LONG BEACH, Calif. — They rallied back from being down double-digits but, in the end, it wasn’t enough. The Sierra Canyon Trailblazers (23-4) fell to the Mater Dei Monarchs (23-6), 55-53, in the CIF Open Division Finals at Cal State Long Beach.
The Trailblazers had several opportunities to take command of the game late in the fourth quarter, but they just couldn’t convert. They missed a few key free throws late in the game and senior guard Duane Washington Jr. misfired on a runner that would have sent the game to overtime.
“We fought and tried to get ourselves back in the game. The kids did a great job in the second half of executing the game plan, executing our plays out of timeouts,” Trailblazers head coach Andre Chevalier said after the game. “Tonight, the shots didn’t fall for us. They [Mater Dei] played well the entire game, my hat’s off to them.”
Mater Dei had a few late game miscues of their own. With the Monarchs ahead 54-53, senior point guard Spencer Freedman had the opportunity to give Mater Dei a little bit of a cushion at the free throw line. He ended up missing both giving the Trailblazers life.
On the ensuing possession, however, junior guard Scotty Pippen Jr. missed a layup that would’ve given the Trailblazers the lead, and then junior forward K.J. Martin couldn’t convert on a tip-in at the rim. Monarchs sophomore guard Aidan Prukop was then intentionally fouled. He would split a pair at the line, setting up Washington’s missed runner.
“Fighting back from being down was important. We had to exert a lot of energy to come back, and it kind of caught up with us in the end,” Washington said after the game. “They made some hell of a shots late in possessions, they just played a great game.”
Outside shooting was a major factor in the Trailblazers loss. They failed to hit a single three-point shot, misfiring on all eight of their attempts. The Monarchs, on the other hand, converted on eight of their 17 attempts from downtown.
“We were struggling to put the ball in the rim. But it happens, some games you have to figure out how to pull it out,” Washington said. “I feel like we played our butts off and luckily we have another chance in state.”
The Trailblazers could never seem to find their rhythm even as they stormed back from a 31-21 halftime deficit. Even as they outscored the Monarchs, 18-10 in the third quarter, they never were able to grab a lead.
With this game now behind them, Sierra Canyon will prepare for the state playoffs.
“We find out Sunday where we’re seeded and who we play. It’s not going to get any easier from here,” Chevalier said. “We have to take one game at a time and try to get to Sacramento. That’s our goal.”
(Highlights courtesy of Mars Reel)