State and nation’s No. 1 team beats Bishop Montgomery for the second time in No. 1 vs. No. 2 state showdown for CIF Southern California Open Division title. The Huskies (34-0) will now play NorCal Open Division winner De La Salle next Saturday in attempt to finish off what would be one of greatest seasons in state history. Mark Tennis wrote recap for the NorCal contest.
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The Walter Pyramid in Long Beach was cleared Saturday night after Chaminade’s dramatic girls SoCal Open Division title game win. Indeed, the boys SoCal Open Division regional final game was a hot ticket by itself. In fact, fans were lined up long before the gym was cleared just to get a chance to watch the state’s — and the nation’s — top-ranked high school basketball team. More than a ranking, Chino Hills basketball has become a spectacle, a must-see attraction that has the nation buzzing.
Late-comers just want to say they were part of the action, but veterans to the high school basketball scene were curious if state No. 2 Bishop Montgomery could once again hang — or even upset — the Huskies. After all, the Knights had Chino Hills on the ropes before falling, 71-67, at the Fairfax State Preview Classic in late January.
A standing room only crowd — literally as patrons paid $10 just to get in the building — and 4,556 fans, plus a throng of media got their answer, as Chino Hills jumped out all over Bishop Montgomery and cruised to a 84-62 win in a game that in many respects wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
Just as a good team seeks to avenge an earlier loss, a great one seeks to avenge any doubt — and there was some doubt after Chino Hills’ four-point win over Bishop Montgomery and Lonzo Ball’s shaky shooting performance (2-of-21) in that game.
Ball, Chino Hill’s 6-foot-6 point guard deluxe who is already California’s all-time assist leader as reported by Cal-Hi Sports on Saturday night after calculations based on Chino Hills’ official books, once again didn’t shoot well against Bishop Montgomery. He made only 2-of-10 shots in the first half and some of the credit goes to the fine defensive job Montgomery’s Ethan Thompson did on the UCLA-bound senior. What this game showed, however, is how much Ball impacts the game in other areas, gives confidence to his teammates and how much the other starters have improved over the course of the season.
At 34-0, Chino Hills can tie the Cal-Hi Sports state record for most wins in an unbeaten season first set by Mater Dei of Santa Ana in 2014 with a victory next week over De La Salle of Concord in the CIF Open Division championship game.
Against the Knights on Saturday, the Huskies jumped out to a 13-2 lead and never looked back despite Ball¹s early struggles. The Huskies, which have been ranked No. 1 in the state all season long and ascended to No. 1 in the FAB 50 national rankings on New Year’s 2016, led 14-7 after one quarter and 28-17 at halftime. At that point, Ball had five points, nine rebounds, five assists, seven turnovers and five steals.
“I did think about my performance in the first game,” said Ball, who will finish his four-year high school career with well over 1,300 career assists to best the mark of 1,165 held by legendary point guard Jason Kidd (St. Joseph, Alameda) since 1992. “I felt I was bad again (in the first half), and letting my teammates down, but after halftime I let my God-given talent’s take over.”
Chino Hills scored 28 points in the third quarter alone and got its lead to as big as 32 points (69-37) over the No. 2 ranked team in the state. To put that into perspective, the Knights came into the week ranked No. 20 in the FAB 50 and would be favored in a game versus De La Salle. For three quarters, Chino Hills played suffocating defense, led by freshman big man Onyeka Okongwu, before easing up a bit and allowing 31 points in the final period.
Ball finished with another triple double — which is at least his 15th of the season and will be verified at season’s end for what will likely be a new state record book category for single-season triple-doubles. The leading Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year candidate had 13 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists (with eight turnovers) and five steals.
Okongwu had 15 points and six rebounds and made Bishop Montgomery (28-3)think twice about driving the lane early in the game. Li’Angelo Ball, Lonzo’s middle brother and a bruising presence, netted a team-high 27 points and three assists. LaMelo Ball, their 14-year freshman brother, nailed 4-of-5 on 3-pointers and finished with 17 points and five rebounds.
Sophomore David Singleton led the Knights with 33 points, including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers. As a team, Bishop Montgomery made 6-of-26 from beyond the line, and shot 28 percent (21-of-56) from the field. Thompson finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals. Chino Hills shot 50 percent (33-of-66) from the field and totally outclassed Bishop Montgomery on the boards, 46-23.
So what does this all mean? If Chino Hills is upset next week, not a whole lot. In fact, a Chino Hills loss against De La Salle would nearly equal the shock of the St. Mary’s (Stockton) girls losing to Pinewood in the NorCal open regional semifinals.
De La Salle is a proud program with two CIF state titles in the highest division, but it’s starting to look like this Chino Hills team is a special unit that can take it’s rightful place among the best we’ve ever seen in California with one more win. The Huskies convinced a lot of people on Saturday night, and next week will likely have the feel of a coronation, rather than curiosity, about a team that has made believers out of many and already surpassed sky high expectations.
NorCal Boys Open:
De La Salle Wins 6th Regional Title
There are two differences for this De La Salle of Concord team that has won a CIF Northern California regional title compared to the previous five.
After the Spartans outslugged Modesto Christian 41-40 on Saturday night at Sleep Train Arena, thanks to a lay-up and free throw with 4.9 seconds left by junior guard Colby Orr, they won their sixth NorCal crown and advanced to next Saturday’s CIF Open Division state final against national No. 1 Chino Hills.
The previous five De La Salle teams won in the previous CIF Division I format, but this one has taken the school’s first in the Open Division era (which began four years ago). It also marks another great accomplishment for first-year De La Salle head coach A.J. Kuhle. Previous head coach Frank Allocco won four titles while Louis Reynaud won one.
“It’s been a great transition and (Kuhle) has gotten us to work as hard as we can,” said senior guard Jordan Ratinho. “We love each other like brothers and our team plays with that in mind. That’s what’s gotten us so far.”
The Crusaders, who had a 32-game win streak ended and finished their season at 32-2, took their first lead in the game at 40-38 with 22 seconds left on a basket by Nico Rojas.
Orr said he saw an opening in the lane on the ensuing possession and didn’t hesitate in going to the basket. He was fouled but the ball rolled through with 4.9 seconds left. After a time out, Orr made the free throw for the one-point lead.
“He’s grown so much,” Kuhle said of Orr. “Our guys recognize what he’s done and they trust him. It’s a special memory for the guys and a special memory for him.”
Modesto Christian advanced the ball past the half-court line by using two timeouts, but after those timeouts only had 1.7 seconds left. On the play to try to win the game, however, the pass sailed high and out-of-bounds for a turnover. The Spartans then ran out the clock.
“We knew they were a very good defensive team and I felt it was going to be a low-scoring game,” Modesto Christian head coach Richard Midgley said. “We put ourselves in position to win, but it just didn’t happen.”
Junior post Emeka Udenyi, who looks like he could be a tight end on De La Salle’s legendary football team, wasn’t the leading scorer, but he did have nine points plus a game-high 13 rebounds. Udenyi also helped hold Modesto Christian’s 6-foot-10 Robinson Idehen to four points and helped get him into foul trouble. Idehen fouled out in the fourth quarter.
Nikhil Peters led De La Salle with 11 points while Connor O’Dea went 3-for-3 on 3-pointers and joined Udenyi with nine points.
For Modesto Christian, which lost in the NorCal Open Division last year to eventual CIF state champ Bishop O’Dowd, it was led by Jordan Hollins-Buckner with 13 points.
Since De La Salle (31-2) suffered one of its losses to a Corona Centennial team that didn’t get very far in the CIF Southern Section Open Division or in the CIF SoCal Division I bracket, the Spartans probably will only move up a spot in the next Cal-Hi Sports State Top 20.