BBK: Chargers take their lumps against Mater Dei

Early season basketball games are about finding the right combination, seeing which players can handle tough situations, building confidence and gaining experience.

The Dos Pueblos boys basketball team was put in a very tough situation on Saturday as it took on perennial powerhouse Mater Dei at the freshly painted Sovine Gym. Mater Dei, as expected, dominated play with its plethora of elite high school players.

Notre Dame-bound Rex Pflueger led the talent-rich Monarchs to an 88-32 blowout in their season opener. The athletic 6-6 guard scored 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting (2-4 on 3-pointers) and had four assists. But the most impressive part of his game was his defense. His ability to steal the ball without fouling and then start fast breaks was remarkable. Pflueger finished with five steals and Mater Dei scored 41 points off of Dos Pueblos turnovers.

Pflueger started the game with a jumper and followed a M.J. Cage dunk with a 3-pointer and a steal and layup to get the Monarchs off to a 9-0 start in the first two minutes. He finished the first quarter with a steal and a dunk for a 26-5 lead.

“Pflueger, he’s the guy they go through,” DP coach Joe Zamora said. “Yah, they have the size inside but that kid is athletic, he can shoot, he’s a slasher, he’s a defender… I’m very impressed.”

Cage, the 6-10 son of former NBA player Michael Cage, led the Mater Dei onslaught in the second quarter. He had three dunks as the lead grew to 50-11. Cage, who had five inches on the tallest Charger, had 17 points (on 8 of 12 shooting), 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. Guard La’Vette Parker tallied 14 points, KJ Smith came off the bench for 12 and Matthew Weyand had 10.

DP (1-1)  had some moments in the game. Eli Wopat drew cheers from the Charger student section when he blocked shot and guard Anthony Trujillo drew oohs from the crowd when he got a Mater Dei defender to buckle and collapse on a cross-over dribble.

Sophomore Dylan Shugart showed moxie, battling for a team-high nine points on 4 of 6 shooting. Trujillo, also a sophomore, had eight points and senior varsity newcomer Nick Ditmeijer added six.

Shugart said it was fun playing against the four-time defending state champions and last year’s mythical national champion.

“It was a great time. I’ll remember it for a while,” he said.

“He’s going to be a good player for us,” Zamora said of Shugart. “His older brother (Zach) was a good player for us. Dylan has been in this environment before; he’s played against older, bigger kids his whole life, pretty much. I really like him and the things he brings to us.”

This was the sixth time DP has played Mater Dei.

Zamora said he schedules the Monarchs to challenge his team.

“What we want to know is what we need to do to play at that level, what we need to do to be successful in the playoffs and run into teams from L.A.,” he said. “And, we find out what we’re like as a young group – who’s ready to stand up, who’s ready to be a little bit more physical, who wants to put someone on their shoulders and carry them. Some guys showed me that tonight. Some guys didn’t; they’re a little above their league. But that’s all right, that’s why we do this and play teams like this. We’ll break you down a little bit, but the idea is if we can break down, we’ll build you back up and you’ll be better because of this experience.”