Mater Dei girls basketball holds off Rosary to secure undefeated Trinity League title

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SANTA ANA — Undefeated league champion but not satisfied. Open Division-bound, on an 18-game winning streak, but seeking more seasoning before the playoffs.

Mater Dei’s girls basketball team strives for lofty goals so there was only so much fulfillment it could take after holding off visiting Rosary 62-57 on Wednesday night to claim another undefeated Trinity League title.

The Monarchs (26-2, 8-0) secured their 16th league championship in as many seasons under Coach Kevin Kiernan but left their home court wanting to play better.

“Even though we’re Trinity League champions, we’re not satisfied,” said sophomore guard Amaya Williams, who came off the bench to lead Mater Dei with 17 points, seven rebounds and three steals.

“What we did tonight wasn’t our best and we’re going to try working in practice to get it better for playoffs. … We trying to get more in a rhythm, trying to trust each other more.”

Mater Dei’s challenge Wednesday was landing the knockout blow against a savvy Rosary (20-6, 6-2) squad. The Monarchs, ranked No. 1 in Orange County and third in CIF-SS Division 1, never trailed and led by 14 points at the half but the Royals excelled with some key adjustments to keep it close.

Rosary, ranked third in the county and ninth in Division 1, missed a 3-pointer at the top of the arc with about 1:15 left in the fourth that could have trimmed Mater Dei’s lead to four points. But Williams was fouled grabbing the rebound and sank two foul shots with 1:03 left to extend the Monarchs’ lead to 59-50, essentially sealing the Royals’ fate.

“I just thought we were little sluggish tonight and I thought Rosary was just a little more amped for the game,” said Kiernan, who has guided the Monarchs to six section titles and three state crowns.

“Against good teams, we kind of get leads and kind of let go of the rope a little bit, and relax … and that’s a sign of young team.

“I know what’s coming (in the Open Division). We have to be a little more fierce, little more intense, and little more intentional,” the veteran coach added.

Sophomore Shaena Brew helped steady Mater Dei with 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Senior point guard Caia Elisaldez also reached double figures with 11 points.

Rosary certainly contributed to some of the Monarchs’ struggles. Yoon placed junior Allison Clarke on Addison Deal and the Royals were able to limit the sophomore guard to eight points.

Yoon also used forward Mya Barnes as a point guard in the middle of the court to push the fast-break against the Monarchs’ full-court press. The sophomore scored 14 of her game-high 23 points in the first half, mostly on drives to the basket.

The adjustments were big reasons why Mater Dei didn’t dominate like its 71-50 win at Rosary in the first round of the league.

Clarke’s scoring also was a factor. Mater Dei blanketed Clarke in the first half but she netted 15 of her 19 points in the second half.

Barnes and Clarke also combined to block five shots and grab 14 rebounds.

Rosary stuck close despite playing only reserve and being outscored 26-0 in bench points.

“I’m proud of them. They played hard,” Yoon said of his team. “We always think this is the big-time game for us. We know how the rivalry and competition is just so big between our two schools. We appreciate it. It gets us ready for playoffs.”

Yoon said the Royals are hoping to land the No. 1 seeded for the Division 1 playoffs.

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