STATE TEAM OF THE YEAR: MATER DEI

We can't overthrow the Monarchs from the top of the final state boys basketball rankings, although you could make the argument that it should be Westchester in the No. 1 position for the second straight year. (Photo at left by Kirby Lee/The Sporting Image.)

When you have state playoffs, choosing the State Team of the Year theoretically should be a piece of cake. But California is no typical state and the California Interscholastic Federation's enrollment-based state playoff system often creates as many questions at the end of the season as it does answers.

Simply put, the state's two top teams sometimes don't play each other, even with state playoffs, and that was the case for the 2002-03 season involving Div. I state champion Westchester of Los Angeles and Div. II state champion Mater Dei of Santa Ana. Instead, you're left with comparing scores, strengths of schedules and other factors.

The Monarchs were in the No. 1 position in the preseason, stayed there into January and didn't do anything in the postseason to deserve being dropped. Therefore, Mater Dei has been named the 2003 State Team of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports. It's the second No. 1 finish for head coach Gary McKnight's program in the last three years and the fifth overall.

The key for Mater Dei was being able to remain in the No. 1 position in mid-January. This was after a 64-58 loss to national No. 1 St. Vincent-St. Mary of Akron, Ohio (LeBron James' team). The Monarchs did not fall behind Westchester at the time because the Comets lost 57-55 to Fairfax around the same time. Westchester later played that same Ohio team at the Prime Time Shootout in New Jersey and lost by 78-52.

Mater Dei's key victories during the season, in addition to winning the Div. II state title over Woodcreek of Roseville, were over DeSoto, Texas (that state's Class 5A state champ) plus nationally-ranked St. Raymond's (N.Y.) and Ouchita Parish (La.). Many of the 2003 Monarchs also were good enough knock off Oak Hill Academy of Virginia in 2002, which at the time was No. 1 in the nation.

"This is one of our better teams," McKnight said last Friday in Sacramento. "We had seven or eight guys who were pretty equal and somebody different could step up every night. When you've got guys like that, coaching is a lot easier."

The Monarchs could have given Westchester more of a chance to move up by playing a sub-par game in the playoffs. They had a sub-par half in the SoCal Div. II semifinals vs. Mayfair and another one in the state final vs. Woodcreek, but there was definitely not enough for a switch at the top, a drastic move that to be fair probably would have meant Mater Dei winning a very close game and Westchester blowing out all of its playoff foes.

The way the Comets blew past Oakland Tech with a 20-2 run in the second and third quarters of the Div. I state final was impressive enough. But they did have to scratch for a two-point win the week before over Fairfax. So in a sense, it was Fairfax that cost Westchester the state's No. 1 ranking.

Still, to say Mater Dei would beat Westchester if the two played would be an insult to head coach Ed Azzam and his team. The Comets had more impressive victories than even Mater Dei. They did lose to Fairfax once, but they also beat the same team three other times. Westchester also was the only team to beat Horizon, beat Oakland Tech twice and beat Colorado state champ ThunderRidge. The other loss, besides to Fairfax and St. Vincent-St. Mary, was to Rice of New York. That one was by just 52-51. Rice also was a team that handed Mater Dei a defeat and it was by a bigger margin, 88-76, than against Westchester.

There's no word when Mater Dei and Westchester will hook up for a game. They didn't last year and they didn't this year. Hey, MD, forget about playing some national team in next year's Nike Extravaganza. We vote for a game against Westchester.

CAL-HI SPORTS

STATE TEAMS OF THE YEAR

(All-time list)

2003 -- Santa Ana Mater Dei (35-2)

2002 -- Los Angeles Westchester (32-2)

2001 -- Santa Ana Mater Dei (33-2)

2000 -- Compton Dominguez (35-2)

1999 -- Compton Dominguez (32-3)

1998 -- Los Angeles Westchester (29-3)

1997 -- North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (35-1)

1996 -- Compton Dominguez (34-2)

1995 -- Santa Ana Mater Dei (36-1)

1994 -- Los Angeles Crenshaw (29-2)

1993 -- Los Angeles Crenshaw (26-2)

1992 -- Alameda St. Joseph (32-3)

1991 -- Alameda St. Joseph (31-3)

1990 -- Santa Ana Mater Dei (34-1)

1989 -- Los Angeles Crenshaw (25-2)

1988 -- Los Angeles Manual Arts (27-3)

1987 -- Santa Ana Mater Dei (31-1)

1986 -- Los Angeles Crenshaw (25-2)

1985 -- Los Angeles Crenshaw (24-0)

1984 -- Long Beach Poly (31-2)

1983 -- Los Angeles Crenshaw (27-2)

1982 -- Carson (26-2)

1981 -- Long Beach Poly (26-2)

1980 -- Inglewood (29-0)

1979 -- Los Angeles Verbum Dei (28-1)

1978 -- Pasadena (26-2)

1977 -- Oakland Fremont (25-1)

1976 -- Long Beach Poly (30-1)

1975 -- Elk Grove (27-5)

1974 -- Los Angeles Verbum Dei (30-2)

1973 -- Los Angeles Verbum Dei (29-2)

1972 -- Los Angeles Verbum Dei (30-1)

1971 -- Los Angeles Verbum Dei (29-2)

1970 -- Berkeley (32-0)

1969 -- Compton (30-0)

1968 -- Compton (32-0)

1967 -- Los Angeles Fremont (16-2)

1966 -- Los Angeles Jordan (18-0)

1965 -- Long Beach Poly (29-3)

1964 -- Long Beach Poly (32-1)

1963 -- Oakland McClymonds (19-3)

1962 -- Oakland McClymonds (23-0)

1961 -- Compton (28-3)

1960 -- Oakland McClymonds (22-0)

1959 -- Oakland McClymonds (22-0)

1958 -- Oakland McClymonds (21-0)

1957 -- San Francisco Poly (28-1)

1956 -- El Cerrito (31-1)

1955 -- Alhambra (27-2)

1954 -- San Francisco St. Ignatius (26-2)

1953 -- Los Angeles Loyola (34-2)

1952 -- Compton (32-0)

1951 -- Los Angeles Jefferson (27-0)

1950 -- Chico (15-3)

Note: List extends back to 1903. Compiled by Nelson Tennis. Teams chosen retroactively based on research prior to 1975.


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