SANTA ANA, Calif. — If there was any game in particular where Orange Lutheran had a chance to end Mater Dei's 41-game Trinity League winning streak it was on Friday night.
The Monarchs, who in most prep hoops circles are considered the best team in Orange County, were without two starters - highly-recruited junior big man M.J. Cage and sharpshooting senior La'Vette Parker.
And the Lancers, widely considered the second-best team in O.C., were at full strength, led by UC Davis commit Rogers Printup and Division I caliber point guard C.J. Hankins.
There was plenty of hype heading in to the 7 p.m. tipoff between the two talented squads at Mater Dei high school, but Rex Pflueger and K.J. Smith made sure the Monarchs extended their league winning streak to 42 games, shooting Mater Dei to a 70-51 win over Orange Lutheran.
Pflueger, a senior committed to Notre Dame, led all scorers with 25 points, while Smith, the son of longtime NBA player Kenny Smith, finished with 16 points and played one of the better all-around games I have seen out him all season long.
It was just another day at the office for Pflueger. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard has solidified himself as one of the most complete seniors in the state as both an offensive and defensive stalwart. Notre Dame has itself quite the player coming in.
Orange Lutheran kept things close in an ugly first quarter, trailing Mater Dei, 15-12, at the end of one.
The Monarchs began to turn it on in the second, taking a 28-21 lead on a tough 3-pointer from Pflueger with three minutes left in the period.
Mater Dei took a 35-24 lead into the break and never looked back.
Others that caught my eye:
Orange Lutheran's Keisean Lucier-South, a standout football player committed to UCLA, is also a pretty talented basketball player. He led the Lancers with 18 points and gobbled up a handful of beastly rebounds in the loss.
Mater Dei has a couple of talented freshmen in 6-foot-7 Michael Wang and 6-foot-4 Harrison Butler. Wang started in place of Cage and finished with 11 points - two of which came on a very nice right-handed hook shot in the lane. Butler had six points, but what's most impressive about the 2018 prospect is his ability to effectively defend on the varsity level - especially in the Trinity League. Butler is a solid on-ball defender and has great feel when providing help-side and recovering to shooters on a kick-out. Offensively, Butler has a knack for getting to the rim off the dribble and drawing contact to get to the free throw line.