It wasn’t easy at the end, but MaterrnDei High School held off Sierra Canyon, 55-53, to win the CIF-Southern SectionrnOpen Division championship March 2 at The Pyramid in Long Beach.

After playing tough defense throughout,rnthe Monarchs survived a last-second jump shot attempt and two tip-in tries, allrnof which fell away, to secure their 23rd CIF title under coach Gary McKnightrn(and their first since 2014.) Mater Dei held Sierra Canyon to 0-for-8 inrn3-point attempts, while converting 8-of-17 themselves.

But the Monarchs’ 33-23 halftime leadrndisappeared quickly when the Trailblazers rallied to tie the game at 36 in thernthird quarter. Yet Mater Dei never fell behind and, with Michael Wang scoringrn14 points and Spencer Freedman 13, led 51-44 with four minutes remaining untilrnSierra Canyon made a final push that fell short. 

One and one for DiMuro family

There was joy and disappointment forrnthe DiMuro family of Simi Valley March 3, as Coach Kelli DiMuro’s ChaminadernEagles were edged, 46-45, by West Torrance for the girls’ Division 1 title atrnAzusa Pacific University.

DiMuro was attempting to leadrntop-seeded Chaminade to its third CIF title in four years. The Eagles (22-7)rnbuilt a nine-point halftime lead but, despite Jasmine Moore’s 17 points (15 inrnthe second half) and Leslie Hunter’s 14, could not hold back West Torrance.

Earlier that day, however, DiMuro’srnhusband Rob coached Grace Brethren of Simi Valley —  featuring the DiMuros’ daughters, Aliya (sophomore)rnand Alexis (freshman) — to the Division 5AA championship by defeating St. PiusrnX-St. Matthias Academy of Downey, 59-33, at Godinez HS in Santa Ana.

For the Warriors (14-14), it was thernend of a magical run that saw them prevail against higher-seeded teams untilrnrunning into Grace Brethren (23-3).

Bishop Amat, St. Bonaventure fall short

In the boys’ 3A title game March 2 atrnAzusa Pacific University, No. 1-ranked Notre Dame of Riverside (27-3) outlastedrnBishop Amat of La Puente, 51-46. It was the first CIF basketball title for thernTitans, while the third-ranked Lancers (26-6) were in their first final in 15rnyears, and cut an 11-point third-quarter deficit to three early in the fourthrnbefore losing.

Hillcrest of Riverside (30-3) brokernaway in the second half to defeat St. Bonaventure (22-7) in the boys’ 4AA finalrnMarch 3 at Godinez HS. Hillcrest, ranked No. 1 in 4AA, led 23-16 at halftime,rn39-29 after three quarters, and held the Tri-Valley League champion Seraphs ofrnVentura to just 9 fourth quarter points.

Because the Open Division bracket hadrnonly eight teams, losing teams played consolation round games. BishoprnMontgomery, which lost to Sierra Canyon in the semifinals, won the third placerncontest over Etiwanda, 65-51, to run its record to 27-1. St. John Bosco (23-7)rnearned fifth place with a 72-60 win over Crespi (26-4).

State Playoffs

The CIF State Regional BasketballrnChampionships (boys’ and girls’) will be played March 7, 9, 10, 13 and 17,rn2018. The State Finals will be played March 23 and 24 at the Golden 1 Center,rnSacramento.

Championsrnand runners-up in most divisions are likely to be invited to the tournament byrnthe CIF-SS Coaches Advisory Committee. Among the at-large teams alreadyrnannounced is St. Monica Academy of Pasadena, in boys’ Division 5. Otherrnselections will be announced soon.