By capturing the 2016 Tarkanian Classic, the Chino Hills boys basketball team upped its winning streak to 46 games, etching a place in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book as it pursues a second consecutive championship season. With the winning streak now at 49 games, we take a look at upcoming targets and break down the Huskies’ chances to set CIF Southern Section and state records for consecutive wins.
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Nothing surprises anymore when it comes to the exploits of the Chino Hills basketball program: scoring binges, highlight plays and half court shots with ample time on the shot clock. What gets a bit lost in all the hoopla is the essence of the game — winning.
Despite losing last season’s Mr. Basketball USA (National Player of the Year) and probable high 2017 NBA Draft Lonzo Ball (UCLA), the Huskies haven’t tasted defeat so far in 2016-17. After losing to San Ramon Valley of Danville in the 2014-15 D1 CIF state final, Chino Hills had a season for the ages in 2015-16, going wire-to-wire as the state’s No. 1 ranked team to win the CIF Open Division championship and earn the No. 1 ranking in the FAB 50 and other credible national ratings.
Coming into the current season, Chino Hills not only had to replace Ball, but it also had to replace head coach Steve Baik, who resigned before taking the job at L.A. Fairfax. With four returning starters, Chino Hills opened the season ranked No. 3 in the state and No. 14 in the FAB 50, with the conventional thinking being the team would suffer a bit of a drop-off without the state’s all-time assist leader and one of its most transcendent players over the past 30 years.
It remains to be seen if the Huskies are mythical national championship contenders once again, but the way they have been playing and the way their schedule breaks out they have a realistic shot to break the reported state record for most consecutive wins of 66 held by Compton High School set in the late 1960s.
Chino Hills went 35-0 in its magical 2015-16 season and are 14-0 so far this season after a 108-93 win against state No. 8 Woodcreek of Roseville on Wednesday night in the quarterfinals of the Rancho Mirage Holiday Invitational.
Coach Stephen Gilling’s team passed one of its major hurdles to keep the streak alive by winning the Tarkanian Classic championship over state preseason and current No. 4 Mater Dei of Santa Ana, 84-73. LMU-bound Eli Scott and UCLA-bound Li’Angelo Ball were named co-MVPs of the prestigious tournament after racking up 10 points and 14 rebounds and 25 points, respectively. That victory permanently placed Chino Hills in our exclusive state record book for consecutive wins at 46. Ironically, that win tied the Huskies with the Stanley Johnson-led Mater Dei teams that also won 46 consecutive games. The Monarchs also went 35-0, won the CIF Open Division title during Johnson’s senior year in 2013-14 and finished No. 2 in the FAB 50. Easton Washington Union, led by all-state forward Jervis Cole, also won 46 straight games in the 1980s, as did the Bakersfield East club in the late 1960s led by fabulous guard Freddie Boyd, who went on to become the No. 5 pick of the 1972 NBA Draft out of Oregon State.
Chino Hills surpassed those three clubs on the all-time state list with its 131-100 win over Foothill (Henderson, Nev.) in an out-of-bracket game at the Rancho Mirage Holiday Invitational on December 26. Li’Angelo Ball went for 65 points in the Huskies’ 47th straight win after a 72-point performance earlier this season. He’s also had a 56-point game and is the state’s scoring leader so far. La’Melo Ball, the youngest of the Ball clan, has also had some spectacular individual performances and together the remaining Ball brothers on the team account for plenty of the points and shot attempts. Chino Hills’ 48th consecutive win, a 92-57 opening round victory over Franklin (Portland, Ore.) that tied it with the Oxnard Santa Clara clubs led by former UCLA forward Shon Tarver, was a perfect example of the Huskies’ DNA this season without Lonzo Ball.
Melo Ball made 9-of-27 3-point attempts, but racked up 11 assists, many in spectacular fashion, against only two turnovers and is a bigger and more impactful player after starting off the ball as a freshman last season. Gelo Ball made 8-of-24 field goal attempts (17 points), while Eli Scott finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds, while “The Big O” Onyeka Okongwu made 10-of-11 field goal attempts, mostly on put backs and lobs from Melo Ball, to finish with 20 points, 13 rebounds and two blocked shots. Scott and Okongwu have picked up the slack so far on the glass and their selfless play has been the difference in key games so far. The style may be unorthodox, but the talent, experience and chemistry is just too much for teams to handle right now.
So how long will the streak last?
After taking in the first two days of the Rancho Mirage Holiday Invitational and the opening round of the Classic at Damien, there is a good chance the winning streak will get up to 52 consecutive games heading into the January 10, 2017 game with Damien of La Verne at home, especially after the Huskies got by state No. 8 Woodcreek (Roseville) in the tournament quarterfinals in what could be a preview of the 2017 CIF Open Division state championship game.
Woodcreek looks like the most balanced NorCal team we’ve evaluated so far and with junior center Jordan Brown, the previously unbeaten Timberwolves have the special player to neutralize Chino Hills on the boards. It still wasn’t enough and it would be a monumental upset for Pleasant Grove (Utah) in the semifinals or another team from the other side of the bracket to beat the Huskies in the December 30 title game.
Chino Hills has a potential roadblock at Etiwanda on January 13 and if it gets by that game, the winning streak is likely to be at 56 games when the Huskies travel to Damien on January 27. The team’s game the next day at the Rolling Hills Prep State Preview at Cerritos College was supposed to be a big-time matchup versus a Wasatch Academy (Mt. Pleasant, Utah) team that was nationally-ranked to begin the season, but that club has not played up to par and Chino Hills will be a big favorite. If the Huskies are still unbeaten at that point, the streak will be at 60 games heading into the Nike Extravaganza on February 4.
At that event, the Huskies face a team that can definitely beat them — national power of Oak Hill Academy of Mouth of Wilson, Va. In the preseason, it looked like the Huskies would be decided underdogs against the powerful program that opened No. 1 in the FAB 50 national rankings. Oak Hill, however, has already lost to state No. 1 Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth and to nationally-ranked Findlay Prep of Henderson, Nev. If Oak Hill drops another game, Chino Hills would be the favorite and that would put tremendous pressure on them because Oak Hill has more depth and the talent to play with Chino Hills despite losing two games already.
Should Chino Hills go through the regular season unbeaten, it could tie the reported state record of 66 in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs. At that point, the Huskies would be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the 16-team playoff bracket and there are not 16 teams in the Southern Section this season capable of winning an opening round open division game of that magnitude. Chino Hills would be prohibitive favorites in that game, but would have a tough foe in the CIFSS Open quarterfinals in an attempt to win its 65th consecutive game. As it stands right now, Chino Hills wouldn’t likely face Sierra Canyon (which remains unbeaten) until at least the semifinals of the state’s toughest section playoff bracket and likely in the final. As it works out, the CIFSS Open Division final would be the game in which Chino Hills could break the state record.
ALL-TIME STATE RECORD LIST
MOST CONSECUTIVE WINS
Source: Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book
66 — Compton, 1967-1969
65 — Oakland McClymonds, 1957-60*
59 — Santa Ana Mater Dei, 1984-86
57 — San Anselmo Drake, 1980-82
53 — Compton, 1951-53
53 — Stockton Stagg, 1971-73
49 — La Mesa Helix, 1968-70
49 — Cloverdale, 1982-84
49 — Chino Hills, 2015-2016 (CURRENT)
48 — Oxnard Santa Clara, 1988-90
46 — Bakersfield East, 1966-68
46 — Easton Washington Union, 1984-86
46 — Santa Ana Mater Dei, 2013-2015
Compton & Mack Dominant
Both the CIF Southern Section and state record is held by Compton High School, which won 66 consecutive games between 1967 and 1969. Similar to Chino Hills, the Tarbabes also won a mythical national championship. In fact, Bill Armstrong’s program won two consecutive for the 1967-68 and and 1968-69 seasons, according to the National Sports News Service, which is the precursor to the weekly FAB 50 National Team Rankings.
Compton’s 1967-68 team, featuring future UCLA small forward Larry Hollyfield, is considered one of the deepest and best teams in California history. The 32-0 club won four tournaments and beat the second best team in the CIFSS (North Torrance) twice, by 20 and 16 points. Hollyfield (17.8 ppg) was the only junior starter on a club that featured a fine backcourt, including Moore League MVP Larry Morris (16.2 ppg) and sharp-shooter Dwight Taylor (19.1 ppg). Armstrong had so much depth, three quality varsity players left before the start of the season and 1968 Olympic high jumper Reynaldo Brown came off the bench.
Lonzo Ball is going down as a great winner and hadn’t lost a game yet at UCLA until Wednesday at Oregon, but Hollyfield’s winning resume is unmatched. In six seasons between Compton High, one at Compton College and three at UCLA, Hollyfield went an incredible 184-1, only losing one game at UCLA to Notre Dame.
McClymonds High of Oakland holds the Northern California record at 65 games and when the late Art Johlfs of Minnesota compiled his end-of-season National Sports News Service rankings, he put Mack No. 1 for the 1957-58, 1958-1959 and 1959-1960 seasons. Not only was McClymonds mythical national champions those three seasons, the Warriors went 84-1 between 1958-61 and an incredible 107-1 between 1958-62.
Some count three wins that McClymonds had during those years at the postseason Acker tourney in Oroville as part of its streak. Cal-Hi Sports founder Nelson Tennis never did since those games were basically one-half in length. Hence, the total of 65 is what has always appeared in the seven previously published Cal-Hi Sports state record books.
Some of today’s high school basketball followers might feel what McClymonds accomplished pales in comparison because of the pressure, national competition and media demands a team like Chino Hills deals with in today’s game — and in some respects that’s true. To say, however, that McClymonds didn’t dominate some pretty good competition or is not worthy of its status as a three-peat mythical national champion still would be ignorant.
McClymonds was loaded with D1-level talent and two of its players from that era — Paul Silas (Creighton) and Joe Ellis (USF) — went on to long NBA careers while center Jim Hadnot (Providence), who starred on the 1958 team with Silas, played for a brief time in the ABA. Guard Aaron Pointer played basketball at USF, then went on to play MLB baseball, while reserve guard Wendell Hayes went on to play running back in the NFL.
The 1957-58 club which finished 21-0 is generally considered the best Mack club of that era, although the 1959-60 team in Silas’ senior season is not far behind. The starters on that 57-58 club were Silas, forward Ed Thomas, Hadnot, Pointer and backcourt mate Charles “Cha Cha” McKinney.