Saturday CIF Boys Finals

Chino Hills' LaMelo Bell looks to drive to the hoop with De La Salle's Colby Orr trying to defend during CIF Open Division final. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Chino Hills’ LaMelo Bell looks to drive to the hoop with De La Salle’s Colby Orr trying to defend during CIF Open Division final. Photo: Willie Eashman.

It’s a coronation for Chino Hills as the Lonzo Ball-led squad beats De La Salle to win the CIF Open Division state title and finish 35-0. The Huskies got pushed from the Spartans in the first half, but erase memories of last year’s D1 title game loss to San Ramon Valley. The other two winners on the final day of high school games ever to be played at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento are Serra of San Mateo (D2) and Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood (D4). Additional writeup (Open Div) by Cal-Hi Sports editor Mark Tennis.

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The CIF said goodbye to Sleep Train Arena on Saturday night and sent off the Chino Hills High boys basketball team into the record books.

The Huskies’ 70-50 triumph over De La Salle of Concord in the CIF Open Division state championship capped a season in which they finished 35-0 and will enable them to be a consensus No. 1 ranked team in the nation.

Their 35-0 record also ties the state record for best win-loss record of any unbeaten boys basketball team. That record was first achieved two years ago by a Mater Dei of Santa Ana squad that was led by current NBA rookie Stanley Johnson.
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This Chino Hills squad, of course, has a possible future NBA player that led it as well. That would be 6-foot-6 point guard Lonzo Ball and while Lonzo was surpassed in scoring by two teammates he had a vintage night rebounding and getting assists.

“I’m usually even keel, but this is really tops for me,” said Lonzo, who left immediately after the game to catch an overnight flight to Chicago for Wednesday’s McDonald’s All-American Game.

According to Cal-Hi Sports’ stats, Lonzo had 15 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and five steals. Li’Angelo Ball, his junior brother, had 18 points and seven rebounds while LaMelo Ball, his freshman brother, had 15 points and five assists. Junior Eli Scott also reached double-figures with 16 points and had eight rebounds.

“Me and Melo feel great for him, it’s a wonderful feeling and we’re proud he’s going to represent us and Chino Hills in Chicago,” said LiAngelo Ball. “I feel like it’s a great accomplishment for him to go out there, and I’m going to tell
him too.”

In the first half, however, De La Salle gave its rooting section – which included what looked like a few players from its CIF Open Division championship football team – some hope for a monumental upset.

De La Salle's Jordan Ratinho is challenged during CIF Open Division state final by Chino Hills freshman Onyeka Okongwu. Photo: Willie Eashman.

De La Salle’s Jordan Ratinho is challenged during state final by Chino Hills’ Onyeka Okongwu. Photo: Willie Eashman.

The Spartans (31-3) led by as much as 20-11 in the first quarter before a 3-pointer by Li’Angelo Ball cut the lead to 20-14 at the quarter horn. Then the Huskies scored nine points in a row to start the second quarter to take a 23-20 lead.

The teams battled back-and-forth for the rest of the second quarter, but De La Salle took a 30-28 lead at halftime after a 3-pointer from Nikhil Peters and a free throw by Jordan Ratinho.

It was a completely different third quarter. The Spartans stopped connecting on the open shots they were making in the first half and just a few minutes of doing that was all Chino Hills needed. With LiMelo Ball and Li’Angelo Ball both hitting 3-pointers, the Huskies bolded out to a 13-2 run and took control of the game.

“I liked our physicality and our toughness and the way we attacked the basket in the first half,” said De La Salle head coach A.J. Kuhle, whose team came into the game at No. 4 in the state but may drop to No. 7 in next week’s final rankings. “In the second half, we just were not able to execute the way we wanted to.”

The Chino Hills surge continued in the fourth quarter and after the score reached 53-35 it was time for press row to begin writing deadline-crazed stories.

“The biggest thing is the guys have been so hungry,” said Chino Hills head coach Steve Baik, who’s team beat 11 opponents this season who at one time were in the FAB 50 national rankings powered by “They kicked it up a notch after we beat Montverde Academy. As we won that tournament , it was like, ‘Whoa, we have something here.’ Credit to the guys, they kicked it up a notch defensively in the playoffs.”

Chino Hills, which won the school’s first CIF state title, also came out with thoughts of losing in last year’s Division I final in two overtimes to San Ramon Valley of Danville.

“The guys who played last year are not the team this year,” Scott said. “They didn’t talk about the past. Why reflect on the negative? De La Salle, they play hard and have nice fundamentals.”

Ratinho and Peters, the Spartans’ two three-year varsity standouts, completed their prep careers with 16 and 11 points, respectively. Junior power forward Emeka Udenyi also had 11 points and double-doubled with 11 rebounds.

Note: Attendance figures for the weekend, as provided by the CIF, were 3,735 for Thursday, 7,501 for Saturday and an event total of 11,236. With the Ball brothers there and a No. 1 team in the nation, those totals have to be regarded as disappointing.

Senior point guard Lee Jones of San Mateo Serra dribbles against Long Beach Poly's Brandon Henry. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Serra’s Lee Jones dribbles against Poly’s Brandon Henry. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Division II
Serra (San Mateo) 48,
Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 43

In a grind it out affair typical of a West Catholic Athletic League contest, not surprisingly it was the team actually from the WCAL that won this game, as Serra used good defense, and a monster double-double from Columbia-bound Jake Killingsworth to defeat the Jackrabbits for their first CIF state title.

For a program with a proud athletic tradition, it was actually the program’s first state title. The Padres’ baseball team has produced many stars and has been ranked No. 1 in the state at the end of the season by Cal-Hi Sports, but Saturday afternoon’s victory was the first CIF state crown earned on the court or field.

“This is huge; we had a chance to do something that has never been done before,” Serra coach Chuck Rapp said. “To hang that banner for the whole Padres’ Nation, it’s real special. The kids do all the hard work and heavy lifting. I’m proud of these guys and I’ll remember this game for the rest of my life.”

Chuck Rapp was our State Coach of the Year for last season and won a CIF state title this season. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Chuck Rapp was our State Coach of the Year for last season and won a CIF state title this season. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Rapp has a special life memory because Serra (25-7) held Poly (24-11) to 34 percent shooting (18-of-53) while fouling the Jackrabbits minimally in a physical game. Poly shot three free throws (making two), while Serra connected on 15-of-21 shots from the charity stripe.

“We wanted to get back and pack it in a bit, help on dribble penetration and on rebounds,” Rapp said. “That was the key stat; we thought if we could out-rebound them we could win this game.”

Serra, which came into the game No. 18 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Top 20 and lost twice in WCAL play to No. 16 St. Francis, held a 35-28 advantage on the boards.

Killingsworth, a combo forward who moved to Northern California from Arkansas two years ago, had 16 rebounds and scored a team-high 15 points. The Padres’ other double-digit scorer was 5-foot-10 guard Lee Jones, a baby-faced senior who seemed unfazed by Poly’s defensive pressure or the game’s physical nature. He had 13 points, including knocking down 9-of-11 free throws.

“Maybe we could have attacked the basket a bit more, but we just have to be better in a championship game,” said Poly coach Shelton Diggs. “Amazing, we shoot three free throws in a championship game. Killingsworth didn’t do anything special; Jones was more of a factor in this game with his ball-handling and ability to control the game. They were taking good shots.”

Poly led by as much as five points early in the game, but went into a long funk from the field in the second and third period with a bushel of missed runners and shots it normally makes in a high school gym, before making a last quarter run. The third quarter was particularly devastating for Poly, as it was outscored 13-7. Killingsworth had eight points in the pivotal quarter and Serra led 32-26 entering the final eight minutes of play.

“We’ve had some bad third quarters and today, some things that we haven’t been doing well early in the season, but cleaned up in the playoffs, came back to haunt us,” Diggs said. “Serra played the exact way we thought they would. Would have had to play perfect defensively to win the way we played offensively.”

Junior Zafir Williams led Poly with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Hawaii-bound guard Drew Buggs, who missed a portion of the season with a knee injury and admitted in a tweet after the game that he had been playing on a torn ACL and played well in the regional playoffs, finished with six points on 3-of-11 shooting. No other Poly player besides Williams hit double figures.

In recent seasons, Poly has had much better teams, but by not being selected for the 16-team CIFSS Open Division playoffs (we recommended it), the state’s strongest overall program in all sports with 4,500 students fell to the D2 state regionals. It was odd for some Poly fans, and many casual ones, to see the Jackrabbits in this division, but for Serra it was a milestone achievement for a program with a proud tradition of its own.

“It’s unreal to end my high school career with a win, it’s so special,” Killingsworth said. “Without a doubt, there was a comfort factor with us playing here last week. It felt it was like a home court for us, so it was good.”

The Wolfman of the Wolverines was senior guard Wolfgang Novogratz. Photo: Willie Eashman.

The Wolfman of the Wolverines was Wolfgang Novogratz. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Division IV
Harvard-Westlake (N. Hollywood) 66,
Palma (Salinas) 49

In a game that featured two solid teams, but not at the level we’ve seen in this division over the years, the different systems of placing teams in the regional playoffs in the North compared to the South reared its ugly head in a game that wasn’t very competitive.

Harvard-Westlake (27-8) jumped out to a 15-7 lead after one quarter behind the play of senior guard Wolfgang Novogratz, who scored 11 of his team’s first 13 points and finished with a game-high 28 points and a team-high eight rebounds.

In a game in which Palma (26-5) just couldn’t get off the schneid shooting, Novogratz made 11-of-14 field goal attempts and seemed to be everywhere, coming up with loose balls and being one step ahead of the opposition. Novogratz added two assists and four steals.

Harvard-Westlake head coach David Rebibo acknowledges some of his team's fans after CIF D4 state final. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Harvard-Westlake coach David Rebibo waves to his team’s fans after CIF D4 state final. Photo: Mark Tennis.

“As good as Cassius Stanley is, the first thing that caught my attention on film, was watching Novogratz play,” said Palma coach Kelley Lopez. “You don’t understand how good he is until you get out there and defend him. He got where he wanted on the floor; he makes them go.”

“Coach kept preaching, ‘heroes die, legends live forever,'” Novogratz said. “Hero ball is not how you win a championship. Doing the small things and playing the right way is.”

Palma, which went 0-2 in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs, missed some early chippies and could never get going offensively. The Chieftains made 17-of-51 shots from the field (33 percent) and had 19 turnovers. Harvard-Westlake, which came in third place in the Mission league behind D1 state champ Crespi and league champ Alemany, only had five turnovers and shot 42 percent (24-of-56) from the field.

“I thought our defense is what carried us through the state playoffs,” Harvard-Westlake coach Dave Rebibo said. “We wanted to take ball out of No. 4’s (Jamaree Bouyea) hands. He gets them going.”

Bouyea, a 6-foot-1 junior guard, had 11 points and seven rebounds, but also six of Palma’s 19 turnovers. Senior center Wyatt Maker had 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting, while the rest of the team combined for 20 points.

It was a fantastic close to the season for a Harvard-Westlake team that needed an at-large berth to make the CIF Southern Section playoffs and lost to Mission League foe Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, 56-54, in the Division 4AA semifinals. It also was more remarkable because the Wolverines have a first year head coach. Rebibo was an assistant coach at the University of San Francisco for two years and previously led El Camino Real of Woodland Hills to the 2013 major division L.A. City Section title.

“We lost on a Friday (to Notre Dame), and found out on a Monday afternoon before a team meeting we had another opportunity,” Rebibo said. “That weekend was rough; losing a semifinal game on your homecourt. It was a great character-building moment for out program.

“Winning state first year is great, unbelievable, and sets bar high for our program.”

Speaking of high, Stanley, a freshman wing and the top-ranked prospect in Cal-Hi Sports’ 2019 Top 25, threw down a vicious alley-oop dunk on a feed from Novogratz to give Harvard-Westlake a 41-21 lead. He finished with 16 points and six rebounds, with the third Wolverines’ player to hit double-digits being junior guard Carter Begel.

Because of the CIF Southern Section’s competitive equity system (one that CIF commissioner Roger Blake hopes is eventually employed throughout the rest of the state), league member Crespi of Encino won a state title on Friday night while league champ Alemany has been done with its season since March 12. It’s a bit odd and confusing for casual fans, especially since Harvard-Westlake is not ranked as of the top 20 teams in SoCal, let alone the state.

However, with Stanley back, expectations will be high going forward competing in a league that has recently produced multiple state champs. Head coach Tray Meeks led Alemany to a D3 state title in 2012, while Todd Wolfson (now at St. Francis of La Canada) led Chaminade of West Hills to the same title in 2014. Crespi’s Russell White won his second straight CIF state title this weekend after winning in D4 in 2015.

The Wolverines had not been to a CIF state final since they lost in an upset in D3 in 2003 by Foothill of Sacramento. They won back-to-back D3 state titles in 1996-97 when they were led by twins Jason and Jarron Collins.

Ronnie Flores is the managing editor of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores

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One Comment

  1. phil60
    Posted March 28, 2016 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    L.B. Poly truly underachieved.

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