CHULA VISTA It took some time for Mater Dei Catholic to end it as pesky Eastlake lingered around through the final period.
The Crusaders’ nine-point cushion dwindled to a five-point advantage at the 1:48 mark. But the host Titans, battling the clock and gasping for every last breath, were forced to put Mater Dei in the bonus.
They fouled, and Mater Dei made free throws — eight in the final stretch — to seal a 57-45 Mesa League victory Friday over rival Eastlake.
Iman Chatman finished with 18 points for the Crusaders, who are 18-5 overall and 6-0 in league play.
“Mater Dei deserved it,” said Crusaders coach Kenny Caesar. “The guys played a bit timid in the first half, but we made some adjustments, got back to playing the type of basketball that got us here, in this position.”
Crashing the boards and stingy low-post defense. Robert Harris and Israel Seales clogged the paint and altered an abundance of shots, combining for 16 rebounds and nine blocks for the visitors in dark blue.
It forced Eastlake to take perimeter shots.
The Titans (14-9, 3-3) shook off a sluggish start thanks to Aaron Baltazar’s shooting touch. The senior guard, who finished with a team-high 11 points, hit three consecutive 3-pointers from atop the key for a lead.
That’s when Chatman took over.
He threw down two tomahawk dunks that fueled a 10-2 run in the third quarter.
“Luckily, my teammate faked the guy in and dished me the ball,” Chatman said. “I saw the opening and took advantage of it.”
So did Mater Dei.
“To keep their composure and battle back when you’re down in the basketball game shows maturity,” Caesar said. “Hats off to them for regaining the lead and keeping it.”