Mater Dei girls basketball races past Long Beach Poly to set up showdown with Sage Hill

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FULLERTON — Mater Dei girls basketball coach Kevin Kiernan has guided teams for almost four decades and notched more than 925 career victories but that doesn’t mean he is set in his ways.

The offense the Monarchs displayed at the Troy Classic on Wednesday night showed that Kiernan has plenty of flexibility left in his repertoire.

Mater Dei showcased its new, free-flowing motion offense against Long Beach Poly, and the results were encouraging as the Monarchs rolled to a 71-37 victory to set up an Orange County showdown against Sage Hill in the semifinals Friday.

Mater Dei (7-0), ranked No. 1 in Orange County, will face No. 2 Sage Hill (6-0) in the semifinals at Troy High at 6 p.m. The game is expected to stream on the NFHS Network. Upstart Moreno Valley and Santiago of Corona will clash in the other semifinal at 7:30 p.m.

“We have a ton of respect for Sage Hill and how good they are,” Kiernan said of the Lightning, who beat San Clemente 73-46 in another game Wednesday. “I think it’s going to be the first of a few (matchups with them).”

If the Monarchs keep to the script they showed against the Jackrabbits (1-1), look for their offense to send players cutting and driving to the basket while seeking opportunities in the post for Duke commit Jenessa Cotton. Watch for the 3-pointers from the corners and plays that start at the high post.

Mater Dei’s days of running numerous set plays appears to be over.

“Adapt or die, right?” Kiernan said with a laugh of the offense. “The first thing we try to do is make sure we space the floor because we have pretty good 3-pointer shooters, and then we don’t want to stand. We want cuts … (and) everybody moving. We want the ball to go side to side, and that should open some driving lanes. That should open some room for Jenessa.”

“(It’s) a lot of freedom (for the players),” Kiernan added. “As a coach, it’s worrisome because you’re giving them a lot of freedom. We’re not calling plays out. … We’re letting them go on the fly. We don’t want to slow them down. They have to read it.”

Mater Dei’s offense showed considerable progress in the first quarter against Long Beach Poly. The Monarchs scored 24 points, including 3-pointers from Addison Deal, Amaya Williams and Emily Shaw.

Mater Dei made 8 of 17 shots from the field in the period to take a 24-12 lead. The Monarchs led 41-19 at halftime and invoked a running clock in the fourth quarter.

Sophomore forward Kaeli Wynn scored 10 of her team-high 14 points in the second half to lead three Monarchs in double-figures. Cotton had 13 points while Williams added 13.

Kiernan believes the new offense fits his personnel. The Monarchs are strong a point guard with Deal, Williams and his daughter Devyn.

Mater Dei’s signature remains the press. The Monarchs ran their full-court press most of the night and forced 17 turnovers in the first half alone.

The press will again be the challenge for Sage Hill but so will Mater Dei’s revamped offense.

“This is what Stanford is doing, and UConn is doing. That’s the role models we have,” Kiernan said. “I think we’ll be really good at it at the end of the year. … We’re still growing into it.”

Brooklyn Taylor scored 13 points to lead Long Beach Poly.

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