The Monarchs (27-4), conquerors of Oak Hill Academy earlier in the year, didn't come out and blow the doors off the Bulldogs, which had upset Inglewood to reach the finals. Instead, it was a slow, inexorable creep like lava flowing to the sea.
It started with a Harrison Schaen jumper from 15 feet straight on. Then came a Mike Strawberry steal and drive for a spinning lay-up that became a three-point play A Trevonte Nelson rainbow three and Mater Dei's lead was 9-1. Duwan Rice countered with an acrobatic lay-in and Dino Wilburn knocked down a three and Pasadena clawed to within four.
And so it went throughout the game, with Mater Dei scoring three baskets for every two from Pasadena until, when the clock read triple zeroes, the final score had the Monarchs winning by a comfortable margin, 65-49.
Truth be told, Mater Dei did not execute well offensively, turning the ball over far too many times, missing a ton of free throws and generally playing like a team that knew it could just show up and win. The Bulldogs (26-5) didn't help much, shooting just 21 percent from the field in the first half and failing to generate any consistent scoring attack until Wilburn got hot late when the game was well out of reach. And their abysmal free throw shooting – 10 for 28 for the game – obviously hurt the cause.
"We didn't make the adjustment to a big game," said Pasadena coach Tim Tucker. "This is a big time arena and it's the first time we're here. I think we were kind of shell-shocked. They're used to playing in big arenas all year."
"I'm glad they didn't shoot well from the free throw line, because it would have been one heck of a game," said Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight, whose team won its 20th straight game after a 7-4 start.
Wesley Washington led Mater Dei with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Mike Strawberry, who has won four straight CIF titles, tossed in 18 points while Schaen was a force underneath, snaring 13 rebounds to go along with nine points.
Wilburn, with 22 points, was the only Bulldog with more than eight points.