Looking back at the top story lines in high school sports in Southern California during the last decade, nothing can surpass the attention on and off the court achieved by the 35-0 Chino Hills basketball team of 2015-16.
The Ball brothers — Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo — were selling out gyms and motivating fans to stand in line for hours. Their father, LaVar, was beginning to talk and attract national attention with his bold predictions. The team became a YouTube sensation with its entertaining dunks, steals and long-range shots.
Chino Hills’ coach, Steve Baik, said: “It was such a dream season and to do it at a public school with neighborhood kids was a storybook season. That year was kind of crazy but everything was positive. LaVar and the parents weren’t negative in any aspect because we were all winning.”
After the Ball brothers departed Chino Hills, Onyeka Okongwu led the Huskies to two Division 1 state titles.
In football, the decade featured two dominant teams — Bellflower St. John Bosco (16-0) in 2013 and Santa Ana Mater Dei (15-0) in 2017. They were led by All-American quarterbacks Josh Rosen and JT Daniels, respectively. The debate will always be: Which team was better?
Mater Dei’s group of receivers and offensive linemen were second to none. St. John Bosco had talent throughout its roster, from running back Sean McGrew to defensive back Jaleel Wadood.
Coach Harry Welch put himself in Hall of Fame territory, guiding his third football team to a Southern Section championship, winning Division 1 with Santa Margarita in 2011.
Corona Centennial and coach Matt Logan established themselves as the public school in football that could compete against the top private schools at the highest level, winning Division 1 titles in 2014 and 2016.
The spring of 2016 belonged to Michael Norman of Vista Murrieta. His future USC sprint coach, Olympic champion Quincy Watts, said: “He’s like the Kobe Bryant of track and field. He’s a kid who loves his sport.”
Norman ran the fastest times in the 200 and 400 while making his white headband a familiar fashion accessory. Next summer, he’ll be trying to win his first gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
In 2017 we saw the most memorable of basketball events as a sold-out crowd at Galen Center was treated to a Division 1 semifinal doubleheader matching Chino Hills against Santa Ana Mater Dei and Torrance Bishop Montgomery against Chatsworth Sierra Canyon. The games featured future NBA players Marvin Bagley III and Bol Bol.
This decade marked the rise of Sierra Canyon in boys’ basketball, with the Trailblazers winning Open Division state titles in 2018 and 2019. The best thing coach Andre Chevalier proved was he could motivate a group of all-star players to share the ball in the name of winning a championship.
Three players stood out in basketball — Allen Crabbe of Los Angeles Price, Lonzo Ball of Chino Hills and Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei. Each led their teams to state championships and became NBA first-round draft picks.
In girls’ basketball, Jordin Canada arrived as a freshman point guard at L.A. Windward in 2010 and soon reached elite status. The McDonald’s All-American led Windward to three Southern Section titles and one state title before moving on to UCLA and the WNBA.
Katie Lou Samuelson of Mater Dei began a record-breaking three-year run in 2013, leading the Monarchs to a 30-2 record. As a junior, she was the state player of the year. As a senior, the Monarchs went 31-3 and she averaged 24.6 points before leaving for Connecticut and the WNBA.
In 2014, Marissa Williams of Palisades won her third consecutive City Section cross-country title and set a City Section course record in 16:33.11 at Pierce College. She moved on to Cal.
In 2019, Nico Young of Newbury Park ran the fastest three-mile time in U.S. cross-country history in 13:39.70 on the SilverLakes course in Norco. He’d go on to win Southern Section, state and national individual titles.
Lake Balboa Birmingham won three consecutive City Section baseball championships during the decade.
In 2012, three future first-round draft picks and major-league pitchers were teammates at Studio City Harvard-Westlake — Jack Flaherty, Lucas Giolito and Max Fried.
In 2017, the top two players taken in the amateur baseball draft were from Southern California — Royce Lewis of San Juan Capistrano JSerra and Hunter Greene of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.
This last year, Baik became the first basketball coach to win championships at the highest level in the Southern Section and City Section when Fairfax won the City Open Division title. Then he walked away to start a nonprofit basketball academy.
“I just want to see more quality opportunities for youth to get better in basketball and learn life skills,” he said.
Something tells me Baik will be back coaching in the next decade, and there will be plenty more standout athletes. And who isn’t excited about Summer Olympic Games coming to Los Angeles in 2028?