With a little more than two weeks left in the high school basketball regular season, there are some teams trying to figure out if they should really celebrate after a victory, considering each win moves them closer to being selected for the new Southern Section Open Division playoffs, where powers Santa Ana Mater Dei, Los Angeles Loyola, Etiwanda and Corona Centennial figure to land.
There's speculation some teams would be perfectly happy taking a loss or two just to avoid being selected for the Open Division, but don't tell that to surging Chino Hills (18-4, 5-0), which turned its Sierra League showdown with La Verne Damien into a mismatch en route to an 85-53 victory.
Bishop Mency and KC Cyprian each scored 18 points and LiAngelo Ball had 17. Damien's Jeremy Hemsley, averaging 22 points, was held to 10 points.
The Huskies have won eight in a row, and they're starting to earn some respect. Mater Dei had scouts at the game shooting video. Chino Hills is ranked No. 5 in Division 1AA behind the big four, and Wednesday's win over No. 9 Damien (18-4, 4-1) virtually assures the Huskies a selection to play with the big boys.
"We look forward to the competition to see if we can prove ourselves," Mency said.
Chino Hills has been playing a competitive schedule and making progress. Besides the Ball brothers, sophomore Lonzo, a UCLA commit, and freshman LiAngelo, the 6-foot-5 Mency can be an explosive scorer. He had 15 points in the first half in helping Chino Hills open a 51-23 halftime lead. There's also improving 6-9 junior Nnamdi Okongwu, and set to make his debut on Friday is sophomore guard Milan Acquaah, a talented transfer from Pasadena La Salle.
"If we can play with great energy and effort and get execution, I think we can play with anybody," Coach Steve Baik said.
Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei and Thomas Welsh of Los Angeles Loyola were selected to represent the West in the McDonald's All American Game on April 2 in Chicago.
Selected to play in the girls' game were Jordin Canada from L.A. Windward and Lajahna Drummer from Long Beach Poly. Each is headed to UCLA.