Sierra Canyon High School defeats Sheldon at Golden 1 Center in state basketball finals
Getting here has been a challenge in itself, the ascent to this stage a remarkable and historic regional feat.
It’s clearing the final hurdle that has confounded Sheldon High School and much of Northern California.
The Huskies stormed into their second successive CIF State Open Division championship Saturday night at Golden 1 Center with high hops to go with high hopes. The Open is the highest classification for boys basketball, but the barrier was again too steep, too formidable.
In facing the top-ranked team in the country, Sheldon was undone by a team boasting more size, more speed and more length. And more athletes, playmakers and general ferocity. It added up to a resounding 76-52 victory for Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, as the Trailblazers of Los Angeles County repeated in cementing their status as a national powerhouse.
This now gives Southern California a 6-1 advantage in the state Open finals in a gap that appears Grand Canyon-esque for the NorCal competition. Five of those winners are private schools — Mater Dei twice, Bishop Montgomery once and Sierra Canyon twice.
The Open was created in 2013, designed to put the heavies in one bracket. It’s for those who play a national schedule and have rosters dotted with national recruits. Woodcreek of Roseville lost in the Open final two years ago, and Sheldon had its season come to a crashing halt here last season.
“That’s a really good team and they outplayed us,” Sheldon coach Joey Rollings said of Sierra Canyon. “They’re No. 1 for a reason.”
What can his young team learn from all of this?
“Get taller, get stronger, keep at it,” Rollings said. “And shoot. We have to shoot better.”
The Huskies (28-7) were outnumbered in the big-name player category as Sierra Canyon (32-3) imposed its will with the sons of retired NBA players in Scotty Pippen Jr., KJ Martin and Terren Frank. Those three were flanked by a terrific supporting cast. Scottie Pippen and Kenyon Martin, former NBA All-Stars, had courtside seats to watch their sons.
Martin, a powerful 6-foot-7 forward, had 23 points and 12 rebounds for Sierra Canyon. Pippen, a guard, had six points and seven assists. Frank, a forward, had 13 points and seven rebounds.
Martin had five of his team’s 12 dunks. Some of those team dunks were things most high school kids just cannot do, including the behind-the-head whopper delivered by yet another 5-star recruit in 6-5 senior guard Cassius Stanley. He scored 20.
Sheldon’s lone national recruit is Marcus Bagley, a 6-6 junior who played his freshman season at Sierra Canyon. Bagley had 17 points and said he enjoyed the experience of going against familiar faces. He said he’s eager for another shot next season, as Sheldon returns a wealth of players.
“We have a lot of potential,” he said. “We’ll get in the gym to get to the next level.”
Sierra Canyon even had a freshman who wowed the crowd. Amari Bailey, a 6-4 guard, had nine points, including two thunderous first-half dunks and one in the fourth quarter that he tossed off the backboard.
He’s already given a verbal commitment to attend UCLA on scholarship. Pippen is committed to Vanderbilt, and Martin, Frank and Stanley are weighing options.
Sierra Canyon led 42-25 at the half, outshot Sheldon 52 percent to 30 percent and outrebounded the Huskies 25-8. It was 60-39 after three quarters.
For the game, Sierra Canyon shot 48 percent and Sheldon 33 percent. Sierra Canyon outrebounded Sheldon 50-25.
Sheldon will file this away as a sobering learning experience, but in time, the Huskies will appreciate what they did. They grew together with a national schedule that included a trek to Las Vegas.
They won the Sac-Joaquin Section for the fifth time this decade and won their third NorCal title in that stretch, all under Rollings. His only starting seniors are guards Justin Nguyen and Kaito Williams.
“We had an unbelievable season,” Nguyen said. “We made history.”