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Column: Cassius Stanley leads Sierra Canyon past Bishop Montgomery to Open Division title

For once, the talk about Cassius Stanley shouldn’t focus on dunks. Yes, he’s spectacular flying toward a dunk, but it’s time to appreciate his development as a basketball player.

On Saturday night at Cal Baptist, in the biggest game of year for Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, Stanley delivered time and again to lift the Trailblazers to a 64-57 victory over Torrance Bishop Montgomery in the Southern Section Open Division championship game.

He finished with 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting. His three-point basket from just inside the half-court line at the end of the third quarter was a momentum changer for the top-seeded Trailblazers (28-3).

“He was amazing,” Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier said. “His level of calmness today was unreal. This is when you can watch Cassius and think one-and-done.”

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Said Stanley: “I was locked in.”

Stanley has had high expectations since the moment he enrolled at Studio City Harvard-Westlake as a freshman and helped the Wolverines win a state title. His sophomore year, Harvard-Westlake won a Southern Section title. He moved to Sierra Canyon, where he was on last season’s Open Division state title team. Now he’s trying to finish his high school career with section and state titles.

In recent weeks, he’s been much more in control. He’s not as frantic and is happily looking to be a facilitator when needed. For this game, he found openings to attack the Knights (24-6).

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Scotty Pippen Jr., quiet for much of the game and struggling after missing two free throws to start the fourth quarter, connected on two three-pointers and scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.

Bishop Montgomery, which lost twice to Sierra Canyon in emotional playoff games last season, did not have the offensive power it has had. Only Montana-bound guard Josh Vazquez provided a consistent scoring threat with 19 points, including five three-pointers

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Coach Doug Mitchell said he was concerned about Sierra Canyon’s athleticism and transition game, and both wreaked havoc. The Trailblazers finished with nine blocked shots, which prevented Bishop Montgomery from getting easy baskets.

Sierra Canyon started the game with lots of dazzle.

The Trailblazers were up 10-0 and scored three consecutive baskets off dunks by Christian Koloko, Stanley and KJ Martin.

Sierra Canyon is expected to be the No. 1 seed for next week’s CIF state Open Division playoffs with City Section champion Fairfax the No. 2 seed. The state championships are March 8-9 in Sacramento.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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Twitter: @latsondheimer


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