“Bigs” come through for Mater Dei, Rancho Christian

SANTA ANA, Ca. – Two teams that are locks to be in the CIF Southern Section’s Open Division playoff bracket when it is announced on Feb. 10 pretty much looked the part Friday during the 23rd Nike Extravaganza in Mater Dei High’s Meruelo Athletic Center.

The host Monarchs, in the last of five games Friday (including the Monarchs’ girls’ victory against Esperanza), improved to 17-6 with their 67-55 decision over Heritage Christian from Northridge.

And, in the second game played Friday, Rancho Christian ran its record to 24-2 with a 64-39 victory against JSerra.

Play in the event continues Saturday morning, with Los Alamitos taking on St. John Bosco at 8:30 in the first of nine games to be played.

Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight used Friday’s game to give some extended playing time to a big portion of what is normally his bench, holding senior starters Michael Wang, Harrison Butler and Reagan Lundeen out entirely against the Warriors (who fell to 12-14).

With three of its usual starters (seniors Austin Lee and Eric Yenney and sophomore Dillon Depina) sidelined with injuries, Heritage Christian was still able to stay reasonably within striking distance of the hosts.

And that was because junior Noah Fernando turned in a day-high 31 points for the Warriors, who started three freshmen and a sophomore with him.

Senior Harvard University-bound point guard Spencer Freedman (eight points, three rebounds and three assists) was the only usual Monarchs’ starter on the floor for the opening tip Friday night.

But, although he was on the bench for the opening tip and the start of the third quarter, the fifth usual starter for Mater Dei –  freshman center Wilhelm Breidenbach (PICTURED) – turned in what was likely the best performance of his oh-so-young prep career.

The 6-foot-8 and begoggled Breidenbach showed off his remarkable hand and foot dexterity while – in just 14 and a half minutes of on-court time – scoring a team-high 14 points (hitting five of six shots from the field and all four of his free throws) to go with four rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and a charge taken.

The competition – for both Breidenbach and his teammates – figures to be much more pronounced Saturday night at 8:45 when the Monarchs take on Chino Hills and its standout 6-9 junior Onyeka Okongwu in the final game of the event.

Rancho Christian – like Mater Dei, not just in “contention” for a spot in the Southern Section Open Division’s eight-team field but also capable of a top four seeding – got its usual stout performance from the Brothers Mobley against JSerra.

Evan Mobley (a 6-10 sophomore) went for 22 points, 15 rebounds, two assists and four blocked shots while his “little” (or more accurately, “shorter”, at 6-9) brother, junior Isaiah Mobley, chipped in with 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

The Lions (18-6), members of the Trinity League with Mater Dei, got a team-high 20 points (although he missed 18 of 27 shots from the floor while challenged by 13 feet and seven inches of the Mobley Family) from San Diego State-bound Joel Mensah.

In the other two boys’ games played Friday:

Rolling Hills Prep 70, Corona del Mar 54: The Huskies smashed up a tight affair in the fourth quarter, as sophomore guard Vaughn Flowers scored a career-best 24 points with six assists as Coach Harvey Kitani’s crew improved its record to 15-6.

Another member of the Class of 2020 for the Huskies, center J.T. Tan, added 16 points to go with six rebounds and two assists while senior guard Alex Garcia also chipped in with 16 points for Rolling Hills Prep.

Senior forward Kevin Kobrine led the Sea Kings (15-9) with 19 points, 11rebounds, three assists and two steals while sophomore John Humphreys added 15 points and five assists.

  Saddleback Valley Christian 62, Servite 55:  Frontcourt players Jordan Taylor (16) and Tim Adetukasi (15) combined for 31 points as the Warriors improved to 20-4 in a matchup of Orange County programs.

The Warriors pulled away in the final minute as the Friars (11-15) got strong efforts from freshman Shawn Woodson (23 points including six 3s) and junior Christian Martinez (13 points and nine rebounds).

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