Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth becomes officially named as the state’s best squad for the 2017-18 season, which has become a formality since the advent of the Open Division for 2012-13 season. The Trailblazers are the first team since 1997 to be No. 1 in the state from the San Fernando Valley. They’re more well-known for having the sons of former NBA players on the roster and for their transfers, but these type of teams don’t always come together. This one clearly did and will be a threat to repeat next season.
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Depending on one’s point of view, this year’s Sierra Canyon High boys basketball team of Chatsworth could be described using two different narratives:
A. Bunch of spoiled rich kids from a private school who all transferred in together and got all the breaks in another example of the rich getting richer.
B. A group of hard-working players who took advantage of some opportunities, gutted it out in winning some very close, competitive contests and came back from a tough loss to win California’s most coveted crown.
While there are some truths for A, the reality is much more closely aligned to B.
Sierra Canyon did have to come through in the clutch in many games and completed its 27-4 season with a 75-62 win last Saturday over Sheldon of Sacramento for the CIF Open Division state title at the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento. Despite the 13-point margin, it was a game Sheldon could have won as the Huskies were leading by six points late in the third quarter.
With the win, another bonus is getting written up as the Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year, a selection that dates back more than 100 years, and being added to the all-time state list. Before the CIF Open Division began in 2013, there were years when teams that were not Division I were No. 1 overall in the state. Since then, that’s now become impossible.
Sierra Canyon has been a budding prep sports powerhouse in lower CIF Southern Section divisions in many sports since coming onto the scene approximately eight or nine years ago. It was our Division IV State School of the Year for 2015-16. This year’s boys hoopers, however, are the first to be State Team of the Year from Sierra Canyon in any sport.
Looking at it geographically, the Trailblazers have become the first State Team of the Year in boys basketball from the San Fernando Valley since 1997 when twins Jason and Jarron Collins led Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood to a 35-1 record and a Division III state title. That squad was selected over D1 state champ Crenshaw of Los Angeles (27-3) and D2 state champ Dominguez of Compton (29-5). No other schools from the San Fernando Valley appear on the all-time state list. In 2005, Campbell Hall of North Hollywood went 32-0 and won the CIF Division IV state title, but that team didn’t play a strong enough schedule to be considered No. 1 overall in the state.
There’s also two ways to look at Sierra Canyon’s final win-loss record. With a couple of bounces here and there, the team’s four losses — 80-78 in overtime to Shadow Mountain of Phoenix, 65-62 to Bishop Montgomery of Torrance, 82-80 in overtime to Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas and 55-53 to Mater Dei of Santa Ana in the CIFSS Open Division final — all could have just as easily been wins and the final record could have been 31-0. On the other hand, the Trailblazers had some very close wins, none more improbable than when senior Duane Washington Jr. drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer to send a CIFSS Open Division semifinal against Bishop Montgomery to overtime that Sierra Canyon won 77-74 in three overtimes.
Washington Jr. was the senior leader of the squad. His father, Duane Washington Sr., played in the NBA, but his uncle, Derek Fisher, is more well-known as a former NBA all-star and head coach. Washington Jr. will play next at Ohio State. One of the reasons Washington Jr. is heading to the Midwest for college is because he’s from there. He played last season at Grand Rapids Christian in Michigan.
Sierra Canyon isn’t the only private school in Southern California trying to win on a big stage with a lot of transfers and it’s a process that can work both ways. The expected No. 1 player in the nation for this season after last season would have been the Trailblazers’ Marvin Bagley, but he reclassified and instead enrolled at Duke.
While Bagley’s departure was expected somewhat by the beginning of last summer, the cupboard was filled by new arrivals such as Scottie Pippen Jr. from Pine Crest of Florida, K.J. Martin from Chaminade of West Hills and Cassius Stanley from Harvard-Westlake. Scottie’s dad, the NBA Hall of Famer, and Martin’s dad, longtime NBA power forward Kenyon Martin, went to many games and were seen after the game Saturday night capturing the moment on their phones just like any other dads would be doing after their sons won a state championship. Promising sophomore Terren Frank, son of former NBA player Tellis Frank, also came to the school from Harvard-Westlake along with Stanley.
Still, even with all of those new players, it’s not always easy to put all of the pieces together for a championship team. The man put to the task to do that was first-year head coach Andre Chevalier. He’s a coach with plenty of experience, though, with stints at Cleveland of Reseda, Oaks Christian of Westlake Village and Valley Torah of Valley Village. Chevalier won a CIFSS divisional title at Oaks Christian in 2011 and even coached that school’s girls teams for 2009 and 2010.
Chevalier’s road to get to that moment at the Golden 1 Center last Saturday was mirrored by the road this year’s team at Sierra Canyon had to navigate. It all began with the CIFSS seedings for its Open Division when the team was mysteriously picked as a No. 5 seed and therefore had to travel three hours out to Temecula for a first-round game against Rancho Christian of Temecula, the No. 4 seed. It was a close, hard-fought contest that the visitors won 82-79. That win and then knowing they could bounce back from that loss to Mater Dei in the CIFSS title game seemed to toughen the resolve of the Trailblazers coming down the stretch in their wins over Etiwanda (which gave them the SoCal Open title) and then against Sheldon.
The good news for Sierra Canyon’s fans is that Pippen, Martin, Frank and Stanley will all be back next season. Who might be the fifth starter with that bunch has caused much speculation, but whoever it is will be injected into the lineup of a group that already has accomplished more than any other group that has been attracted to the Chatsworth campus.
Congratulations to the Trailblazers’ entire roster of players, coaches, parents and fans for having California’s State Team of the Year.
Cal-Hi Sports Boys Basketball
State Teams of the Year All-Time List
2018 – Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (27-4)
2017 – Torrance Bishop Montgomery (31-2)
2016 – Chino Hills (35-0)
2015 – Oakland Bishop O’Dowd (28-4)
2014 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (35-0)
2013 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (34-2)
2012 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (34-2)
2011 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (32-3)
2010 – Los Angeles Westchester (32-3)
2009 – Los Angeles Westchester (35-2)
2008 – Oakland McClymonds (32-0)
2007 – Lakewood Artesia (33-2)
2006 – Lakewood Artesia (32-1)
2005 – Los Angeles Westchester (25-3)
2004 – Los Angeles Westchester (23-2)
2003 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (34-2)
2002 – Los Angeles Westchester (32-2)
2001 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (33-2)
2000 – Compton Dominguez (35-2)
1999 – Compton Dominguez (32-3)
1998 – Los Angeles Westchester (29-3)
1997 – North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (35-1)
1996 – Compton Dominguez (34-2)
1995 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (36-1)
1994 – Los Angeles Crenshaw (29-2)
1993 – Los Angeles Crenshaw (26-2)
1992 – Alameda St. Joseph (32-3)
1991 – Alameda St. Joseph (31-3)
1990 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (34-1)
1989 – Los Angeles Crenshaw (25-2)
1988 – Los Angeles Manual Arts (27-3)
1987 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (31-1)
1986 – Los Angeles Crenshaw (25-2)
1985 – Los Angeles Crenshaw (24-0)
1984 – Long Beach Poly (31-2)
1983 – Los Angeles Crenshaw (27-2)
1982 – Carson (26-2)
1981 – Long Beach Poly (26-2)
1980 – Inglewood (29-0)
1979 – Los Angeles Verbum Dei (28-1)
1978 – Pasadena (26-2)
1977 – Oakland Fremont (25-1)
1976 – Long Beach Poly (30-1)
1975 – Elk Grove (27-5)
1974 – Los Angeles Verbum Dei (30-2)
1973 – Los Angeles Verbum Dei (29-2)
1972 – Los Angeles Verbum Dei (30-1)
1971 – Los Angeles Verbum Dei (29-2)
1970 – Berkeley (32-0)
1969 – Compton (30-0)
1968 – Compton (32-0)
1967 – Los Angeles Fremont (16-2)
1966 – Los Angeles Jordan (18-0)
1965 – Long Beach Poly (29-3)
1964 – Long Beach Poly (32-1)
1963 – Oakland McClymonds (19-3)
1962 – Oakland McClymonds (23-0)
1961 – Compton (28-3)
1960 – Oakland McClymonds (22-0)
1959 – Oakland McClymonds (22-0)
1958 – Oakland McClymonds (21-0)
1957 – San Francisco Poly (28-1)
1956 – El Cerrito (31-1)
1955 – Alhambra (27-2)
1954 – San Francisco St. Ignatius (26-2)
1953 – Los Angeles Loyola (34-2)
1952 – Compton (32-0)
1951 – Los Angeles Jefferson (27-0)
1950 – Chico (15-3)
1949 – Los Angeles Washington (21-0)
1948 – San Francisco Lincoln (29-2)
1947 – Los Angeles Mt. Carmel (34-2)
1946 – Stockton (20-2)
1945 – San Diego Hoover (16-1)
1944 – Alameda (15-1)
1943 – San Francisco St. Ignatius (14-0)
1942 – Palo Alto (18-0)
1941 – Glendale Hoover (21-1)
1940 – Long Beach Poly (22-2)
1939 – San Francisco Lowell (17-3)
1938 – Whittier (24-3)
1937 – San Francisco Lowell (17-3)
1936 – San Diego (14-1)
1935 – Santa Barbara (14-1)
1934 – Santa Barbara (16-1)
1933 – Stockton (16-2)
1932 – San Francisco Lowell (18-3)
1931 – Whittier (25-1)
1930 – Palo Alto (13-0)
Note: List continues back to 1903 in Cal-Hi Sports Record Book & Almanac. All selections prior to 1975 made retroactively based on research by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: