It only figured that going into the final quarter of the final high school basketball game of the season in the toughest division in California, a tie would exist. After 14 lead changes, lots of dunks and plenty of excitement, Chatsworth Sierra Canyon and Sacramento Sheldon were deadlocked for the state Open Division championship at Golden 1 Center on Saturday night.
The final eight minutes would decide it, and has been the case for much of March, Sierra Canyon has played its best basketball when the game was on the line. With Cassius Stanley and Scotty Pippen stepping forward to take charge, the Trailblazers pulled away for a 75-62 triumph.
Stanley finished with 23 points, making eight of 10 shots. Pippen had 21 points and was seven of eight on free throws. Stanley was fortunate to be on the court. Last week he had to leave the regional final after crashing to the court after a layup.
"My shoulders and hands saved me," he said. "I felt great. I was still dinged up. My parents instilled in me to be a warrior and there was no way I was not playing."
Sierra Canyon (27-4) responded in the fourth quarter when Duane Washington Jr. picked up a technical with 3:50 left and fouled out. That's when the Trailblazers' guard depth came through.
Dale Currie played like Steph Curry at times for Sheldon (29-6), finishing with 20 points. KJ Martin contributed 11 points and 13 rebounds for Sierra Canyon, which outscored the Huskies 19-6 in the fourth quarter.
Scottie Pippen of six NBA titles fame was sitting in the front row watching his son Scotty and getting plenty of request for selfies. Fans kept shouting to officials to not be nice to the team with celebrity parents and sons of four former NBA players.
Sheldon was countering Sierra Canyon's dunks with its own dunks early on.
Stanley got off to a strong start in his return, driving aggressively and contributing 16 points to help the Trailblazers take a 38-36 halftime lead.
Sierra Canyon's willingness to spread the ball and be unselfish kept the pressure on Sheldon. That trait is the biggest reason the Trailblazers went from a pretender to champion over the last three months. Players learned to trust one another. As their confidence grew, the Trailblazers began to win close games.
Keeping everyone together and focused was first-year coach Andre Chevalier. He was no rookie coach, having been a head coach at Reseda Cleveland and Westlake Village Oaks Christian, among others. He went into a pressure cooker after Sierra Canyon's disappointing finish last season when the Trailblazers faltered despite having Marvin Bagley III.
Somehow he got everyone to buy into his scheme, and Sierra Canyon won its first Open Division title by making it through the toughest gantlet in California.