St. John Bosco boys’ basketball stuns Mater Dei in historic Trinity League win

To say that the St. John Bosco basketball team made history on Friday night in Santa Ana would be an understatement.

Ever since Mater Dei opened its Meruelo Athletic Center in 2006-07, the Monarchs had never lost a Trinity League basketball game at home. When Luke Barnett’s three-point attempt caromed off the rim at the buzzer, St. John Bosco began to celebrate a 67-64 victory.

“It’s a great feeling,” said St. John Bosco guard Jack Turner, who made two free throws with 15.9 seconds left and finished with 15 points. “I’m glad I could be part of a team to make it happen.”

Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight, in his 41st season, is the winningest coach in California history with 1,227 victories and 130 losses. St. John Bosco coach Matt Dunn has beaten McKnight teams five times, more than any other opposing coach.

“Our players bailed us out,” Dunn said.

He’s right, because a technical foul called on a St. John Bosco assistant with 1:56 left almost turned the game around for the Monarchs (13-3, 1-1). Mater Dei made four consecutive free throws to close to 63-61.

St. John Bosco sophomores Elzie Harrington and Kade Bonam were outstanding, finishing with 21 and 17 points, respectively. The Braves improved to 16-3 overall and 2-0 in league.

“I thought we were in a fog in the first half,” Dunn said. “They run so much stuff and it confused us.”

Mater Dei’s group of freshmen players came through for much of the night. Freshman Luke Barnett scored 11 of his 17 points in the second quarter to help the Monarchs open a 37-30 halftime lead. Freshman Che Brogan added 11 points. Senior Zack Davidson scored 16 points.

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A big contributor for St. John Bosco was 6-foot-9 center Xinyi Li, who made key baskets and finished with 12 points. And then there was Turner, who calmly and confidently made his two free throws to give the Braves a little breathing room.

“I was in rhythm,” Turner said.

Asked what beating Mater Dei on its home court meant, Dunn said, “It means we’re in first place in the Trinity League. Winning on the road is so hard in this league. It’s a great win against a great program.”

This weekend could reveal plenty about possible teams for the Southern Section Open Division playoffs because of premier matchups.

At Redondo Union on Saturday, No.2 Torrance Bishop Montgomery (18-0) is playing No.1 Studio City Harvard-Westlake (17-1). At Cerritos College, No.3 Corona Centennial (13-3) is facing No.8 Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (11-6). At Galen Center, No.6 Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (14-3) is taking on Georgia Wheeler (8-4).

The Mission League began action on Friday night with Bronny James scoring 20 points in Sierra Canyon’s 80-47 win over West Hills Chaminade. Harvard-Westlake defeated Mission Hills Bishop Alemany 77-47 with Jacob Huggins scoring 18 points. Notre Dame defeated Loyola 66-44, led by Caleb Foster’s 21 points. La Cañada Flintridge St. Francis defeated Encino Crespi 48-42. Jackson Mosley scored 21 points.

In a big Crestview League game, Santa Ana Foothill (17-1) came away with a 56-53 win over Anaheim Canyon.

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