California boys finals: Nationally Ranked Mater Dei Tries To Win One Of Five Titles On The Line

Mater Dei, California's highest-ranked boys high school basketball team, beat nationally ranked Poly of Long Beach and Centennial of Corona to reach Saturday's Division I championship game in Sacramento.

Now, the former ''underdogs'' from Santa Ana, Calif., are heavily favored to defeated De La Salle - yeah, that De La Salle, the football school - and claim the title in California's highest class, Division I.

California is staging five championship games Friday and Saturday at the Power Balance Pavilion (formerly the Arco Arena) in Sacramento.

Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight, in his 29th season, is 891-81 all-time. His latest team wasn't supposed to be one of his best, as it lost five starters from last year, but he did have junior Katin Reinhart, a Southern Cal commit. It didn't hurt that Xavier Johnson, another Pac 10 recruit, transferred in.

A victory Saturday would secure some Top 10 national rankings. Mater Dei is ranked No. 7 by PrepNation, No. 11 by USA Today, No. 10 by ESPN Rise and No. 13 by MaxPreps.

De La Salle, meanwhile, is the football power that has been  USA Today's national football champion five times. But the school from Concord in Northern California can play a little basketball, too. It upset Castro Valley (which entered with a 30-1 record) 49-43 after an 18-0 run in the second half.

In other finals, perennial power Archbishop Mitty of San Jose plays Summit of Fontana in Division II. Summit is the only public school alive in California's five finals. Summit has beaten Southern California's No. 2 seed, Ventura, and defending champion Lincoln of San Diego.

Mitty lost in the 2007 and 2008 finals to Mater Dei. The school was rated the No. 3 athletic program in the nation in 2008-09 by Sports Illustrated.

In Division III, Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland is a seven-time Northern California champion, but Lutheran of La Verne has the marquee player in Grant Jerrett, a 6-9 junior who is committed to Arizona. The Los Angeles Times featured Jerrett in a story on Jerrett this week.

In Division IV, Windward of Los Angeles is led by Wesley Saunders, who will be heading to Harvard, and Nicholas Stover, brother of UCLA center Anthony Stover. Salesian (25-11) has been surprising in the playoffs.

In Division V, the best worst-to-first story in the nation could be St. Bernard's turnaround from 4-23 last season under first-year coach Reggie Morris Jr.  St. Bernard is from Playa del Rey. Its opponent, St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda, is led by 6-10 center Brendan Keane, a Northern Colorado signee.

"If somebody told me back in September we’d be playing in the state championship game, I’d have said they were crazy," Morris told the Los Angeles Wave.

California finals at a glance - All Games PT

Friday @ Power Balance Pavilion, Sacramento

Division V

1:30 p.m. - St. Bernard  vs. St. Joseph Notre Dame

Division II

8 p.m. - Summit vs. Archbishop Mitty

Saturday @ Power Balance Pavilion, Sacramento

Division IV

11:15 a.m. - Windward vs. Salesian

Division III

2:45 p.m. - Lutheran vs. Bishop O'Dowd

Division I

8 p.m. - Mater Dei vs. De La Salle

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