It’s a third consecutive State Team of the Year finish for Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, but because of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, the Trailblazers are the first boys basketball State Team of the Year to not officially win a CIF state title since L.A. Westchester in 2004. Sierra Canyon understands the ramifications of the situation surrounding the cancellation of the CIF state tournament, but it would have been hard to top the way the boys closed out their season even if their final game would have been played.
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After Sheldon of Sacramento’s regional semifinal game was postponed from Saturday, March 7 to Tuesday of last week, the “race against the clock” began for the California Interscholastic Federation to conclude its boys basketball championships last weekend at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
After the Sheldon-Elk Grove Unified School District-Coronavirus affair, the NorCal and SoCal open regional playoffs were no longer on the same schedule. Luckily for Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, Tuesday was the day of its open regional final contest versus Etiwanda. For the first 29 minutes of the game, it looked like Sierra Canyon’s run as California’s top-ranked team was going to come to an end, but with some frantic defense and some big shots, the Trailblazers were able to roar back from an 11-point deficit in three minutes and win, 63-61, on a elbow jumper by senior forward Ziaire Williams at the buzzer.
Sierra Canyon usually takes big wins in stride, but the nature of this game against the No. 2 team in the state set off a big-time celebration as if the team won a state title.
By the time it was announced on Wednesday NBA player Rudy Gobert had tested positive for Coronavirus, the situation had became a full-blown national pandemic. When that night’s NBA game at the Golden 1 Center was cancelled, it was becoming pretty clear the CIF state championships would not take place at that facility and not likely at all. After the Etiwanda game, another thing was pretty clear and that’s Sierra Canyon’s position as the best team in California and because it ended up being its last game of the season, the team has now been officially named as the Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year for the third consecutive season.
Sierra Canyon is the first team to earn three consecutive state team of the year honors since the advent of the CIF open division in 2013. Mater Dei of Santa Ana was in the middle of a four-year run as state team of the year then, but during the first two years (2011 and 2012) the No. 1 finishes were following a CIF D1 state crown, as the open division began in 2013. The last school to earn state team of the year honors that didn’t win a CIF state title in the highest classification was in 2004 when L.A. Westchester was not allowed to participate in the postseason, but beat eventual CIF D1 state champ L.A. Fairfax twice. Before that, you have to go back to Long Beach Poly in 1981 to find a section champion who didn’t win a CIF state crown was named Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year. In that case, the CIF Southern Section (which Sierra Canyon and Long Beach Poly belong to) just hadn’t yet joined the CIF state tournament. The section did in the following season.
“I’m very proud of this group,” said Sierra Canyon head coach Andre Chevalier. “They traveled the world more than any high school team in history and still maintained an extraordinarily high level of excellence. To finish the year No. 1 in the state for the third year in a row is an amazing feat. We are disappointed that we couldn’t play the final game and compete for another state title, but we all fully understand that there are times when life takes priority over sports. The health and well being of our country and the world is a top priority.”
Sierra Canyon’s hard-to-believe win over Etiwanda was its second No. 1 vs. No. 2 win in a matter of two weeks. Sierra Canyon defeated No. 2 Mater Dei in the CIF Southern Section Open Division title game, 59-48. Sierra Canyon also played in another No. 1 vs. No. 2 game versus Rancho Christian of Temecula in the championship tilt of The Classic at Damien in late December. The Trailblazers dropped that game in overtime, 85-81. But when the two teams met on January 11 in a rematch, the Trailblazers won in convincing fashion, 78-62, to reclaim the No. 1 ranking spot in the state.
At that time in our weekly rankings, we said it would take a monumental effort for an in-state club to beat Sierra Canyon the rest of the way. Etiwanda almost did it, but this happy-go-lucky group turned up the intensity and got it done.
Ironically, when Rancho Christian handed Sierra Canyon its only in-state loss was the first game of the season for Williams, and he had a terrific outing with 28 points. It took a while, however, for Sierra Canyon to adjust with Williams on the floor, as B.J. Boston, a transfer from Norcross, Ga., carried the load offensively for Chevalier’s squad the first 14 games.
The smooth and talented forward also had 30 points in the avenging win over Rancho Christian. Sophomore Amari Bailey was spectacular at times on both ends of the floor, and made many key plays during the shortened playoff run. Forward Terren Frank didn’t always have big offensive games, but he did plenty of dirty work and made a big impact on the boards. With junior Harold Yu in the middle, Sierra Canyon also could go to a big lineup or a smaller one with equal effectiveness.
Even though sophomore forward Shy Odom’s offensive contributions curtailed when Williams was inserted into the lineup, he was an integral piece in terms of making smart plays, rebounding the ball and not needing it to make contributions.
Off the bench, sophomore Tookey Wigington also played a key role, at times, handling the ball and playing aggressive defense while freshman Bronny James could to a bit of everything. The son of Lakers superstar Lebron James can shoot, defend and is keen at hitting the open man. In fact, he was the team’s calming influence at times in terms of ball-handling and decision-making. Bronny even hit a big 3-pointer in the second win over Etiwanda and made a key Larry Bird-like loose ball gather and pass for a bucket at a key moment during the comeback vs. Etiwanda in what turned out to be the last game of the season.
Boston’s big 3-pointer tied that game at 61 and he hit big shots all season long. Williams followed that up with the biggest shot of the season and Sierra Canyon celebrated on the court as much as we’ve ever seen in its three year reign as California’s best. It was that incredible of a moment, but it did dawn on us that it might also be the lasting impression for a team whose state final game was just too long of a wait after one of the craziest days in sports history last Wednesday.
Sierra Canyon didn’t officially capture a CIF state crown, but it will have memories that will last a lifetime against a backdrop of a crisis around the country that no one will ever forget.
Cal-Hi Sports Boys Basketball
State Teams of the Year All-Time List
2020 – Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (30-4)
2019 – Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (32-3)
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.
Ronnie Flores is the managing editor of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores