five observations from the down-to-the-wire CIF Southern Section Open Division championship game Friday night at Long Beach State, won by Mater Dei over Sierra Canyon, 55-53:
*Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight won its 23rd sectional championship Friday night – and it was probably as tough to secure as any of the first 22 for the Monarchs.
Sierra Canyon – which knocked in a whole lot of frantic shots in its two-overtime semifinal victory over then-unbeaten and top-ranked Bishop Montgomery on Feb. 24 – had three point-blank shot attempts in the closing second that would have sent the game into overtime by Duane Washington Jr., Kenyon Martin Jr. and Terren Frank.
And the Monarchs could have given themselves a decent cushion – they were up by eight points with four minutes to go – but missed five consecutive free throws.
*His stats may have been well short of spectacular but, as has been the case for his three seasons as a Monarch, senior point Spencer Freedman was the most significant player for the new Southern Section champion.
The left-handed Freedman scored only 13 points (on five of 13 shots from the floor, including two 3s, and just one of four free throws) and was credited with four rebounds, two assists and four turnovers.
But his ability to run the team’s half-court offense to near-perfection – usually taking it deep into the 35-second shot clock – and do an admirable job against the variety of defenders, and defenses, the Trailblazers threw at him stood out all night.
He certainly has to be considered the frontrunner for Open Division Player of the Year honors.
*Before he fouled out (with 5:42 to go and the Monarchs up, 46-41) 6-foot-9 Michael Wang had once again put on display all of the tools that make him one of the most skilled players in his size range anywhere.
Wang was Mater Dei’s top scorer (14 points), stretching the Trailblazers’ defense with three 3s and also grabbed five rebounds with a couple of steals.
The University of Pennsylvania got a steal in Wang – he and Freedman (who is Harvard-bound) could be all-Ivy League selections before their college careers are over.
The Monarchs got quality efforts out of their other two senior starters as Harrison Butler (12 points, five rebounds and two assists) turned in his usual strong defensive effort (limiting Washington to six points) while Reagan Lundeen went for eight points and eight rebounds.
*The Trailblazers can, no doubt, get a return match in the regional final (also at LBSU) on March 17.
But they’re going to need to be more effective than they were from the perimeter Friday night when they missed all eight shots from behind the arc.
One guy who never bothered with 3s – in fact, he rarely strayed from the lane – was Martin and he was beastly all night with 18 points (eight of 11 from the field), 11 rebounds and three blocked shots.