It will be a Chino Hills vs. Sierra Canyon matchup in the CIFSS Open Division finals next Saturday at the Honda Center after Sierra Canyon’s impressive 78-69 win over Bishop Montgomery of Torrance. Chino Hills, the state and nation’s No. 1 ranked team, throttles Mater Dei of Santa Ana, 102-54, to reach final for the second time in three years.
It was an up and down regular season of sorts for the talented team at Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, which opened ranked No. 2 in the state behind Chino Hills, which is now the nation’s No. 1 ranked team in the FAB 50 national rankings.
Sierra Canyon lost its first game right off the bat to Moreau Catholic of Hayward at the Prep2Prep Tip-Off Classic, but head coach Ty Nichols said that blown game (in which Sierra Canyon led by as much as 16 points) brought his team back down to earth. The Trailblazers lost to FAB 50 No. 3 Oak Hill Academy of Virginia at the final buzzer after holding the lead the entire game while the only team they didn’t have a chance to beat right at the end was national No. 2 Montverde Academy of Florida.
Sierra Canyon, currently ranked No. 3 in the state and No. 8 in the FAB 50, put forth its most complete game of the season in a 78-69 victory over state No. 2 Bishop Montgomery of Torrance in the CIFSS Open Division semifinals at Simi Valley High School to give itself an opportunity to play Chino Hills. The Huskies, the state’s preseason No. 1 ranked team, upped their season record to 30-0 with a 102-54 victory of state No. 4 Mater Dei of Santa Ana in a game that went to a running clock. It was the 16th time this season Chino Hills has scored 100 points in a game — two off the reported state record set in 1995-96 by San Francisco Balboa.
“This is the game we’ve been looking forward to all season (vs. Chino Hills),” said Sierra Canyon’s Remy Martin, the cat-quick junior guard who teamed with backcourt mate Devearl Ramsey to score 38 points in Friday’s victory. “Right away we knew they couldn’t guard us. I feel no guards in the country can guard us. Cody (Riley) attracts so much attention it opens up a lot of things.”
In the second quarter Sierra Canyon (26-3) went on a 7-0 run to take a 32-21 lead, then Bishop Montgomery (26-2) cut it to 33-26 before Ramsey (20 points, six rebounds) hit a 3-pointer to make it a ten-point game. Sierra Canyon kept up its double-digit lead for basically the rest of the game until the Knights hit some late 3-pointers after the outcome was well decided.
Riley, who had a big game in Sierra Canyon’s 74-70 quarterfinal victory over state No. 7 Redondo Union, gave smaller Bishop Montgomery (which came into the game No. 7 in the FAB 50) defenders fits, finishing with 14 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots, including one at the final buzzer that sent the Sierra Canyon faithful into a frenzy.
Junior Ethan Thompson led the Knights with 18 points, while freshman guard Gianni Hunt hit four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points and two steals.
Chino Hills was a prohibitive favorite against the state’s No. 4 ranked team, but what its 48-point victory over Mater Dei proved is what we’ve known by half way through the regular season — the state has three elite teams this season with Chino Hills, Sierra Canyon and Bishop Montgomery. It will be an upset of huge proportions if one of those three teams doesn’t make it out of the SoCal Open Division regional and win the CIF Open Division title.
Chino Hills led Mater Dei 10-0 and 46-9 before Mater Dei scored some late baskets in the second quarter to make the score 56-25 at halftime. Junior Li’Angelo Ball finished with 35 points for Chino Hills, while Mr. Basketball USA candidate Lonzo Ball finished with 25 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists, and seven steals.
Mater Dei had knocked Chino Hills out of the CIFSS Open Division playoffs the past two years. In 2014, the Monarchs defeated Chino Hills in the final and last year beat the Huskies in the quarterfinals in a game played at Colony High School. Chino Hills is seeking its first section and CIF state title in the Ball era.