Desperate times call for desperate measures, and No. 1-seeded Chatsworth Sierra Canyon was facing elimination Tuesday night. Down by 11 points with less than three minutes left to Etiwanda in the Open Division regional basketball final at a sold-out Cal State Northridge Matadome, the Trailblazers unleashed an intense full-court press. The result was stunning.
Ziaire Williams made a 16-foot shot from the left side of the free-throw line as the buzzer sounded, completing a 13-0 surge and giving Sierra Canyon a 63-61 victory as fans and teammates stormed the court.
“Oh man, we just have so much heart,” Williams said. “We just kept fighting. Our coaches kept telling us, ‘Keep going, keep going.’ Our bench players came in and got some big steals.”
Ziaire Williams wins it for Sierra Canyon. 63-61. pic.twitter.com/1FZ1vl6W3g— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) March 11, 2020
Said Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier: “It’s been a long season, and for them to dig in like that and do this was amazing.”
Etiwanda (30-4) appeared to have the Trailblazers (30-4) on the ropes. Leading 61-50, the Eagles had taken charge in the second half behind Tyree Campbell, who scored 19 points, and Brantly Stevenson, who scored 15 points. But Sierra Canyon went into desperation mode over the final 2:43.
“We just fell apart against their press,” Etiwanda coach Dave Kleckner said. “It was a very physical, aggressive press. We just didn’t handle it well.”
When Brandon Boston made a three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:28 left, it was 61-61. Sierra Canyon got the ball back with 17.3 seconds left. Williams got the ball in the backcourt. Etiwanda still had fouls to give but elected to let Jahmai Mashack try to guard the 6-foot-7 Williams. He went right, briefly lost the ball, then dribbled left and made the winning shot. Amari Bailey embraced him as he fell away. Then others joined in the celebration.
“I was mentally focused,” said Williams, who finished with 17 points. His fellow McDonald’s All-American, Brandon Boston, led Sierra Canyon with 26 points.
For Etiwanda, it was a stunning ending for a team that lost three times to Sierra Canyon and gave the Trailblazers three of their toughest games all season.
Sierra Canyon advances to play the winner of Sacramento Sheldon-Oakland Bishop O’Dowd for the state Open Division championship Saturday at 8 p.m. at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
As a growing number of sporting events ban fans from attending competitions or cancel events entirely because of coronavirus safety concerns, it remains to be seen what will happen this weekend for the state championships scheduled for Friday and Saturday. As of Tuesday night, a CIF spokeswoman said in an email, “There are no changes at this time to our current format. We’ll keep everyone updated as the days progress if there are any changes.”
In Division I, Los Angeles Ribet defeated Altadena Renaissance 45-31. Snookey Wigington scored 15 points. In Division II, La Cañada St. Francis defeated Eastvale Roosevelt 53-44. Andre Henry scored 17 points.
In the Open Division regional girls’ final, the Gatorade state player of the year, Te-Hina Paopao, was unstoppable. She scored 30 points to lead La Jolla Country Day past Los Angeles Windward 59-48. Freshman Juju Watkins scored 15 points for Windward.
In Division II, City Section Open Division champion Palisades advanced to Saturday’s state championship with a 51-36 win over Santa Monica. Sammie Arnold and Demonnie Lagway each scored 12 points.