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Column: No transfer of power when it comes to Bishop Montgomery’s title run

Bishop Montgomery's Jordan Schakel celebrates after making three-point shot against Sierra Canyon in the fourth quarter Friday night.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

In a time of 15,000 sports transfers a year in California, Torrance Bishop Montgomery’s basketball team has pulled off a minor miracle by reaching the championship game in perhaps the nation’s toughest high school division with a starting five made up of players who have never switched schools.

In other words, no transfers. That’s called insanity.

Bishop Montgomery’s opponent in Saturday’s Southern Section Open Division final at Honda Center, Mater Dei, just happened to pick up a 7-foot-1 center from Kansas in January. It has players in the starting five who found their way to Santa Ana via Hawaii, Santa Monica and China.

It’s all legal and part of the modern era of high school sports, when parents have options and opportunities. In fact, more than half a dozen players selected to the McDonald’s All-American Game have attended multiple schools.

That makes what Bishop Montgomery has accomplished so remarkable. It harks back to a different era, when neighborhood school trumped shoe contracts and players didn’t run away when told they had to start out as a reserve.

Seniors Ethan Thompson and Jordan Schakel, juniors David Singleton and Fletcher Tynen and sophomore Gianni Hunt have been at Bishop Montgomery since they were freshmen.

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It’s not only a tribute to their veteran coach, Doug Mitchell, but to their parents. They trusted the process and have been rewarded.

“It seems harder these days for people to wait their turn,” Mitchell said.

It’s also harder listening to a coach trying to be honest. Players like being told how great they are. They don’t like being told about shortcomings.

Mitchell isn’t shy about expressing himself.

“I think kids understand I’m trying to push them,” he said. “It’s been my approach for 28 years.”

Hunt, who probably could be averaging 20 points a game at another school, has sacrificed scoring to be the team’s unselfish point guard. Before a sold-out crowd on Friday night at Galen Center, he showed that when he needs to score, he can do it. His clutch threes helped take down No. 1 Chatsworth Sierra Canyon.

Knights defeat Sierra Canyon

Bishop Montgomery is a cohesive unit with great chemistry because they’ve stuck together.

Mater Dei is an all-star team with terrific talent, terrific players and an all-time winningest coach.

You’re free to take sides and debate which approach is best.

A soccer role model: Whenever Lucas Rosales of La Quinta steps on the soccer field, you’re inspired watching his skills, his athleticism, his focus.

He was born without the lower part of his left arm, but it has never influenced his decisions nor hindered his dreams.

“You can never worry what others think,” he said. “They don’t know you.”

Lucas Rosales of La Quinta (right) was born without a left arm.
(Jeremiah Soifer / For The Times)

He has a 3.8 grade-point average, has signed with Cal State Fullerton and scored 25 goals and had 10 assists for a La Quinta team that was eliminated in the semifinals of the Southern Section Division 2 playoffs on Saturday.

He has played soccer since he was 4. His family lives on a ranch in Thermal, and his father built a mini soccer field for him to develop his skills.

Those who see him for the first time, whether playing against him or watching him, must marvel about his perseverance and toughness. He’s really just doing what comes naturally.

“I was born without an arm and had to deal with it my whole life. It’s all good. It doesn’t bother me. I’m cool with it,” he said of the questions and stares.

Every once in a while, after games, he gets a sense of how he’s affecting others.

“Some players have come up to me, ‘I’m an inspiration to them,’” he said. “I appreciate that.”

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: latsondheimer


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