Boys BB: CIFSS Open Championship

Players from Sierra Canyon show off their CIF Southern Section Open Division title patches and second straight section title plaque. Photo: Scott Kurtz / KurtzPhoto.


State No. 1 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) defeats No. 2 Mater Dei (Santa Ana) by outscoring the Monarchs in every quarter to clinch its second consecutive CIF Southern Section Open Division title o Friday night at the Pyramid in Long Beach. With the victory, the Trailblazers wrapped up the top seed in the SoCal Open regional playoffs. There is no question Sierra Canyon is the state’s top team and the only questions left to answer is how many teams from the CIFSS it can potentially face on its road to the CIF open state final?

RELATED: Mater Dei girls, Sheldon boys, Stockton St. Mary’s girls win section titles

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It was fitting both Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth and Mater Dei of Santa Ana finished 3-0 in its pool and advanced to play in the CIF Southern Section Open Division final in a match up of the state’s top two ranked teams. After all, both teams were expected to be the state’s best in the preseason and after a ho-hum regular season by its own lofty standards, Mater Dei turned it up in the playoffs.

Ziaire Williams had 25 points in this year’s CIFSS Open Division final. Photo: sierracanyonathletics.com.


Mater Dei, the No. 7 seed, won three road games to meet Sierra Canyon, the top seed, in a CIFSS open title rubber match of sorts. The Monarchs upset Sierra Canyon in the 2018 section title game, and last season, in the first year of CIFSS open pool play, Sierra Canyon downed Bishop Montgomery of Torrance.

The conventional thinking coming into this game was Mater Dei would be loose and have nothing to lose, but would have to shoot well enough to keep Sierra Canyon’s transition points to a minimum. If Mater Dei could neutralize Sierra Canyon’s advantages in athleticism and transitional firepower, it would have an excellent chance to pull off an upset. That scenario didn’t materialize, however, as Mater Dei made only 5-of-21 on 3-point shots and shot 36 percent from the field with Sierra Canyon in control throughout as it rolled to a 59-48 victory.

State No. 1 Sierra Canyon (28-4) was able to win its second consecutive CIFSS open crown by canning 4-of-9 on 3-pointers and getting plenty of easy baskets off turnovers, which Mater Dei committed 14 times. Leading the way for the Trailblazers in denying Mater Dei its 24th Southern Section title under veteran coach Gary McKnight was Sierra Canyon’s McDonald’s All-American duo of Ziaire Williams and B.J. Boston, who combined for 41 points, many of the spectacular variety around the rim or off of Mater Dei turnovers.

Sierra Canyon led Mater Dei, 33-27, at halftime, as Williams had 12 points. He nailed both of his 3-point attempts and finished with 25 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals. Boston had a big second half, as his team eventually built its lead up to 10 points and led 46-39 entering the final period. When Mater Dei (25-7) could no longer afford to trade baskets, Boston or Williams would come up with a timely basket or Sierra Canyon would keep alive a possession on the glass. Boston finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and four steals.

Mater Dei got a big game from junior big man Wilhelm Breidenbach with 18 points and 14 rebounds and Devin Askew was the second double-digit scorer with 15 points. Askew, who will join Boston at Kentucky next season, made 6-of-18 field goals.

“We all know they are talented as individuals, but to come together despite all the media attention and the naysayers to win a CIF title against a legendary program is satisfying,” said Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier, whose program is gunning to become the first ever to win three consecutive CIF open state crowns.

More section finals commence on Saturday, so teams and seeds for the NorCal or SoCal open regional playoffs cannot be properly predicted, but there is little doubt Sierra Canyon will nab the top seed in the SoCal bracket with Mater Dei at No. 2. That means both will host first round regional games, or one or both will receive first round byes into the regional semifinals.

If more emphasis is placed on competitive equity, as has been shown recently in other sports’ regional playoffs, then Sierra Canyon is likely to have a bye, thus placing one more quality team in the SoCal D1 bracket that would have little shot to defeat the Trailblazers on the road anyway. If the CIF decides to place teams as it has in boys basketball in recent seasons, Sierra Canyon will play either the CIF San Diego Section Open Division runner-up, the L.A. City Section Open Division runner-up, or one of five or six pulled from the CIFSS open division.

Most veteran SoCal media scribes feel the SoCal open bracket will include both L.A. City Section open finalists and the San Diego Section open champ, with the L.A. City Section champ getting the No. 4 seed, which ensures a home game, even though L.A. City Open favorite Fairfax has a lopsided loss to a St. John Bosco team that isn’t going to be in the SoCal Open bracket. Regardless of how the bracket shakes out, as we’ve said in our state rankings since Sierra Canyon defeated Rancho Christian in a return match in January to avenge its only loss to a California team, it will take one hell of an effort to knock off Sierra Canyon in a postseason game.

Ronnie Flores is the managing editor of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at ronlocc1977@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores


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