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Showdown looms between undefeated Chino Hills and Bishop Montgomery

Showdown looms between undefeated Chino Hills and Bishop Montgomery
Chino Hills High standout Lonzo Ball. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

When it comes to the hottest ticket in L.A., nothing is going to top Saturday's 7 p.m. high school basketball game between No. 1-ranked Chino Hills (20-0) and No. 2-ranked Torrance Bishop Montgomery (20-0) at Cerritos College.

Admission is $13. About 2,450 people can fill the gym. It's game seven in an eight-game one-day tournament that's part of the Fairfax State Preview Classic. The game will be streamed live at Ballislife.com. Chino Hills is ranked No. 1 in the nation by several publications.

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Fans have been coming out in large numbers whenever Chino Hills plays, and this game should top them all.

"It is getting a little crazy," Coach Steve Baik said.

Chino Hills has the No. 1 player in California in Lonzo Ball, a UCLA signee who's being compared to Jason Kidd as the best point guard from California in years.

"He's phenomenal," Bishop Montgomery Coach Doug Mitchell said. "He's just a rare player. He's the best player I've seen on the West Coast. He keys so much stuff for them."

Ball's younger brothers, junior LiAngelo and freshman LaMelo, both UCLA commits as well, are pretty good too.

Chino Hills has scored more than 100 points 11 times this season while closing in on the state record of 18. The Huskies' unconventional style of shooting often and from anywhere, trapping constantly and releasing players before the ball is even rebounded is the talk of Southern California high school basketball.

"Every possession, you have to be focused," El Cajon Foothills Christian Coach Brad Leaf said. "The ball goes up, everyone has a role where to be after that shot. It's a dead sprint back. Four guys isn't good enough. All five guys."

Foothills Christian gave Chino Hills its biggest scare, losing, 85-83, on Jan. 9. That was after Foothills Christian was routed by Chino Hills, 106-86.

"I had the wrong game plan the first time," Leaf said. "We worked two weeks only on conditioning. We just went on their tempo. We didn't run with them but tried to take advantage of their opportunities."

Bishop Montgomery has the personnel to give the Huskies trouble. Ethan Thompson, David Singleton and Jordan Schakel lead a team that's quick, plays good defense and can shoot from the perimeter.

"I think it's going to be a great matchup," Baik said. "They have three really good big guards who are physical. If I was to choose a team to go against us, it would be with taller, big-length guards."

The one problem Bishop Montgomery will have is lack of preparation. The Lancers will have played two league games this week and not given a whole lot of attention to Chino Hills.

"They're very difficult to play against," said La Verne Damien Coach Mike LeDuc, whose team lost to the Huskies, 92-65, last week. "It's a unique group. The exact same philosophy and style won't work with other groups. They're going to trap you and give you things you don't really want, and there are opportunities to get easy shots but they come at a cost."

Redondo gave Chino Hills a competitive game before losing, 96-80, on Dec. 30. Redondo had played Chino Hills in summer and fall games to become familiar with the Huskies' style. Coach Reggie Morris Jr. said their strategy is apply nonstop pressure, similar to the days when Crenshaw and Manual Arts were the dominant teams in the City Section.

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He said the defensive pressure makes it difficult for an opposing coach to "micromanage" the game, leaving it up to the players on the court to rely on their training and instincts.

It all means the stage is set for an entertaining, memorable matchup just a couple of weeks before playoffs begin.

Twitter: @LATSondheimer

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