WHEELING - The first upset of the power-packed 2012 Cancer Research Classic saw the nation's eighth-ranked high school basketball power Mater Dei toppled by Gill St. Bernard's, from Gladstone, N.J. on Saturday afternoon at Wheeling Jesuit University's Alma Grace McDonough Center.
Bucknell University recruit Dominic Hoffman, selected as the game Most Valuable Player after scoring 24 points and pulling down 13 rebounds, tallied on a stickback with just over 1 minute to play to give the Knights the lead for keeps in a 76-73 victory against the defending Division I California state champions. The loss was just the second in 15 games for the Monarchs, whose only previous setback came at the hands of Grace Prep (Texas) in the City of Palms Tournament.
Although Mater Dei came into the CRC regarded as the heavy favorite with a star-studded roster that included two Division I recruits and another player regarded as one of top sophomores in the entire country, St. Bernard Coach Mergin Sina believed his team was capable of springing the upset.
"Mater Dei is a great team but I knew we belonged on the same floor with them," Sina said. ''I thought if we could get the game into the fourth quarter we had a real shot to win."
After leading by 22-16 at the end of the opening quarter, the Knights fell behind 32-28 by halftime and still trailed by just four points, 48-44, entering the final quarter.
With Hoffman, Dartmouth University recruit Alex Mitola and Jaren Sina, leading the way, St. Bernard battled back and held a 61-54 advantage with just under 2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Mater Dei, however, had been through these kind of hoop wars before and rallied behind their sophomore stalwart Stanley Johnson,senior Xavier Johnson and Katin Reinhardt to send the game into overtime.
Stanley Johnson's two free throws and the University of Colorado-bound Xavier Johnson's triple eventually closed the gap to 62-61 with 41 seconds to play.
Jarin Sina, son of the Knights' head coach, tried to seal the game with his two free throws at the 36-second but UNLV recruit Katin Reinhardt bombed in a deep three from the right sideline to knot things up at 64-64.
The score was tied once and the lead exchanged hands five times in overtime before Hoffman's putback of his own missed shot gave the Knights a 74-73 lead. After an offensive foul returned possession to St. Bernard, Sina was fouled and knocked down both free throws at the 15-second mark to extend the lead to three points. Stanley Johnson's attempt for a game-tying free throw was off the mark and the long rebound was pulled down by Mitola and he dribbled to the other end of the floor as the remaining time expired on the clock.
Hoffman (24), Mitola (20) and Sina (19) combined for 63 of St. Bernard's points.
''Hoffman is so underrated at his position,'' Coach Sina said. ''I kept telling all the college coaches that he can play at any level. Bucknell is getting a great player, in my opinion."
Mater Dei also got most of its offensive production from three players. Combining for 65 of the Monarchs' 73 points were Xavier Johnson with 24, Reinhardt with 21 and Stanley Johnson with 19 points. Elijah Brown, son of Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown, had seven points