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Amari Bailey and Sierra Canyon set tone in playoff-opening victory over Mater Dei

Amari Bailey and Sierra Canyon set tone in playoff-opening victory over Mater Dei
Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier coaching against Mater Dei on Friday. (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

It was just another Friday night at Chatsworth Sierra Canyon. Scottie Pippen, Kenyon Martin and Floyd Mayweather Jr. had front-row seats watching the Southern Section Open Division basketball playoff game between the Trailblazers and Santa Ana Mater Dei.

Mater Dei guard Devin Askew and Sierra Canyon guard Scotty Pippen Jr. might have gotten a little too inspired with Mayweather around.

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They almost came to blows in the third quarter, with double technicals called. Pippen pushed Askew, who had to be held back. Askew had a cut under his left eye from an accidental second-quarter incident. Mayweather could have volunteered to be the cornerman.

The star of the game was 14-year-old freshman Amari Bailey. He delivered a pair of crowd-pleasing dunks and finished with 15 points in Sierra Canyon”s 71-61 victory.

It’s the first time in the 37 years of coach Gary McKnight’s tenure at Mater Dei that the Monarchs lost an opening game of the playoffs.

KJ Martin finished with 21 points for the Trailblazers (25-3), who were able to protect the lead in the fourth quarter after blowing a nine-point lead last weekend against Temecula Rancho Christian.

“We played with more poise, made the free throws when we needed to and didn’t turn the ball over,” Bailey said.

Mater Dei (25-4) never went away quietly, continually fighting back and showing that it’s a young team with a bright future. Sophomore Wilhelm Breidenbach scored 18 points and had 10 rebounds, junior Ryan Evans scored 16 points and Askew, a sophomore, had 12 points and nine assists.

Mater Dei came out trying to run with the Trailblazers but fell behind 17-10 after the first quarter. The Monarchs slowed the tempo in the second quarter, started getting better shots and were down 30-24 at halftime.

The highlight was a Bailey drive down the middle that ended with a one-handed dunk.

Bailey came to Southern California from Chicago in the summer, originally enrolled at Westlake Village Oaks Christian before ending up at Sierra Canyon. At 6 feet 3, his jumping ability is exceptional.

His father is Aaron Bailey, a former receiver with the Indianapolis Colts.

“I’ve always had that God-given ability,” he said.

His improvement over the course of the season gives the Trailblazers another weapon during the playoffs.

“I have some great seniors who have shown me the ropes since I got here, showing me how to be a point guard and a leader,” he said.

In other pool-play games, Jaylen Clark scored 24 points in Corona Centennial’s 75-71 win over Bellflower St. John Bosco. Etiwanda defeated Moreno Valley Rancho Verde 59-49.

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On Tuesday, Sierra Canyon will play host to St. John Bosco and Centennial will play host to Mater Dei.

Floyd Mayweather watches Sierra Canyon win
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