It's the final weekend of the high school basketball season. Twenty-four boys and girls teams have made it to the CIF state championships to be held Friday and Saturday at Sacramento's new Golden 1 Center, which has a seating capacity of 19,000.
It's going to be a challenging weekend for teenagers trying to connect from long range in an arena setting, but their dreams, hopes and resiliency should make for lots of drama and excitement.
"When you get to this game, hopefully all the preparation has taken place and the right mental attitude is there," said Rolling Hills Prep Coach Harvey Kitani, who won two state Division I titles while coaching at Fairfax and is now trying to win a Division V championship.
"You have to play good defense. That will cause good transition basketball, where you're going to get some easy shots. You make some easy shots and good things happen."
The best team coming in is Torrance Bishop Montgomery (30-2), which faces Roseville Woodcreek (32-2) in Saturday's Open Division boys final. What the Knights have already accomplished — beating nationally ranked Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, Chino Hills and Santa Ana Mater Dei twice — speaks for itself. It's a team with special chemistry and special players.
Ethan Thompson has made himself the MVP of Southern California basketball. Junior guard David Singleton has become Mr. Clutch in the fourth quarter. Jordan Schakel keeps delivering threes when needed. Fletcher Tynen, who is 6 feet 6, has guarded 6-10 and 7-2 players in recent games.
Then there's sophomore point guard Gianni Hunt.
"He's going to be a star," Coach Doug Mitchell said.
Hunt has sacrificed all season, saving his potential offensive wizardry for next season while giving momentary peeks into what he's capable of unleashing.
"I just do whatever is going to help the team win," he said. "I have a lot more to show."
In Division I, Eastvale Roosevelt has a magnificent one-two duo in guard Jemarl Baker and forward Matt Mitchell. Baker signed with California. Mitchell signed with Cal State Fullerton.
In Division II, fans in Northern California will get their first look at future Stanford guard KZ Okpala of Anaheim Esperanza, and just wait for the oohs and ahhs. He's averaging 30 points and 10 rebounds. He can dunk, shoot threes, block shots and dribble like the 6-8 point guard he is.
The top player from Northern California is Woodcreek's 6-11 junior Jordan Brown, who had 31 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks last week in a regional final. He's athletic, unselfish and capable of being a dominant force inside. He'll be another center Bishop Montgomery must deal with.
In the girls' Division III final, beware of Moraga Campolindo junior Haley Van Dyke, who scored 46 points and had 20 rebounds in the regional final. And watch out in Division I for Los Angeles Windward sophomore Charisma Osborne, coming off a 35-point effort in the regional final.
Kitani, who's very superstitious and will be repeating things in Sacramento that helped him win two earlier state titles ("Bring me a lemonade"), said, "Players who are passionate, this event will bring out the best in them."
The games will be televised by Spectrum.