It was an upset in the playoff seedings, but not in our FAB 50 National Team Rankings, as No. 7 Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.) downs No. 10 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 70-55 in the CIF Southern Section Open Division title game. Oregon State-bound Ethan Thompson leads the way as the Knights have a huge further quarter to pull out the come-from-behind win.
Mater Dei used a 14-2 run late in the second quarter and early third quarter to take control of the CIF Southern Section Open Division title game before over 7,000 fans at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Mater Dei (31-2) led 31-29 at halftime and 44-38 with eight minutes remaining.
That’s when Bishop Montgomery (27-2) took control, outscoring the Monarchs 32-11 in the final period to wing going away, 70-55. The game was closer than the final score indicated, but ultimately the difference was the play of senior guard Ethan Thompson. The son of Oregon St. assistant coach and former Syracuse and L.A. Crenshaw legend Stevie Thompson scored 12 points in the final period and finished with game-highs in points (23), rebounds (8) and assists (5) . Junior guard David Singleton added 21 points for the Knights and the duo scored a combined 23 points in the final period. Mater Dei outscored the Knights, 13-9, in the third period.
Thompson dominated down the stretch, tying the game at 51-51 on three free throws and ripping a nasty crossover to get by his man and dunk by 7-foot Bol Bol of Mater Dei.
“I saw the rim, I was just trying to get the ball in the basket,” said Thompson, whose big game came less than 12 hours after he earned some national player of the year recognition in the latest Mr. Basketball USA Tracker. “It was pretty loud and a great feeling.”
Bol, who became eligible in late January and was a big factor in Mater Dei’s overtime semifinals victory over FAB 50 No. 15 Chino Hills (Calif.), led the Monarchs with 15 points. Cal-bound Justice Sueing added 11 points, while junior guard Spencer Freedman added 10 points.
Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight, who was gunning for his 23rd overall CIF Southern Section crown, felt the outside shooting was a big factor in the outcome of the game. Mater Dei made 2-of-11 3-pointers, while Montgomery made 9-of-24.
Montgomery won its second CIFSS Open title in three years and proved its preseason FAB 50 No. 7 ranking as California’s top team was a good choice. It didn’t seem that way during the regular season, but the Knights are peaking late and starting to play like the team everyone expected them to be in the preseason.
Now the Knights will gun for the CIF Open Division state title and will likely have to defeat two FAB 50 ranked teams to advance to the site title game. The eight-team SoCal Open Division regional begins this Friday and the SoCal regional final will take place March 18 at Long Beach State. By winning California’s toughest section playoff bracket, the Knights earned the No. 1 seed in the regional playoffs. The Knights don’t want to give up that home court advantage by playing the final four like it did in the section semifinals at a big arena such as the Galen Center.
“We’d like to have home games or play somewhere close to home,” Mitchell said.
Last season, Bishop Montgomery lost to eventual FAB 50 national champ Chino Hills in the SoCal Regional final and would like to take it a step further and play for the CIF state title this time around. It took a major step towards that goal by defeating a Top 10 FAB 50 ranked team for the second consecutive game, as it knocked off FAB 50 12 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth Calif.) in the CIFSS open semifinals.