LONG BEACH — Mater Dei trailed Windward 36-33 at the half on Friday night. The Monarchs made two tweaks during the interval which propelled Kevin Kiernan’s team to a 77-65 Open Division championship win.
“The press and getting the ball out of Juju Watkins’ hands,” Kiernan responded when asked about what spurred the comeback win.
Watkins, Windward’s star freshman forward, had 22 points at halftime and was the catalyst for an 18-0 second quarter run for the Wildcats. She scored only six points in the second half.
At the start of the third quarter, Mater Dei junior Alyssa Frescas made two threes and a layup. That solo 8-0 run set the tone for the Monarchs in the second half. The other key play for Mater Dei came with 2:41 to go in the fourth quarter. The Monarchs were inbounding the ball underneath their own hoop with only three seconds left on the shot clock. Senior Brooke Demetre caught a pass at the right elbow and immediately hoisted a jumper that went down despite her being hit on the arm. Demetre made the free throw to put Mater Dei ahead 66-59.
“She’s been doing that all year for us,” Kiernan said.
Frescas finished with 16 points in the game for Mater Dei which was second only to Monarch sophomore Soleil Montrose who had 20.
This CIF title is Kiernan’s 11th championship in his 35 year tenure as a high school girls basketball coach at Troy and Mater Dei. It was his first with daughter Camryn on the team however. She played just under ten minutes in the win.
Both Mater Dei and Windward will now compete in the state Open Division tournament. The two teams are certainly battle tested.
“We could’ve lost any game in pool play [in the Southern Section Open Division playoffs],” Kiernan said. “This is unquestionably the hardest tournament in the country.”