The high school basketball season has officially ended the same way it did last season — with Chatsworth Sierra Canyon winning a second consecutive Open Division state boys’ basketball championship in Sacramento.
It was a dunkathon at Golden 1 Center, from Amari Bailey’s left-handed slam while getting fouled and falling to the court to Cassius Stanley’s uncontested reverse slam for the TV cameras. Sierra Canyon’s 76-52 rout of Sacramento Sheldon brought to a close an impressive two-year run of flash, glitter, celebrity sightings and star power.
The Trailblazers were up to the task the last two seasons playing in front of the likes of Drake, Kanye West and Floyd Mayweather Jr., among others. That’s what happens when the sons of former NBA players Scottie Pippen and Kenyon Martin join the program.
There was no chance of beating Sierra Canyon (32-3) in the postseason as long as players performed their roles, and that’s what happened.
Stanley stepped up to a different level in the final month with his versatility. He became more than a great dunker. Scotty Pippen Jr. played his role as distributor from the point guard position. A healthy Terren Frank gave the Trailblazers additional firepower. Christian Koloko’s shot blocking and rebounding keyed the defense. KJ Martin was fabulous, making 24 of 32 shots from the field in his final two games.
What was most memorable about this basketball season? The emotion of coaches brought out by kids.
There was Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier, in tears, embracing daughter Ashley after she won her own state championship by leading Sierra Canyon to the Open Division girls’ state crown.
“To see my daughter win a championship is surreal,” Chevalier said.
There was Los Angeles Roybal coach Danny O’Fallon, battling Stage 4 intestinal cancer, collapsing to the court after his team won the City Section Division III championship and seeing players comfort him with a group hug.
There was Fairfax coach Steve Baik being able to deliver a promise to his seniors of helping them win a City Open Division championship when they could have left after the departure of former coach Harvey Kitani.
It was a season of long goodbyes from players who proved you could be loyal to your community and still get a college scholarship in the era of endless transfers.
Jaime Jaquez of Camarillo, Onyeka Okongwu of Chino Hills, Drake London of Moorpark, Jake Kyman and Max Agbonkpolo of Santa Margarita, Jarod Lucas of Hacienda Heights Los Altos, Gianni Hunt of Torrance Bishop Montgomery, Ethan Anderson of Fairfax, Isaiah Mobley of Temecula Rancho Christian, Sedrick Altman of Ontario Colony and Charisma Osborne of Windward will be cheered, admired and forever remembered as four-year hometown heroes. They set more than a standard for excellence. They showed character counts.
There are lots of fantastic seniors who will be hard to replace, but Southern California is full of rising young players, starting with Sierra Canyon’s Bailey, who just turned 15. He was only a freshman this season and showed plenty of potential for greatness.
“It was the best year of my life,” Bailey said.
Juniors Evan Mobley of Rancho Christian and Joshua Christopher of Lakewood Mayfair are considered among the best in the nation for next season.