No record has been safe during the playoff run the Sage Hill School boys’ basketball team has put together.
The winningest team in program history accomplished another first on Saturday night, advancing to its first CIF Southern Section final.
Senior center Johnny King had a career-high 31 points and 22 rebounds to lead the host Lightning to a 61-51 win over La Puente Bassett in the semifinals of the Division 5AA playoffs.
King’s 31 points tied the school record, which was set by Dominic Sadeghi in a first-round win against Palos Verdes Peninsula Chadwick in the Division 4A playoffs in 2017.
“We were going crazy in there,” King said of the locker room celebration. “In previous years, we’ve been trying to get one win in the playoffs. Going this far means a lot, especially for my last year here.”
Sage Hill (22-10) will face top-seeded Oxnard Santa Clara (26-6) in the championship game on Saturday. The Saints defeated visiting Oxnard Hueneme 55-37 in their semifinal game.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Lightning coach Billy Conlon said. “As I said after we won the [Academy League] championship, it’s such a special group of players that worked extremely hard and deserve everything that they have gotten.
“They’ve certainly earned it, and it hasn’t been easy. We’ve played some really good competition, and we made enough plays when we needed to, but I think we’re going to have to play a whole lot better going into the championship game.”
Cooper Green had 17 points on four three-pointers for the Lightning. Jack Strohman added nine points, eight rebounds and three assists.
Three players made the most of their contributions outside of scoring for Sage Hill. Ryan Hosseinzadeh had nine rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. Mitchell Frye handed out six assists to go with four rebounds.
Alex Desbans pulled down six rebounds. He made one shot, a three-pointer from the right corner with 3:54 remaining to put the Lightning up 53-36.
“It’s a lot of different guys with a lot of different roles,” Hosseinzadeh said. “We need leadership. We need rebounding. Everyone has got to know their place, and they’re all cogs in a machine for this well-oiled machine to work well and take us this far.
“We all know our role. We’re in it for the team, not for ourselves. We’ve all got to know our place.”
The Lightning struggled from distance to begin the game, but those jump shot woes were easily remedied by King. The 6-foot-10 center had 17 points and 11 rebounds in the first half.
He put up 10 points in the first quarter, as the Lightning got out of the opening period with a 14-8 lead.
After setting a career-high with 24 points on six three-pointers in the quarterfinals at Los Angeles Yeshiva University, Green got into another good rhythm midway through the second quarter.
The sophomore shooting guard made a trio of three-pointers in a span of 1:13 to put Sage Hill ahead 23-13 with 4:39 left in the first half.
Sage Hill led 32-23 at halftime.
Jared Covarrubias scored a team-high 24 points for La Puente Bassett (9-21). Jesse Abalos added 12 points, and Ben Bui also had 11 points.
Conlon enjoyed the packed house, which had a healthy balance of Lightning and Olympian supporters.
“What a great environment,” Conlon said. “The road team, they were tremendous fans. Obviously, our home crowd was fired up. This is a big moment, a special moment. I couldn’t be more proud of our team and the community.”
CIF Southern Section Division 5AA playoffs
Sage Hill 61, La Puente Bassett 51
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bassett 8 – 15 – 11 – 17 — 51
Sage Hill 14 – 18 – 12 – 17 — 61
B – Covarrubias 24, Abalos 12, B. Bui 11, Rios 2, Estrada 2.
3-pt. goals – Covarrubias 3, Abalos 3, B. Bui 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
SH – King 31, Green 17, Strohman 9, Desbans 3, Hosseinzadeh 1.
3-pt. goals – Green 4, Desbans 1.
Fouled out – None.