SACRAMENTO — Aaron Gordon is supposed to be the best high school basketball player from Northern California since Jason Kidd. Stanley Johnson could be the best player in Coach Gary McKnight's 31-year coaching career at Santa Ana Mater Dei.
They had the perfect setting Saturday night, the two squaring off in an NBA arena, each trying to win a third consecutive state championship.
The 6-foot-7 Johnson scored 26 points and had 12 rebounds. The 6-8 Gordon scored 22 points and had 20 rebounds. In the end, Mater Dei was able to win, beating San Jose Mitty, 50-45, in the CIF state championship Open Division final at Sleep Train Arena.
"Stanley got pretty tired toward the end, but he put on a show for three quarters," McKnight said. "It was two of the great players in high school basketball."
It was the 10th state championship for Mater Dei (34-2), making the program the winningest in state history, surpassing the Brea Olinda girls' program.
Mater Dei survived 25% shooting by taking care of the ball. Mitty (29-5) finished with 22 turnovers.
James McGee, a senior reserve guard, hit two three-point baskets in the fourth quarter to help Mater Dei build a 12-point lead.
The first half lived up to the hype in the individual duel matching the state's top two basketball players.
Johnson made three three-pointers while being guarded by Gordon and had 17 points and six rebounds to help Mater Dei lead at halftime, 24-22. Chris Nealey, a 6-3 guard, started out on Gordon, but then others took turns. He had 13 points and 11 rebounds in the first half.
It was victory No. 960 in his coaching career for McKnight, who's 60 and has no intention of retiring with players like Johnson, who will be trying to become the first Mater Dei player to win four state titles next season.