SANTA ANA – There have been many outstanding players in the Mater Dei boys basketball program over the past few decades.
Owen Verna on Friday did something only three other Monarchs had done before.
Verna made nine 3-pointers to tie a program record in Mater Dei’s 88-61 win over Crean Lutheran in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 second-round playoff game at Mater Dei High.
The other three with 9 3-pointers: Clay McKnight and Miles Simon in the 1993-94 season; Katin Reinhardt, 2011-12.
Verna, a 6-3 sophomore guard, is in fine company. McKnight, Simon and Reinhardt went on to play college basketball. Simon was an NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player at Arizona, played pro basketball in Europe and became a Lakers assistant coach. McKnight played at Pacific and UC Irvine; and Reinhardt played at USC and Marquette and played pro ball in Europe.
Mater Dei (24-6) will play at Heritage Christian (19-11) in Northridge in the quarterfinals Tuesday. Heritage Christian beat Roosevelt 55-39 on Friday.
Mater Dei defeated Heritage Christian 65-58 in a nonleague game at Mater Dei on Dec. 16.
Verna finished with 31 points. He went into the game averaging 10 points with a high game of 26 points.
Monarchs senior forward Zack Davidson scored 15 points with six rebounds. Freshman Brannon Martinsen scored 12 points with seven rebounds and junior guard Brady Karich had 14 assists.
Crean Lutheran (22-8), which went 10-0 in the Empire League, was led by senior guard Patrick Miranda’s 19 points. Senior guard Kenneth Bailey scored 18 points and freshman guard Kaiden Bailey scored 16 points.
Mater Dei is No. 2 in the Orange County Top 25 and Crean Lutheran is No. 10.
Verna made five 3s in the first quarter. His first one gave the Monarchs their first lead at 5-2. Verna made another one to make it 8-2. His third pushed the lead to 16-4, another to make it 19-9 and his fifth established a 22-4 lead and the rout was on.
Mater Dei sophomore Owen Verna tied a school record with 9 3-pointers in the Monarchs’ 88-61 win over Crean Lutheran in a @CIFSS D1 second round playoff game @ocvarsity @ocvarsityguy pic.twitter.com/B8A9JmaXtk
— Steve Fryer (@SteveFryer) February 11, 2023
Some of his 3s were from 20 feet and beyond.
“It was fun to get in the zone and feel like you can’t miss,” Verna said.
Verna was 11 for 15 on all shots and 9 for 11 on 3s.
Mater Dei had a 41-20 lead at halftime. The first shot taken in the second half was a successful 3 by Verna to keep the Monarchs momentum going. They led by 27 points at the end of the third quarter.
The Monarchs offense was in constant motion, with several passes on almost every possession. Their defense was equally active, with Scotty Belnap playing well covering Kaiden Bailey, who with Martinsen are two of the better freshmen in county basketball.
Mater Dei finished in second place in the Trinity League, the first time since 1988 the Monarchs did not win a league championship. They lost four league games, three of them consecutively.
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Friday’s game was Mater Dei’s sixth straight win. The average margin of victory over that streak is 24 points.
The Monarchs who get the most minutes, other than Davidson, are non-seniors. Martinsen and Luke Barnett, who scored 10 points Friday, are freshmen, Karich and Belnap are juniors, and Verna and Blake Davidson are sophomores.
McKnight said the improvement is simply the result of experience, but consistency is sometimes missing.
“It’s been a season where the young players are getting better as you go by,” McKnight said. “We’ve still got a long ways to go. Sometimes we fade back and forth, and sometimes I think that’s just youth.”
Mater Dei made 37 of its 62 shots for 60 percent. Crean Lutheran shot 25 percent in the first half and 38 percent for the game.