Capsules and predictions for all 12 CIF-SS boys basketball championship games
The storylines surrounding the 12 CIF-SS boys basketball championship games on tap Friday and Saturday are aplenty. The most intriguing of those storylines comes by way of the Open Division, of course. So, is there’s any chance Chatsworth Sierra Canyon can put the breaks on high-octane Chino Hills? Who knows; but it should be fun to watch. If any of my (small) readership remembers back to the Ron Massey Memorial Fall League in September at Long Beach Jordan high school, they will recall one of the more intense games that meant nothing toward record in recent memory. Sierra Canyon and Chino Hills were both at full strength for that contest with the Huskies pulling out a 3-point victory thanks to late-game heroics from each of the Ball Brothers. The Trailblazers led by as many as 13 points in the second half that afternoon, but faltered down the stretch with turnovers and a few shots that rattled in and out. It’s unclear how much of that game we can take and translate into the rematch of sorts this Saturday because the two squads are quite a bit different than they were back then. Sierra Canyon no longer has 6-foot-7 forward Ira Lee who left the school for Napa Prolific Prep once the top player in the class of 2018, Marvin Bagley III, checked into S.C. The Trailblazers have yet to reap the benefits of having the talented 6-foot-11 forward on its roster, though, as CIF ruled Bagley ineligible for this season, and some of next season, after it deemed his transfer to be athletically motivated. Sierra Canyon has done just fine without Lee and Bagley, though, thanks its handful of Division 1 college prospects. Nevada-bound point guard Devearl Ramsey, junior guard Remy Martin, junior forward Cody Riley, juniors Terrance McBride and Adam Seiko and sophomore Michael Feinberg all have the ability to play at the next level and are fantastic high school players in their own right.
The performance of explosive junior guard Remy Martin is pivotal for Sierra Canyon to upset Chino Hills.
The biggest difference with Chino Hills from September to now is the improvement of junior forward Elizjah Scott and the arrival of freshman center Onyeka Okongwu. Scott’s ability to crash the offensive and defensive glass is nothing short of spectacular. Couple that with his budding 3-point shooting prowess and you have a player who is very difficult to defend. Okongwu has blue-chip recruit written all over him. At 6-feet-9, the freshman has impeccable timing as a shot blocker, possesses a great set of hands, runs the floor with purpose and can finish at the rim with both hands, finesse and authority. Oh yea, he can also knock down a pick-and-pop 15-footer. Everybody is aware of what the Ball Brothers bring to the table: LiAngelo can drain deep 3-pointers, same with LaMelo and Lonzo can do everything on the floor while stoic yet at the same time electrifying. My prediction is that Chino Hills takes home the Open Division crown over Sierra Canyon and below you can find capsules of every CIF-SS boys basketball championship game with a coinciding prediction. Open Division Who: Chino Hills (30-0) vs. Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (26-3) When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m. Where: Honda Center How they got here: Chino Hills beat Santa Margarita, Inglewood and Santa Ana Mater Dei by an average of 38.6 points per game to reach the Open Division title game. Sierra Canyon beat Los Alamitos, Redondo Union and Torrance Bishop Montgomery to advance to the Open Division finals. How Chino Hills wins: The Huskies have beat every team on its national schedule, so what’s there to worry about? Well, much like Chino Hills, Sierra Canyon is a fast-paced team which thrives in transition. The Trailblazers also have the talent and athletes to keep up with the pace and scoring prowess the Huskies possess, as evidenced by a close game between the two at the Ron Massey Memorial Fall League in September. If Lonzo Ball, Elizjah Scott and Onyeka Okongwu stay out of foul trouble, Chino Hills should be just fine. How Sierra Canyon wins: The Trailblazers must take care of the basketball. Chino Hills full-court pressure defense is predicated on turning turnovers into points. If Sierra Canyon can limit mistakes and have an efficient night on the offensive end, I see this game coming down to the wire. Winner: Chino Hills Division 1AA Who: Long Beach Poly (20-9) vs. Riverside J.W. North (26-4) When: Saturday, 2 p.m. Where: Honda Center How they got here: The Jackrabbits defeated L.A. Windward, Long Beach Millikan and Moreno Valley Rancho Verde to get to Honda Center. The Huskies beat Rancho Cucamonga, Downey and Bellflower St. John Bosco to reach the 1AA title game. How Long Beach Poly wins: Poly forward Zafir Williams has been pouring in big game after big game this season and the Jackrabbits could use another one from him. North is a disciplined, defense-oriented team much like Poly, so an early dose of Williams will set the tone. The impact of Hawaii-bound guard Drew Buggs will also be vital to a Poly win. Buggs was sidelined with a knee injury for most of the season, but returned just before the playoffs began.
Long Beach Poly's Zafir Williams has been turning in huge performances all season long.
How J.W. North wins: The Huskies put together a complete effort in their 78-51 demolishing of Bosco in the semifinals last Friday and will need a similar performance to beat Poly. I assume Christian Gray will be defending Poly’s Williams and that will be a crucial head-to-head match-up and key component for a North win. Winner: Long Beach Poly (in a nut-cutter) Division 1A Who: Santa Monica (28-2) vs. Temecula Valley (28-4) When: Saturday, 10 a.m. Where: Honda Center How they got here: The Vikings beat Long Beach Cabrillo, Moreno Valley Valley View, Palmdale Highland and Burbank Burroughs to advance to the 1A championship. Temecula Valley defeated Fullerton Troy, Oxnard, Santa Ana Foothill and Camarillo to reach Honda Center. How Santa Monica wins: USC-bound shooting guard Jonah Mathews has been the catalyst for Santa Monica all season long and the Vikings will need one of his signature scoring outbursts Saturday. Temecula Valley is holding its opponents under 60 points per game this season, so any help Mathews can get from sophomore Rip Economou and junior Daniel Schreier would be beneficial. How Temecula Valley wins: Stop Jonah Mathews. While that’s easier said than done, that’s what the Golden Bears need to do in order to earn those rings. Winner: Santa Monica Division 2AA Who: Chino Hills Ayala (29-3) vs. Huntington Beach Edison (24-7) When: Saturday, 8:30 p.m. Where: Honda Center How they got here: The Bulldogs advanced to the 2AA title game with wins over Redlands, Canyon Country Canyon, Perris and L.A. Loyola. The Chargers beat Santa Ana Segerstrom, Arroyo Grande, Claremont and Fontana Kaiser. How Ayala wins: Some thought Ayala was a sure-fire Open Division team and have proved that, in a way, by blowing through its 2AA opponents by an average of 19 points per game. The Bulldogs are a well-rounded bunch - led by Cal State Fullerton-bound wing Austen Awosika and underrated forward John Edgar - and should be OK by in sticking with what has got them to this point. How Edison wins: The Chargers, much like the last few seasons, are a guard-heavy team which relies heavily on perimeter shooting. David Atencio, Randall Walker and Nate Matthews need to be hitting 3’s at a high clip to stay in this one. Winner: Ayala Division 2A Who: Lynwood (23-5) vs. Santa Barbara (30-1) When: Saturday, noon Where: Honda Center How they got here: The Knights breezed through Riverside Ramona, Fullerton Sunny Hills and Whittier before dispatching Newhall Hart in the semifinals. The Dons had a similar experience in their road to the 2A finals, blowing out Fullerton, Grand Terrace and Lawndale before taking down La Mirada by five in the semis. How Lynwood wins: The Knights are an underclassmen-laden squad few of whom have been on a stage quite like the Honda Center and the CIF Finals. Lynwood spreads the wealth as far as scoring goes - Jamal Bogan, Joe Tate, Keith Carlton and Denzel Williams can all catch fire and fill it up. I think the key to this game is jack-of-all-trades freshman Oscar Lopez. The 6-foot-3 guard can play and defend four positions due to his skill set and basketball IQ.
Oscar Lopez leads Lynwood's youth movement which earned the Knights a championship apperance.
How Santa Barbara wins: If the Dons are able to get hot from the perimeter, like they have plenty of times this season, Lynwood could be in for a long afternoon. Bolden Brace - a 6-foot-6 sharpshooter- is the go-to guy for Santa Barbara, but Ben Clay, Nick Busch and Ben Brown are all shooters capable of heating up in a hurry. Winner: Santa Barbara Division 3AA Who: Oak Park vs. La Verne Bonita When: Saturday, 4 p.m. Where: Honda Center How they got here: Oak Park defeated Santa Maria Righetti, Riverside Arlington, L.A. Cathedral and Buena Park to reach the 3AA final. Bonita went through Hesperia Sultana, Pasadena, Palm Desert and Calabasas. How Oak Park wins: Just stick with what’s worked all season. Sophomore forward Riley Battin is a dominant post presence averaging 23.5 points and 14.2 rebounds per game, while fellow sophomore Wes Slajchert pitches in 11.4 points and six assists a game. Seniors Trent Hall and Keyan Bazargan figure to be contributors, as well. How Bonita wins: The Bearcats need to try and limit the touches of Oak Park’s Battin. Sag on the post-entry passer, front the post with plenty of weak-side help and double hard on every catch. Problem is, Battin is a great passer out of double teams. I do expect high-scoring junior guard Joe Quintana to have a big game for Bonita. Winner: Oak Park Division 3A Who: West Hills Chaminade (15-15) vs. Pomona Diamond Ranch (23-8) When: Friday, 8:30 p.m. Where: Azusa Pacific University How they got here: Chaminade defeated San Bernardino, Yorba Linda, Gabrielino and top-seeded Rancho Mirage to reach the 3A title game. How Chaminade wins: The Eagles ride a wave of momentum into Friday’s championship game. After going 1-11 in Mission League play, Chaminade was primed for a deep playoff run behind senior guard Josh Hauser. A big performance from Hauser will be crucial for the Eagles. He’s averaging 16.4 points per game on the season. The match-up of big men will be another critical factor in this game. Six-foot-11 Chaminade center Makur Maker will have his hands full with Diamond Ranch seven-footer Roman Silva. How Diamond Ranch wins: The Panthers will look to control the tempo and get the ball into Roman Silva early and often. Silva is putting up gaudy averages of 18.5 points and 10.3 rebounds a game this year, but Chaminade has the size to slow him down with Makur Maker. The performance Ryan Haywood, a 6-foot-3 guard pouring in 15.1 points per game this year, will another key factor if Diamond Ranch pulls out a win. Winner: Diamond Ranch Division 4AA Who: Gardena Serra (15-14) vs. Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (15-12) When: Friday, 6:45 p.m. Where: Azusa Pacific University How they got here: Serra advanced to the 4AA title game with wins over Desert Hot Springs, Nipomo, San Juan Capistrano JSerra and San Gabriel Academy. Notre Dame defeated Lake Arrowhead Rim of the World, Lompoc, San Luis Obispo Mission Prep and Studio City Harvard-Westlake to reach Friday’s championship game. How Serra wins: The Cavaliers will be looking to out-run Notre Dame. Sophomore guard Kobe Smith has come on strong toward the end of the year, while junior Ray Knight, senior Jaylan Slaughter and junior Terence Mitchell are all solid two-way players. Limiting Notre Dame’s senior duo of Chibueze Jacobs and Jonathan Stretesky, who combine to score 31.8 of the Knights 44.3 points per game, will be pivotal. How Notre Dame wins: The above-mentioned Jacobs and Stretesky need to have big games in order for the Knights to pull out a victory. Another critical element of stopping Serra is to limit its fast break opportunities. The Cavaliers flourish in transition but are not as effective in half-court situations. Notre Dame needs to practice ball security, controlling tempo and taking high percentage shots. Winner: Serra Division 4A Who: Calabasas Viewpoint (25-6) vs. Pasadena La Salle (25-7) When: Friday, 6:45 p.m. Where: Godinez High, Santa Ana How they got here: Viewpoint beat L.A. Milken, Santa Fe Springs St. Paul, Cerritos Valley Christian and Irvine Crean Lutheran to advance to the 4A title game. La Salle beat Pasadena Muir, Compton Centennial, Inglewood Morningside and North Hollywood Campbell Hall. How Viewpoint wins: Just go ahead and let Harvard-bound guard Christian Juzang do his thing. The 6-foot-3 senior is scoring just under 20 points per game this season and shouldn’t have any issues matching that number Friday. Juzang has plenty of help, too, with seniors Aram Arslanian and Sayo Denloye each of whom score in double figures this season at 13.7 and 11 points per game, respectively. How La Salle wins: Stop the three Viewpoint players mentioned above, but Juzang specifically. La Salle coach Mike Lynch has been around the block a few (hundred) times, so surely he has a game plan in place to try and combat the Viewpoint senior scoring trio. It will be up to his players to execute it. Winner: Viewpoint Division 5AA Who: La Canada Flintridge Prep (21-4) vs. Santa Maria St. Joseph (28-3) When: Saturday, 4 p.m. Where: Godinez High How they got here: Flintridge Prep beat Lancaster Desert Christian, Apple Valley Academy for Academic Excellence, Yeshiva University of Los Angeles and San Juan Capistrano Saddleback Valley Christian to reach the 5AA championship game. St. Joseph advanced with wins over Burbank Providence, Ontario Christian, Palos Verdes Chadwick and Riverside Woodcrest Christian. How Flintridge Prep wins: I’m not really sure, to be honest. St. Joseph has beat its playoff opponents by a total score of 319-200, which is an average margin of victory of just under 30 points per game. I guess the Rebels need to key in on stopping Knights guard JoJo Walker who is St. Joseph’s leading scorer at 18.6 points per contest. How St. Joseph wins: This game feels like one where St. Joseph needs to just stay out of its own way. Based on who the Knights have beat and how they’ve beat them, they shouldn’t have any issue taking the 5AA crown, barring any unforeseen setback. Winner: St. Joseph Division 5A Who: Playa del Rey St. Bernard (15-15) vs. Temecula Rancho Christian (19-11) When: Saturday, 8 p.m. Where: Godinez High How they got here: St. Bernard beat Huntington Beach Brethren Christian, Cambria Coast Union, Garden Grove Orangewood Academy and Canyon Country Santa Clarita Christian to advance to the 5A title game. Rancho Christian defeated Canoga Park AGBU, Encino Holy Martyrs Armenian and San Juan Capistrano Capistrano Valley Christian to reach Saturday’s title game. How St. Bernard wins: Figure out a way to withstand Rancho Christian’s balanced offensive attack. The Eagles have four players who score in double figures, led by 6-foot-7 freshman Isaiah Mobley, who scores 16.1 points per contest to go along with 10.3 rebounds a game. Battle-tested seniors Robert Fuller, Julian Ross, Richard Mabry and Adam Amanuel were critical in the Vikings 5A title run last season and will need to be very good again this season.
Freshman forward Isaiah Mobley has added another dimension to the Rancho Christian attack. How Rancho Christian wins: The Eagles are looking to avenge a loss in last year’s 5A title game to the very same St. Bernard team and come in this season with a talented reinforcement in freshman Isaiah Mobley. Mobley’s ability to play inside-out, act as a primary ball-handler and aptness for passing gives Rancho Christian a dimension it was missing last season. Coach Ray Barefield will undoubtedly have his team prepped to exploit any St. Bernard weaknesses. Winner: Rancho Christian Division 6 Who: L.A. Price (17-13) vs. Altadena Renaissance Academy (20-10) When: Saturday, noon Where: Godinez High How they got here: Price advanced to the Division 6 title game with wins over Los Angeles Adventist, San Marino Southwestern Academy, Santa Barbara Providence and Lancaster McAuliffe. Renaissance Academy beat Valley Glen Summit View, Riverside Bethel Christian, Bermuda Dunes Desert Christian Academy and Lone Pine en route to its championship appearance. How Price wins: It’s simple: Continue to the quartet of Jace Bass, Cartrell Thompson, Freddy Reeves, Jr. and Bertrand Eyenga. How Renaissance Academy wins: Try and stop the four explosive Price scorers. Six-foot-6 forward Elie Ghomsi will be the last line of defense to try and accomplish that. Thomas Aruskevicus and Rene Santos can both heat up from long range. Winner: Price