For the boys, new state No. 1 Sierra Canyon goes overtime for the second time in a little more than two weeks to beat No. 2 Bishop Montgomery. Etiwanda, Bishop O’Dowd and Sheldon also move on. For the girls, there won’t be a No. 1 vs. No 2 state matchup in the NorCal final as No. 2 St. Mary’s of Stockton is upset by Pinewood. No. 1 Archbishop Mitty, Windward and Clovis West move on as well.
(Writeups of SoCal boys by Ronnie Flores)
(Mitty-Salesian girls by Harold Abend)
(Pinewood-St. Mary’s girls by Mark Tennis)
Note: We hope you enjoy this free post on CalHiSports.com. We will update the State Top 20 and divisional rankings next week, then the week after the regional finals and then there will be final rankings. All of those rankings plus breakdowns of each team will be for Gold Club members only. To see them all, plus all four of our all-state basketball teams, join our Gold Club today. To sign up, CLICK HERE.
CIF OPEN DIVISION BOYS BASKETBALL
No. 1 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 72,
No. 2 Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 70 (OT)
Last year’s CIF Open Division state champs bowed out but gave it their best shot. Even after they blew a 17-point second half lead.
Sierra Canyon (25-4) trailed by four points with two minutes remaining, but tied the game at 65-65 on a 3-pointer by Duane Washington Jr., a Ohio St.-bound senior who has made clutch last-minute shots for the Trailblazers all season long. On the last possession for Bishop Montgomery (28-2), Josh Vasquez’s runner was off and the Knights were unable to get another clean look.
In overtime, Scottie Pippen Jr. made a difficult shot to give Sierra Canyon a 71-70 lead after Vasquez made three free throws. After an empty offensive possession, Bishop Montgomery was forced to foul and Washington made one of two free throws to account for the final point. With 11 seconds remaining, the Knights had a chance to tie or perhaps take the lead, but 3-pointers by David Singleton and Gianni Hunt were off and a held ball was called before a loose ball scramble situation occurred…and Sierra Canyon had the possession arrow in its favor.
With the win, Sierra Canyon advances to its first ever regional open final, after having teams the past two seasons that many experts and fans thought were the most talented in the state. In fact, some outlets pegged them as the preseason No. 1 team in the country both seasons. This Sierra Canyon team didn’t have those preseason accolades, but this group is proving to be as resilient and scrappy as it is talented.
Washington Jr. finished with 19 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Junior Cassius Stanley netted 20 points and the highly-regarded shooting guard has picked up his game in the postseason after becoming eligible following the 30-day sit out period. His improvement has made a big difference for the Trailblazers.
Vazquez scored a game-high 23 points for Bishop Montgomery.
No. 3 Etiwanda 62,
No. 7 Fairfax (Los Angeles) 34
Coming off a big road victory over Mater Dei of Santa Ana, the SoCal Open Division’s top seeded club, Fairfax had to go on the road to defeat a higher seeded and higher state ranked team for the second consecutive game to advance to its second open regional final in four years. That team was Etiwanda, which was coming off a tough road win over Fairfax’s rival, Westchester of Los Angeles.
After scoring the game’s first four points, it was all Etiwanda thereafter. With the win, the Eagles (30-3) advanced to their second SoCal Open Regional championship since the advent of the regional open division in 2012-13. That first season, Etiwanda was routed by Mater Dei after beating the Monarchs in the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA title game.
Tuesday night Fairfax (23-10) felt how Etiwanda looked on that night in 2013; it was apparent after a period and a half it wasn’t going to be the Lions’ night offensively. The L.A. City Section Open Division runner-up to Westchester scored two points over the final seven minutes of the first period and trailed 16-6 entering the second period.
The Lions trailed 37-15 at halftime and 50-22 after three periods of play. They scored some concession baskets late after the game was well out of reach. Besides Jamal Hartwell, a senior point guard who was being scouted out by George Mason and Hawaii at the contest, Fairfax simply didn’t have enough offensive firepower when the game was in the balance. Hartwell finished with 14 points and two steals.
The main difference in the game was Etiwanda’s major contributions from a deep, interchangeable bench. Head coach Dave Kleckner moved up two talented players from an unbeaten JV club and both are contributing to an already deep team. Eight different Etiwanda players scored and 12 appeared in the stat sheet.
“We were nine deep, then we brought up two two young players and they proved they can play,” Kleckner said. “All levels run the same system and they are talented. It wasn’t a matter of talent, just them getting used to the talent level in a varsity game.”
Four-year varsity lettermen Kessler Edwards and Krystian Wilson were the main offensive standouts in the regional semifinal win. Fairfax simply had no answer for the Pepperdine-bound Edwards, who finished with a game-high 21 points, six rebounds and two blocks. Wilson, an active point guard who makes plays on both ends of the floor, had nine points, six rebounds, and two steals. He also made some energy plays that didn’t show up in the sheet, but took the roar out of the Lions.
No. 5 Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 61,
No. 4 Modesto Christian 58
This game had the appearance of a heavyweight fight in which the combatants were throwing haymakers at each other all night long with an array of dunks and jaw-dropping plays at the rim.
In the end, O’Dowd’s guard duo of Elijah Hardy and Naseem Gaskin were too much for the Crusaders (29-4), who fell to the Dragons in a matchup played at Laney College. Hardy scored 21 points and Gaskin made plays on both ends of the floor. Modesto Christian got the score close but never built any leads or sustained momentum.
Head coach Lou Richie’s squad (27-5) is headed back to the NorCal Open Division final where it will meet Sheldon of Sacramento on Saturday at the University of Santa Clara’s Leavey Center. The Dragons are looking to win their second CIF Open Division state title in four years.
No. 11 Sheldon (Sacramento) 64,
No. 12 Folsom 56
A 20-1 run to end the third quarter put the Huskies ahead 49-47 and they never looked book. Head coach Joey Rollings’ squad (28-5) also earned its fourth trip to the NorCal finals since 2013 and on Saturday against O’Dowd will be trying to erase the stain of losing in the final seconds of last year’s NorCal Open final to Woodcreek of Roseville.
Kaito Williams, a junior guard, fired in 22 points for Sheldon and had a lot of help from supporting standouts. Senior guard Dale Currie had 16 points and the Sacramento Bee’s Joe Davidson raved about sophomore guard Xavion Brown.
The Bulldogs (26-6) proved to be similar to Fairfax in the south in that they couldn’t duplicate the same success two games in a row on the road after a No. 8 vs. No. 1 upset from last Friday. In their case, it was an upset of top seed and state No. 1 Salesian of Richmond. Isaiah Jones led all scorers with 24 points for Folsom. Six-foot-9 Mason Forbes had 11 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks.
CIF OPEN DIVISION GIRLS BASKETBALL
No. 1 Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 75,
No. 7 Salesian (Richmond) 50
Despite tweaking her ankle with 2:30 left in the first quarter and returning at 6:18 in the second after getting it taped up, junior sensation Haley Jones took charge from there to finish with a monster double-double 32 points and 12 rebounds for the top-seeded Monarchs over Salesian.
Even with Jones on the trainer’s table, the Monarchs (29-0) had an 18-8 lead after one quarter, but by the time she returned it had shrunk to 18-14, and before Mitty went into the locker room leading 33-27 at the half, Salesian took leads of 22-20 and 24-23 before Jones, Penn State-bound Karisma Ortiz and freshman Hunter Hernandez took over.
By the time halftime arrived, there was already one upset in the books when it was announced Pinewood had defeated St. Mary’s in the other NorCal Open semifinal, and Jones was determined not to let that happen in San Jose.
Hernandez, who finished with 14 points but did not score in the first half, had nine points in the third quarter when Mitty stretched the lead to 53-40 and pretty much sealed the deal. Ortiz added 10 points and 12 rebounds with six assists, two on lobs that Jones put down without touching the ground.
Angel Jackson, the 6-5 junior post, led Salesian (27-6) with 24 points and 11 rebounds but no other girl was in double-figure scoring.
No. 6 Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) 59,
No. 2 St. Mary’s (Stockton) 56
In a matchup with similar but not exact storylines as when Pinewood shocked the Rams two years in this same round and at the same venue (Delta College in Stockton), three-point shooting was again a major difference. The Panthers (26-2) connected on five in the first quarter in helping to build a big lead and finished with nine. St. Mary’s only made two.
St. Mary’s (27-3) had been hoping to get another crack at state No. 1 Archbishop Mitty in the NorCal final, but instead went out in the NorCal semis for the third straight year. The Rams lost to Pinewood two years ago when they were defending CIF Open Division state champions and were ranked No. 1 in the nation.
“We got off to a slow start, didn’t we?” quipped Pinewood head coach Doc Scheppler, whose team hadn’t played since a loss to Mitty on March 2 in the CIF Central Coast Section due to officials at Carondelet of Concord removing their team from the playoffs. “We had six to eight days of practice so it was okay. It was a classic case of us coming out with nothing to lose, playing loose and then we had to hold them off.”
The Rams were down by as much as 19 points in the first half and were still facing a 42-30 hole at the start of the fourth quarter. Sparked by Baylor-bound center Aquira DeCosta, St. Mary’s went on a 9-0 run. Two free throws by Acosta and then a put-back with less than two minutes left made it anyone’s game at 57-56.
With 53.6 seconds left, St. Mary’s had its first opportunity to take the lead but guard Ari Johnson missed a short jumper. With 29.2 left, No. 15 had a good look on a three-pointer and missed. Then with just 9.8 left, Johnson was at the line for two free throws but missed both shots. After those misses, Hannah Jump got the rebound and was fouled. She made two free throws with 6.8 seconds left and St. Mary’s could only get off a desperation three that missed at the horn.
Jump, a junior committed to Stanford, had 17 points for the Panthers. Freshman Courtney Thompson also shined with 11 points. DeCosta, in her final game at St. Mary’s, went out giving it extreme effort. She had a game-high 20 points.
No. 5 Clovis West (Fresno) 46,
No. 4 Harvard-Westlake (N. Hollywood) 45
It’s impossible not to feel bad for what happened to the girls from Harvard-Westlake while at the same time applaud Clovis West for getting back to the SoCal Open Division final.
The Wolverines felt slighted they had to travel to Fresno in the first place and have been battling through injuries, including a separated shoulder for senior Jayla Ruffus-Milner. Then in the second quarter of this game, Jayla’s twin sister, Jayda, who also is headed to Pepperdine, went down with what Fresno prep writer Andy Boogaard described on twitter as “a serious knee injury.”
Still, despite all that, Harvard-Westlake was leading by eight points in the third quarter, partly due to Jayla’s defense on standout Clovis West junior Madison Campbell. The Wolverines just couldn’t hold on.
Even though Campbell fouled out with 1:48 left, the Golden Eagles’ duo of Champney Pulliam and Nikki Tom made plays down the stretch. The ultimate heartbreak for Harvard-Westlake was Pulliam burying a three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left and a one-point lead. There was no miracle on the other end and Clovis West had won.
Head coach Craig Campbell’s team played Long Beach Poly last year in the CIF SoCal Open Division championship and will now play Windward in this year’s final. It’s safe to say the Wildcats are favored but with those Golden Eagle freshmen coming of age all bets are off.
No. 3 Windward (Los Angeles) 75,
No. 8 Etiwanda 49
Details were sketchy on how the Wildcats got going and how quickly they distanced themselves from the Eagles. The focus of the Inland Empire media was on the Etiwanda boys playing at home and we all know that Windward (25-3) doesn’t fall into the circulation area of a newspaper like the Daily Breeze or Daily News. More details will emerge on Wednesday.
The end result, though, is that head coach Vanessa Nygaard’s girls grabbed one of the two SoCal Open Division berths with an easy win over Etiwanda (28-6), which won its first Open Division contest last Friday over San Diego Section Open Division champion Mt. Miguel of Spring Valley. Windward won the CIF Division I state crown last year and is attempting to win it all at the more elite level of competition this season.