It’s only Week 4 of a five-month high school basketball season, and everyone knows that if you want to gauge where you stand, playing No. 1-ranked Chatsworth Sierra Canyon offers the ideal test.
That’s why Corona Centennial coach Josh Giles decided to have the Huskies play the unbeaten Trailblazers on a school night despite a two-hour drive to the San Fernando Valley.
“When people ask me, ‘Do you want to play?’ my answer is almost always, ‘Yes,’ he said. “If you want to be a great team and great player, you have to play against other great players and great teams.”
Centennial trailed by four points at halftime Tuesday night before falling 83-67 at Sierra Canyon. The Trailblazers’ dynamic trio of Cassius Stanley, Scotty Pippen Jr. and KJ Martin unleashed a fury of baskets and dunks in the second half.
Stanley finished with 24 points, Pippen with 21 and Martin with 17. Foul trouble cost the Huskies (5-2), with Jaylen Clark picking up three fouls in the first quarter. DJ Davis had 22 points and Clark 16. Paris Dawson and Allan McBride each had 11 points.
Centennial already has played the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in Southern California. The Huskies lost to No. 2 Rancho Christian 56-54 on Saturday night. They have victories over No. 10 Etiwanda, No. 12 Riverside Notre Dame and No. 17 Moreno Valley Rancho Verde.
“I think we can play with either one if we can stay out of foul trouble,” Giles said.
Sierra Canyon (7-0) is preparing for a trip to Hawaii and a possible matchup against unbeaten Westchester. Stanley took charge in the third quarter, scoring 13 points.
“I was impressed with everything he did,” coach Andre Chevalier said of the senior considering UCLA, Oregon and Kansas as his college choice. “He didn’t come out of the game.”
If there’s one player who has made a jump in ability, it’s Pippen. The guard came on strong last season to help the Trailblazers win the state Open Division championship, but has gained strength. He’s now finishing drives. He had two three-point plays and ended the night with a dunk.
“Every day I’m working on my athleticism and getting stronger,” Pippen said.
Said Giles: “He’s really good. He controls the floor. He doesn’t make bad decisions. He’s gotten a lot better. He’s got weapons around him and does a great job creating shots for them. He’s a really good player. He’s got the pedigree, right?”
Sierra Canyon is playing without Terren Frank, who suffered a knee injury against Hollywood. His availability is uncertain. The Trailblazers are getting a defensive boost from 7-footer Christian Koloko, an Arizona commit whose long arms can make life difficult for opponents inside. And freshman Amari Bailey is showing lots of promise coming off the bench.
This month, teams in Southern California will pick up players who have had to sit out the first part of the season after transferring without moving. But it remains to be seen whether there’s any team that’s going to knock off the Trailblazers.