After three straight years of Sierra Canyon finishing on top of the state, and in a season unlike any other with no official CIF state champions for the second straight year, this year’s selection is claimed by Centennial of Corona. The Huskies didn’t win a CIF SoCal Open Division title on Saturday night, but No. 1 Torrey Pines of San Diego was felled by Etiwanda one week after Centennial won the CIF Southern Section Open Division crown.
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(Managing editor Ronnie Flores contributed to this article)
Hardly anyone was second-guessing a decision announced last week by head coach Josh Giles of the Corona Centennial boys basketball team not to participate in this year’s pandemic-impacted CIF Southern California Open Division regional playoffs. The Huskies had just won the CIF Southern Section Open Division crown with a win against season-long state No. 1 Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, but Giles had committed to the team and its players, many of them underclassmen, to be in this weekend’s Section 7 live recruiting tournament in Arizona with more than 500 college coaches attending.
Well, it couldn’t have worked out better for the Huskies. Not only were they getting in great games against top-notch competition in Arizona but by Saturday night had advanced to the title game of their division. Then not long after their game ended in Arizona, they saw that another team from the CIF Southern Section Open Division, Etiwanda, had beaten SoCal Open Division top seed and previously undefeated Torrey Pines of San Diego, 68-65.
Instead of Saturday night being a coronation of Torrey Pines, which would have finished 31-0, the victory by Etiwanda has elevated the Huskies. It is they who can now be called the 2020-21 Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year.
This spring season was always going to be a strange one, due to the pandemic still raging strong throughout the state in February and March. Some teams played more than 30 games, while others were lucky to get in even half of that. When the CIF announced that a SoCal regional playoff would be held from June 14 to June 19 with one-week, eight-team brackets but that no NorCal playoff could be held and thus no state final as well, teams reacted differently. Centennial wasn’t the only top school that opted out. Cathedral Catholic of San Diego, the team that Torrey Pines topped on a buzzer-beater in its section final, also didn’t play this week.
Centennial itself wasn’t perfect on the season — there were losses to Torrey Pines and Harvard-Westlake of Studio City — but in its last three games reached up to a different level. The Huskies won in their final two CIFSS pool play games, 82-69, over Damien of La Verne and 84-69 over Mater Dei of Santa Ana and then needed other results to go their way to even get a shot at Sierra Canyon in the section final.
That 80-72 victory over the Trailblazers, which came after that team had rallied to beat Etiwanda in another CIFSS pool play matchup, featured all of the staples of the Centennial teams under Giles, especially elite guard play and three-point shooting. Sophomore guard Kylan Boswell nailed six three-pointers in that game and had 24 points and five rebounds. Junior guard Donavan Dent hit three three-pointers and racked up 19 points while sophomore Aaron McBride had a double-double 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“To finish off this season as the No. 1 ranked team in the state is an amazing accomplishment and everyone involved deserves a ton of credit,” Giles said on Sunday in a text message to Cal-Hi Sports. “Obviously, the players do for the tremendous work and sacrifice they put in, but also everyone at the school (admin, teachers, custodial) for all they had to do in order for us to just have a season.”
Centennial’s State Team of the Year selection is going to be counted as just the second one ever from the Inland Empire region of the state. The only other one would be Chino Hills for 2016, the legendary 35-0 squad that featured current NBA players Lonzo Ball, LaMelo Ball and Onyeka Okongwu. Some may not count Chino Hills as Inland Empire, but it’s in San Bernardino County so we would.
As for Etiwanda taking down Torrey Pines, an 11-0 run in the second quarter gave the visiting Eagles a big lead and they were up by as much as 18 points. The Falcons adjusted in the second half and got back into the game with a 12-0 run to end the third quarter.
Etiwanda (14-2) was still clinging to a three-point lead in the closing seconds, but Chris Howell missed a three-pointer for Torrey Pines and then on a last-gasp chance there was a turnover following a slip by Nick Herrmann.
Herrmann, the hero of the section final win vs. Cathedral Catholic, led all scorers with 24 points. Etiwanda’s Jahmai Mashack and Marcus Green both hit for 22 points.
“I couldn’t be happier for these players,” Etiwanda head coach Dave Kleckner told reporter Devin Ugland. “It was such a tough year, and the way it ended for them last year in this game (on a last-second shot by Sierra Canyon that went in) was really devastating. But all of us got stronger.”
It’s still to be determined whether Torrey Pines will fall below Centennial, Etiwanda and Sierra Canyon (which has a split with the Eagles) in the final state pecking order, but regardless the Falcons will go down as one of the best teams ever from the San Diego Section. If they had won, they would have been up there with Helix of La Mesa 1970 (33-0 and led by Hall of Famer Bill Walton) as perhaps in the top two. By losing, they fall back into a group that includes Poway of 1986 (25-4, No. 5 in state and with Jud Buechler), Horizon of 2003 (32-1, No. 3 in state and with Jared Dudley) and Foothills Christian of 2016 (25-5, No. 3 in state, three losses to Chino Hills and with T.J. Leaf).
This State Team of the Year release on Sunday was actually delayed until Centennial’s final game in Arizona was played. The Huskies faced a team from Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas and won, 84-64.
“Again, I think it speaks to the character of this group,” Giles said before Sunday’s game. “They very easily could have gone through the motions and been uninterested after what they just accomplished (beating Sierra Canyon). But true to their character as a team they showed up to compete.”
And the Huskies left Arizona on Sunday not just feeling good about themselves. But they also left as the 2020-21 State Team of the Year.
Cal-Hi Sports Boys Basketball
State Teams of the Year All-Time List
2021 – Corona Centennial (21-2)
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.