In the two biggest matchups of state-ranked teams on Friday and Saturday, it was the No. 1 boys from Centennial of Corona and the No. 1 girls from Etiwanda that prevailed in CIF Southern Section Open Division finals against No. 2 Harvard-Westlake and No. 3 Sierra Canyon. We have compiled additional highlights and historical achievements from other section basketball title games played throughout California.
Note: We’ll have reaction and instant analysis on Twitter after all of the CIF regional playoff pairings are released on Sunday. The next State TOP 25 for boys will be out Monday morning with the next State TOP 25 for girls getting done not long afterward. CIF regional finals will be played on Tuesday, March 8 at home sites. This year’s CIF state championships will be on March 11-12 at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
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It was an Inland Empire sweep in the two CIF Southern Section Open Division basketball finals played over the weekend with the top-ranked teams in the state for boys and for girls both claiming titles.
On Friday night at Centennial of Corona, the host Huskies looked like a top five team in the nation for much of their 68-48 victory over Harvard-Westlake of Studio City. After Harvard-Westlake had gotten past state No. 2 Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth in last week’s semifinals, it surely was thought that the title game would be more of a tense, hard-fought matchup than it ended up.
Centennial’s defense put the clamps on the Wolverines during a 9:43 stretch of the first half, which helped head coach Josh Giles’ club to take a 35-18 lead. Harvard-Westlake never got it down to some key possessions in the fourth quarter.
In improving to 30-1 and winning its second straight CIFSS Open title, the Huskies will now be the top seed for the CIF SoCal regional playoffs in the Open Division. After they won last year, Giles and the team opted out of the regionals (played much later in June due to COVID) to participate in a live recruiting event in Arizona. Centennial has never won a CIF Open Division state title in boys basketball.
Jared McCain dropped in three 3-pointers and had 20 points for the Huskies on Friday night. Donovan Dent had 12 points and seven assists, while big man Devin Williams logged 17 points.
On Saturday night at Etiwanda, it was the Inland Empire’s other state No. 1 team looking to win the CIFSS Open title. This time, though, it wasn’t as easy as the Eagles had to come from behind, broke loose from a 55-55 tie with three minutes left, and came out with an 69-57 triumph over Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth.
While the Harvard-Westlake boys came into Friday’s game with the No. 2 state ranking behind Centennial, the Sierra Canyon girls were No. 3 due to having a head-to-head loss to La Jolla Country Day of the CIF San Diego Section.
Etiwanda’s dilemma was having to deal with trying to slow down one of the best players in the nation. Sierra Canyon junior Juju Watkins played like the superstar she is, but battled fouls throughout and went out with five fouls with 3:28 left in the fourth quarter. Watkins had scored 20 of her game-high 24 points in the first half. The Trailblazers were leading 52-50 at the time.
Head coach Stan Delus was ecstatic after the game talking to reporters. He was especially happy to win his and the school’s first Open Division title as a public school. He had to mix and match himself due to foul trouble as 2021 Cal-Hi Sports State Freshman of the Year Kennedy Smith had three fouls in the first half. Smith had 15 of her 19 points in the second half and did not foul out. Sal’lah Hemingway led the Eagles with 22 points and contributed to the widening margin in the final minutes by going 6-for-6 on free throws.
Etiwanda improved its perfect record to 28-0 and will now look to be 31-0 heading into the CIF Open Division state final. To do that, though, the Eagles may have to face Sierra Canyon again in the SoCal Open final. For that matchup to happen, the Trailblazers will likely have to win a semifinal game at La Jolla Country Day.
The Torreys won in their San Diego Section Open Division championship game on Saturday, 68-53, over Mission Hills of San Marcos. They won the CIF SoCal Open Division crown two years ago. All-American Breya Cunningham topped Country Day with 25 points and 13 rebounds while teammate Sumayah Sugaapong added 19 points. Jessica Grant nailed six 3-pointers and had 20 points for the Grizzlies. Mission Hills, which defeated Cathedral Catholic in the semifinals, also could be selected by the CIF to be in the Open Division.
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*State No. 4 Campolindo of Moraga (27-1) proved again that it just knows how to win close games with a 51-50 win on Friday vs De La Salle of Concord in the North Coast Section Open Division. The Cougars went on a 14-0 run in the final minutes of the third quarter and in the early minutes of the fourth. In a surreal scene, DLS freshman Alec Blair, who led all scorers with 21 points, stood at the free throw line with less than one second left with a chance to make two free throws and win the game. His first shot in the one-and-one situation, however, bounced off the back rim. Aidan Mahaney, who led Campo with 18 points, grabbed the rebound.
*It also was almost an exact scene for Rancho Cucamonga’s Shadale Knight at the end of his team’s game vs Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley on Friday in the CIFSS D3AA championship. Knight didn’t miss his free throws. With no time left, he made the first to tie the score at 66-66 and then made the second for a 67-66 win. Knight finished with 21 points. Frosh teammate Aaron Glass also scored 21 points. Rancho Verde’s Anthony Smith Jr. led all scorers with 27.
*One of the state’s other top freshmen, Jake Hall, racked up 21 points and 15 rebounds when Carlsbad topped La Jolla Country Day, 52-42, on Friday for the San Diego Section D1 crown.
*Also from the San Diego Section, Isaiah Hilke shined with 26 points and 19 rebounds to lead Monte Vista of Spring Valley past Victory Christian Academy of Chula Vista, 54-36, in the D4 final on Friday. It was the first section title for Monte Vista in 51 years. Hilke didn’t even start playing basketball until last year.
*State No. 6 Clovis West of Fresno staged a comeback for the ages in its 72-63 overtime win on Saturday night in the CIF Central Section Open Division final. Defending champion St. Joseph of Santa Maria had built a 47-27 lead with 5:36 left in the third quarter, but then the shots started to fall for the Golden Eagles. They not only raced all the way to a tie in the fourth quarter but the 30-1 squad pulled away in overtime. Issac Martinez hit for all of his 18 points in the second half, while Jackson Young (23 pts) and Tyus Parish-Tillman (16 pts, 13 rebs) both had big outings. Clovis West head coach Vance Walberg also won his 500th game at the school. He has more than 600 counting years at other schools and more than that counting JC. The big question after the win of course was about whether the Golden Eagles would be north or south for the regionals.
*The alma mater of golf’s Tiger Woods, Western of Anaheim, earned its first-ever CIFSS boys hoops title on Friday with a 65-49 road win at Dos Pueblos of Goleta. Ahmad Hanmouri went bonkers in the second half with 27 points and finished with a game-high 35.
*The father-son theme was front and center at the CIF L.A. City Section Open Division championship on Saturday. Fairfax won the crown with a 74-64 triumph vs King-Drew. It was the first L.A. City title for head coach Reggie Morris Jr., who had won a CIFSS title previously at Redondo. His pops, Reggie Morris Sr., won two L.A. City titles as a head coach at Manual Arts in 1977 and 1981. The Morrisses also have both won CIF state titles. Kalib LaCount kept up his hot scoring for King-Drew with 33 points.
*Archbishop Mitty of San Jose had won the last three Central Coast Section Open Division titles and had beaten league rival Archbishop Riordan of San Francisco five times in a row entering last Friday’s Open final. This time, though, the Crusaders turned the tables and clipped Mitty, 69-51. King-Njhanni Wilhite led Riordan with 29 points. He’s been absolutely fabulous for Riordan in the last few weeks.
*Making three-pointers (13 of 24 of those shot went in) was the key for St. Bernard of Playa del Rey in its 71-59 victory over JSerra of SJ Capistrano on Friday for the CIFSS D1 title. Jason Hart Jr. made six-three pointers for the Vikings and ended with 28 points. JSerra had ousted top seed St. John Bosco of Bellflower in the semifinals.
*Garden Grove downed Fullerton, 54-50, for the CIFSS D4AA title on Friday, which is the first boys hoops title at Garden Grove in the school’s 101-year history. Miguel Ortega paced the Argonauts with 17 points.
*In the San Diego Section D3 final, John Hapgood knocked in 25 points as San Dieguito Academy of Encinitas won its first section title in 57 years with a 57-46 victory against Scripps Ranch of San Diego. It was hard to miss that Scripps Ranch included 6-foot-8 junior Jax Leatherwood in its lineup. He was the QB who not that long ago helped the Falcons win a state football title.
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*Facing a 42-30 deficit to a Pinewood of Los Altos Hills squad that it had lost to as a favorite last spring in the Central Coast Section Open Division title game, this time on Friday night the state No. 4 Archbishop Mitty Monarchs of San Jose went on a big run and beat the Panthers, 66-54. Makayla Moore came off the bench to score 25 points to lead Mitty, which outscored Pinewood 31-7 after that third-quarter deficit. The Monarchs won their 30th section title (all but six under current head coach Sue Phillips), which is an ongoing state record.
*State No. 5 Carondelet of Concord, which actually could get the No. 1 seed for the NorCal Open Division due to owning a head-to-head win over Mitty, won the North Coast Section Open Division final on Friday, 69-49, over San Ramon Valley of Danville. Stanford-bound point guard Talana Lepolo distributed the ball to open three-point shooters (five different Cougars made threes) and ended with 19 points. It was the first section title at Carondelet for head coach Kelly Sopak, who previously won them at Miramonte (Orinda). His famous former player at Miramonte, Sabrina Ionescu, watched the game from the stands.
*Carondelet’s former head coach, Margaret Gartner, who also is on our all-time coaching leaders’ list, also won an NCS title on Friday at a new school. She’s now at Acalanes of Lafayette and her team won the NCS D2 crown with a 57-37 win against Northgate of Walnut Creek. Freshman guard Sophie Chinn led the Dons with 31 points and 13 rebounds.
*The big news in the Sac-Joaquin Section D1 playoffs came in the semifinals when St. Mary’s of Stockton, which had won 13 straight section titles (one of the longest such streaks in state history), lost on a last-second shot to Folsom. In Saturday night’s final at the Golden 1 Center, Folsom’s last-second shot didn’t go down in a 41-40 loss to Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills. Oak Ridge had lost in D1 section finals in 2012, 2014 and 2020 to St. Mary’s. Washington-bound Teagan Brown led the Trojans with nine points, 16 rebounds nd two blocks.
*With St. Mary’s losing in the SJS and having its streak snapped, Clovis West of Fresno was looking to win its 10th straight section title in Saturday’s Central Section Open Division final. The mission succeeded as head coach Craig Campbell’s squad defeated Bakersfield, 49-39. Clovis West now has the state’s longest current section title streak at 10. The Cal-Hi Sports state record is 16 in a row for Mission Prep (SLO) from 1993 to 2008.
*Finally on Saturday in the CIFSS D1 championship, it was a coming out party for standout junior Karlee White from Viewpoint of Calabasas. She led her team to a 59-53 win against top seed Camarillo by scoring 37 points, including 20 in an absolute sizzling third quarter. Camarillo certainly isn’t used to being on the other end of a scoring performance like that. With 39 ppg from UCLA-bound Gabriela Jaquez, the Scorpions almost always have the game’s high scorer. Jaquez had 20 points and 19 rebounds and now has 1,052 points scored on the season. She still has games left to add to that total (only 20 in state history have 1,000 or more), but it’ll be a tougher road in the D1 SoCal regionals coming off of a loss in a section final.
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: @CalHiSports