There are low scoring games, and then there's the California Division I boys basketball title game which unfolded on Saturday. In a battle of offensive attrition, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei High outlasted Concord (Calif.) De La Salle High, 43-36. Perhaps most instructively, neither team employed any kind of a stall in the game.
The point totals from the game made it the lowest-scoring state final in the modern history of California Division I boys basketball. The 79 combined points were a point fewer than the previous low-water mark of 80 from Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester High's 49-31 victory against Oakland (Calif.) McClymonds High in 2009. Perhaps more fascinating, both De La Salle and Mater Dei's team point totals were lower than all but five previous competitors in the CIF's 30-year modern history. Fittingly, one of those five other teams was a De La Salle squad.
Only one girls Division I title game had a lower combined score than Saturday's game, with the 1984 Ventura (Calif.) Buena High victory against Los Gatos (Calif.) High totaling just 67 points.
On Saturday, both team's defensive intensity created long scoring droughts pockmarked with brief runs made mostly at the free-throw line. The eventual state champion Monarchs made just three shots from the field in the entire first half, had a six-minute stretch where they didn't score a single point, yet still trailed just 18-12 at the break, thanks in large part to De La Salle's incredibly regimented offensive sets.
Despite the relatively small gap in scoring, Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight was reticent of the threat his team faced in the second half.
"Down six to these guys is like being down 20," McKnight told ESPNLA.com. "We had to pick up the intensity."
Mater Dei did just that, and it left De La Salle with few options, given the team's preferred snail-like offensive tempo. By game's end, De La Salle had just one player reach double figures in scoring and scored only eight points in the final period, despite needing a rapid rally to challenge for the state crown.
There was no major rally to come, though De La Salle coach Frank Allocco said that hardly put a damper on what his Spartan team accomplished in the course of a season in which it dominated Northern California.
"Kids played their hearts out," Allocco told ESPNLA. "They did a [great] job all year and represented the North well."