Varsity Times Insider High school sports across the Southland

Chino Hills' buzz might be rubbing off on other top high school basketball teams

Eric Sondheimer
Contact ReporterVarsity Times Insider

Southern California is known for producing surreal moments, whether it’s the sight of Batman walking down Hollywood Boulevard or a 15-year-old scoring 92 points in a high school basketball game.

So it came as no surprise Tuesday afternoon when a woman visiting from Texas decided to pay close to $100 to pay for three tickets to the Chino Hills-Bishop Montgomery basketball game so her two young sons could watch in person some of the players they’ve been following on YouTube.

“All that matters is we’re going to watch this game,” the woman said.

There was the man from Huntington Beach who showed up at 10:30 a.m. for a 7 p.m. game to be first in line because he wanted the best seat in the house to watch the “Chino Hills Beatles.”

There was Austin Blackwell, a 14-year-old freshman from Austin, Texas, who dragged his father to the game at El Camino College rather than go to the beach or visit Disneyland on spring break.

“It’s kind of a new phenomenon, a new era in basketball,” Blackwell said. “It’s pretty cool.”

There was Jeff Provenzano, a Yorba Linda resident who spent three hours in line at Chino Hills on Monday buying tickets so his sons, ages 8 and 14, could come to the game.

Jeffrey, 8, said he came to watch LaMelo Ball’s “dribbling and shooting.”

Chino Hills and the Ball brothers had their 2016-17 season ended by Bishop Montgomery, 87-80, in a Southern California regional semifinal. But the buzz Chino Hills created might be rubbing off on Bishop Montgomery, Santa Ana Mater Dei and other top teams with one week to go before the state championships in Sacramento.

On Saturday at the Pyramid in Long Beach, Bishop Montgomery will face Mater Dei in the 8 p.m. Open Division boys’ regional final.

A Craigslist seller is offering eight courtside seats at $1,000 each. Courtside seats were originally available at $38 each. Bishop Montgomery sold out its allotment of 1,198 tickets within several hours of being available on Thursday morning. Mater Dei expects to sell out its 1,258 tickets, too. Seating capacity is a little more than 5,000.

Chino Hills isn’t playing, but what Bishop Montgomery and Mater Dei have in common is that each figured out how to beat the Huskies, and the winner should be crowned best team in California by next weekend.

Bishop Montgomery, in particular, has gained a growing fan following that has been giving the Knights a home-court advantage in terms of noise and enthusiasm. It was visible and audible at Honda Center two weeks ago when the Knights defeated Mater Dei, 70-55, in the Southern Section Open Division final. And Knight fans were even louder on Tuesday in Torrance.

Bishop Montgomery (29-2) is on a mission to prove it is the best team in Southern California. The Knights were pretty much forgotten after losing their season opener to Oakland Bishop O’Dowd, 70-63, on Nov. 26. Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, Chino Hills and Mater Dei supposedly passed them by.

Everything has changed. Ethan Thompson, David Singleton, Jordan Schakel, Gianni Hunt and Fletcher Tynen are playing their best basketball of the season.

They’ll face the unenviable task of trying to beat Mater Dei (33-2) twice in a season. Chino Hills couldn’t do it.

Mater Dei features 7-foot-1 Bol Bol, point guard Spencer Freedman, forwards Justice Sueing and Michael Wang, and the winningest coach in California history, Gary McKnight.

It means a fun, entertaining night is coming on Saturday for fans of high school basketball.

And Chino Hills won’t even be playing.

Here’s the Southern California regional championship schedule:

Saturday at the Pyramid in Long Beach

Open Division boys: No. 2 Mater Dei vs. No. 1 Bishop Montgomery, 8 p.m. Open Division girls: No. 2 Long Beach Poly vs. No. 1 Fresno Clovis West, 4 p.m.

Division I boys: No. 4 Corona Centennial vs. No. 2 Eastvale Roosevelt, 2 p.m. Division I girls: No. 3 Ventura vs. No. 1 Windward, 12 p.m.

Other boys' finals

Saturday

Division II: Pasadena at No. 2 Esperanza, 6 p.m.

Division III: No. 2 Villa Park at No. 1 Colony, 6 p.m.

Division IV: No. 5 Reedley Immanuel at No. 2 La Mesa Helix, 6 p.m.

Division V: No. 2 Rolling Hills Prep at No. 1 Riverside Notre Dame, 6 p.m.

Other girls’ finals

Friday

Division II: No. 2 Mater Dei vs. No. 1 Orangewood Academy at Vanguard University, 4:30 p.m.

Saturday

Division III: No. 6 San Diego Serra at No. 1 Rosary, 6 p.m.

Division IV: No. 3 Village Christian at No. 1 Los Osos, 6 p.m.

Division V: No. 5 Rolling Hills Prep at No. 3 Bell-Jeff, 6 p.m.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: latsondheimer

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