It was the basketball version of Picasso drawing a masterpiece in the early going.
In the CIF state championship Open Division final Saturday night before close to 9,000 at Golden 1 Center, Torrance Bishop Montgomery put together near flawless execution.
Bishop Montgomery scored the first 14 points of the game and held leads of 25-6 and 29-11. But Roseville Woodcreek, with 6-foot-11 junior center Jordan Brown proving to be an immovable object, wasn’t about to go down without a fight.
The Timberwolves closed to within five points with two minutes left. It forced the Knights to use their experience and convert their free throws to secure a 74-67 victory and give Coach Doug Mitchell his fourth state championship.
The focus was on containing Brown, averaging 26 points and 15 rebounds. Fletcher Tynen and two reserves combined to pick up 12 fouls trying to cover Brown, who finished with 35 points and 17 rebounds. He was 17 for 21 on free throws.
Throughout the postseason, Bishop Montgomery showed off its help defense that took down 6-11 Marvin Bagley III of Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, 7-2 Bol Bol of Santa Ana Mater Dei and 6-9 Onyeka Okongwu of Chino Hills even though the tallest Knight is 6-6. Brown proved to be the most formidable but the Knights still came out with a victory.
“He was really skilled,” Bishop Montgomery’s Jordan Schakel said. “He’s probably faced double-teams before. We just kept fighting.”
All of Bishop Montgomery’s major contributors were at their best. Ethan Thompson, playing with his father, Stephen Sr., and brother, Oregon State guard Stephen Jr., watching from the audience, scored 26 points. Schakel made four threes and had 20 points. David Singleton scored 14 points and Gianni Hunt 10.
“I think a lot of people underestimated us,” Thompson said. “We went out with a chip on our shoulder and did what we had to do.”
Early on, Bishop Montgomery was magnificient. Woodcreek made only one of 14 shots in the first quarter and trailed, 17-4. The lead was 33-19 at halftime. But the Timberwolves slowly cut into their deficit and forced the Knights to make free throws to hang on. Bishop Montgomery finished 23 for 29 from the line.