ESPN highlights California state championships

Lest there be no doubt about how much basketball talent lies in California, ESPN has two stories on the state championships. This one is ostensibly about Stockton St. Mary’s annihilation of Bishop Amat, but about half of it is about the Mater Dei-Carondelet game. This piece really is about Mater Dei, and has some choice bits:

“I’ve been coaching for 20 years and this is the toughest year I’ve ever had, and I think my assistants will back me up on that,” Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan said. “We’ve been through a lot of stuff this year — adversity, self-inflicted stuff, drama, you name it we had it.”

Despite the drama, injuries and subtractions the team still won. The team’s lone loss on the season came on January 18, to archrival Brea Olinda, a defeat the Monarchs avenged in the sectional championship game for the trip to state.

It likely was another huge hit of adversity that pulled the Monarchs together. On Feb. 25, Mater Dei senior Brianne Matthews committed suicide, shocking her family and the entire Mater Dei community. Matthews was a star softball player at Mater Dei who had a scholarship lined up to the University of Arizona.

“I think the passing of Brianne Matthews was a pivotal point because the girls kind of rallied around that and they came together in their grief. They needed each other,” Kiernan said. “It really had nothing to do with basketball, just as a Mater Dei student and a friend of Brianne Matthews they came together and I think they learned that there’s some things in life not worth worrying about. There’s a bigger picture out there and I think they enjoy each other much more now.

It says much that the players could come together over the death of an athlete from another sport.

More here from the LA Times, including a sad picture, on Long Beach Poly’s loss to Oak Ridge.