Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
After starting the season with 19 straight victories, St. Benedict’s of Newark is now riding a two-game losing streak.
Undefeated Mater Dei of Santa Ana, Calif., No. 1 in the ESPN Rise Fab 50, hammered No. 3 St. Benedict’s 73-61 late Saturday night in Santa Ana.
Mater Dei (24-0) built a 10-point late in the first quarter and was never threatened, stretching it to a 20-point lead early in the fourth.
North Carolina-bound senior forward David Wear had 18 points and seven rebounds and junior guard Tyler Lamb had 17 points for the Monarchs, who won without Stanford-bound forward Andy Brown (ACL injury) and with junior guard Gary Franklin Jr. playing only four first-half minutes because of foul trouble.
Texas-bound junior forward Tristan Thompson scored all 14 of his points in the second half for St. Benedict’s (19-2) after playing only four minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. Sophomore guard Tavon Sledge had 17 points for the Gray Bees, who were outrebounded, 34-17.
St. Ben’s was coming off an 88-62 loss to No. 5 St. Patrick of Elizabeth on Wednesday at the RAC in which North Carolina-bound guard Dexter Strickland and junior Kyrie Irving each tallied 21 points.
“Losing a game or getting your butt kicked the way we did [against St. Patrick], I think it helps me as a coach,” St. Ben’s coach Dan Hurley said. “When you’re 19-0 and you got this undefeated season and you got a No. 2 ranking and you’re playing two big games, you’re just trying to protect the season. You’re just trying to get them through it, kind of keep the magical thing going, rather than coaching the hell out of them the way you really need to.
“Do you want to get drilled the way we did? No. But maybe it’ll avoid a drilling on Saturday…Or maybe not.”
Apparently they did not.
St. Pat’s coach Kevin Boyle was hoping St. Ben’s would upset Mater Dei, thereby paving the way for the Celtics to ascend to No. 1.
Irving was sitting out the state-mandated 30 days when Mater Dei beat St. Patrick earlier this season in the final of the City of Palms Classic in Florida, but St. Pat’s is red-hot right now.
St. Pat’s has a big week ahead, with games against Lance Stephenson and Lincoln Friday in the Nike Super 6 at Fordham and Saturday against Oak Hill in the Primetime Shootout in Trenton.
The Lincoln-St. Pat’s game will be shown on ESPN2.
Mater Dei must navigate the California Interscholastic Federation playoffs in order to remain unbeaten.
“The playoffs are going to be very challenging with the Dominguezes, the Westchesters and the Riverside Kings,” Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight told the L.A. Times. “We’ve got a lot of challenges in front of us.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.