For the first time in the past five CIF Southern Section winter sports seasons, the section’s top division and the Trinity League were without Stanley Johnson, the future NBA player who led Mater Dei High’s boys’ basketball team to four consecutive state and CIF Division I championships.
After one year at Arizona, Johnson has declared for the 2015 NBA draft and is expected to be a top selection.
Johnson’s former team, Mater Dei, lost in this year’s CIF Southern Section Open Division semifinals to Etiwanda and, following a remarkable regional postseason climb with several road wins, reached the CIF State Open Division title game and the large-school division championship contest for the fifth straight year.
In an upset, however, Coach Gary McKnight’s Monarchs came up short in the state championship game as state No. 1 Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland defeated Mater Dei in overtime, 65-64, at UC Berkeley. Johnson was the national player of the year last year when Mater Dei won its fourth consecutive state and CIF Southern Section championships.
The Monarchs, whose 11 state championships are the most of any California school, finished 29-5 and 10-0 in the Trinity League, largely because of the play of 6-foot-6 senior guard and Notre Dame-bound Rex Pflueger.
The Trinity League co-Player of the Year with junior teammate M.J. Cage, Pflueger was Mater Dei’s leader in scoring (16.9 points per game), assists (3.4) and steals (3), and second in rebounds (6.2) behind the 6-10 Cage (11.7). Both Pflueger and Cage were first-team All-CIF Open Division choices. Cage also averaged 13.2 points per game and 3.8 blocks per contest as the highly sought-after Division I college prospect will return next season as perhaps the No. 1 high school recruit in the country.
In girls’ basketball, three-time Orange County Player of the Year Katie Lou Samuelson of Mater Dei averaged just under 30 points a game, breaking her own school record for scoring average, and also setting marks for most points in a game (42) and most 3-pointers in a season (117). The 6-3 Connecticut commit led the Monarchs to the Southern California Regional Open Division title this season. Mater Dei was also led by senior point guard Andee Velasco, a four-year letter winner who averaged 13 points a game and sparked the Monarchs to a record of 122-12 in her career.
In boys’ soccer, Servite captured the school’s first CIF Division I title after beating El Toro, 2-0, in the final as the Friars held 17 opponents scoreless. Senior midfielder J.T. Cook, a four-year starter for Servite, helped the Friars record a school record 18 shutouts last year and 62 in his career. The CIF Division I and Trinity League co-MVP, Cook was considered the top defender on an excellent defensive team. Cook also set a school record for appearances (116) in his Servite career.
The Friars outscored their opponents this season, 93-23, including 25-7 in the playoffs, while finishing with a 0.741 goals-against average.
Junior forward Garrett Amador (23 goals), senior midfielder Oscar Flores (10 goals and eight assists) and senior goalkeeper Keith Murphy, the co-MVP of the Trinity League, also led Servite.
In girls’ soccer, Mater Dei junior forward Olivia Ware scored 17 goals and contributed 15 assists, both top-five totals in Orange County, as the Monarchs won the CIF championship, finished 17-5-7 (5-1-2 in the Trinity League) and ranked No. 8 in the state and No. 18 in the nation, according to MaxPreps.com.
The CIF Player of the Year and Trinity League MVP, Ware scored five goals and dished out four assists in her final four matches – five Mater Dei CIF playoff contests and one regional game. Mater Dei won its first CIF championship since 2007. Ware missed the team’s final two contests because of a sprained ankle, as the Monarchs lost in the state semifinals to La Costa Canyon, 3-1.
Servite dominated the wrestling landscape, winning Trinity League and CIF Inland Division titles, while 13 wrestlers qualified for the CIF Masters Meet. Liam Cronin, a junior in the 106-pound weight class, finished close to the top in every tournament and was Servite’s first state finalist.
Other standout Servite wrestlers included Noah Blakley (126 pounds), J.J. Reed (145), Michael Vasquez (182) and V.J. Leuta (heavyweight).
In girls’ water polo, Orange Lutheran won the Trinity League title and advanced to the CIF Division I quarterfinals as junior attacker Emma Skelly scored a team-high 109 goals and fueled the offense with 23 assists. She also added 37 steals and was voted Trinity League MVP.