What a year we Southern California basketball hoop heads were privileged to witness.
From the BattleZONE at Corona Centennial to the Fairfax State Preview and the Nike Extravaganza (and everything in between), there were tons of great tournaments, games and players to watch throughout the region over the last five months.
But there was one team which captured all of the headlines, fanfare and adulation throughout the season.
That team, of course, was undefeated Chino Hills.
The “Mythical National Champion” Huskies went 35-0 while roving the country, and in that process winning a CIF Southern Section Open Division title over Chatsworth Sierra Canyon and followed that up with a CIF State Open Division championship over Concord De La Salle.
Lonzo Ball silenced his critics in a powerful way. The 6-foot-5 senior point guard averaged (per MaxPreps) just short of a triple-double, recording 23.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game. He added 4.7 steals and two blocks a game to solidify his place as the best point guard in the country.
Junior LiAngelo Ball (27.4 points per game) and freshman LaMelo Ball (16.4 points per game) made sure they let people know that Lonzo wasn’t the only Ball brother who had game.
Then you have junior small forward Elizjah Scott (15.9 points, 8.6 rebounds) and freshman center Onyeka Okongwu (8.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.1 blocks) who showed that Chino Hills was much more than the Ball brothers.
We can't forget about the other high school in Chino Hills, Ayala, which also had quite the season.
The Bulldogs - led by Cal State Fullerton-bound Austen Awosika and unsigned senior John Edgar - went 34-4 on the year, including a CIF-SS Division 2AA title and a run to the CIF State Division III championship game where they lost to Manteca.
USC-bound guard De’Anthony Melton and stud-sophomore Brandon Williams led Encino Crespi to its second consecutive state championship.
Ethan Thompson, David Singleton and Jordan Schakel paced Torrance Bishop Montgomery to a 28-3 record and a CIF State Open Division Regional Final appearance. The Knights just couldn’t get over that Chino Hills hump.
Riverside North won a CIF-SS Division 1AA title behind the senior trio of Dikymbe Martin, Christian Gray and Deshaun Highler.
Long Beach Poly battled through a litany of injuries to reach the CIF-SS Division 1AA title game and the Division II state title game. Head coach Shelton Diggs and junior forward Zafir Williams deserve a lot of credit for keeping the Jackrabbits afloat in the absences of Myles Johnson and Drew Buggs.
And do we even need to describe the heart and toughness that Buggs displayed this year? The dude played - and played well - on a torn ACL throughout the postseason.
Sophomore’s Riley Battin and Wes Slajchert helped navigate Oak Park to the CIF-SS Division 3AA title.
Jonah Mathews put Santa Monica on his back en route to a CIF-SS Division 1A championship.
And what about Sierra Canyon? The Trailblazers put the tumult aside brought on by the mid-season addition of Marvin Bagely III, which resulted in the transfer of Ira Lee, to make a run to the CIF-SS Open Division title game.
Let us also pay respect to the San Diego teams which put a stamp on this season, either.
T.J. Leaf and Foothills Christian beat Mater Dei at home in the first round of the CIF State Open Division. That was just the fourth time the Monarchs were beaten inside Meurelo Athletic Center.
Brandon McCoy and seventh-seeded Cathedral Catholic took out two-seed Sierra Canyon in the first round of the State Open. McCoy picked up three fouls in the first three minutes of that game, but finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds in the win.
Most of the players mentioned above are also listed below in the HoopsByUgland All-SoCal Teams, which were compiled in a way that each five-man unit would be able to take the floor in a regular high school basketball game. No one team will have five guards or five big men.
But who is the player of the year, you ask? I’m sure there was absolutely zero question about the answer to that.
HoopsByUgland Player of the Year: Lonzo Ball, Sr., Chino Hills
HoopsByUgland Co-Coaches of the Year: Steve Baik, Chino Hills; Eddie Courtemarche, Los Alamitos
HoopsByUgland All SoCal Teams (five-man units I would put together based on what I saw this season)
G Lonzo Ball, Sr., Chino Hills
G De’Anthony Melton, Sr., Encino Crespi
G/F LiAngelo Ball, Jr., Chino Hills
F T.J. Leaf, Sr., El Cajon Foothills Christian
C Brandon McCoy, Jr., San Diego Cathedral Catholic
G Eyassu Worku, Sr., Los Alamitos
G Jonah Mathews, Sr., Santa Monica
G Ethan Thompson, Jr., Torrance Bishop Montgomery
F Elizjah Scott, Jr., Chino Hills
C Onyeka Okongwu, Fr., Chino Hills
G David Singleton, Soph., Torrance Bishop Montgomery
G Jemarl Baker, Jr., Eastvale Roosevelt
G Bryce Peters, Sr., La Verne Damien
F Keith Fisher, Sr., L.A. Westchester
F Zafir Williams, Jr., Long Beach Poly
G Devearl Ramsey, Sr., Chatsworth Sierra Canyon
G Brandon Williams, Soph., Encino Crespi
G LaMelo Ball, Fr., Chino Hills
F Riley Battin, Soph., Oak Park
C Ike Anigbogu, Sr., Corona Centennial
G Remy Martin, Jr., Chatsworth Sierra Canyon
G Devante Doutrive, Jr., Lake Balboa Birmingham
G/F Kezie Okpala, Jr., Anaheim Esperanza
F Matt Mitchell, Jr., Eastvale Roosevelt
F Cody Riley, Jr., Chatsworth Sierra Canyon
G Leland Green, Sr., Redondo Union
G Shacquille Dawkins, Sr., Mission Hills Alemany
G Dikymbe Martin, Sr., Riverside North
G/F Austen Awosika, Sr., Chino Hills Ayala
C Tommy Rutherford, Sr., El Cajon Grossmont
Honorable Mention: G Drew Buggs, Sr., Long Beach Poly G Eric Monroe, Sr., San Diego St. Augustine; G Evan Leonard, Sr., Cerritos; G Deshay Gipson, Jr., Palmdale Highland; G Justin Moore, Sr., San Diego Mission Bay; F Jalen Hill, Jr., Corona Centennial; G Jordan Griffin, Sr., Corona Centennial; G Spencer Freedman, Soph., Santa Ana Mater Dei; G Taurus Samuels, Soph., Vista; G Johnny McWilliams, Sr., San Marcos; F KaVaughn Scott, Sr., Orange Lutheran; C Roman Silva, Sr., Diamond Ranch; F Jordan Schakel, Jr., Bishop Montgomery; F Isaiah White, Sr., La Verne Damien; G Terrell Gomez, Sr., Inglewood; F Javonntie Jackson, Sr., Compton; F Raysean Scott, Sr., Compton; F Taeshon Cherry, Soph., San Diego St. Augustine; F Miles Norris, Soph., Chula Vista Mater Dei; G Oscar Lopez, Fr., Lynwood; F Aziz Seck, Sr., Carlsbad Army-Navy Academy; F Evan Battey, Jr., Villa Park; F M.J. Cage, Santa Ana Mater Dei; F John Edgar, Sr., Chino Hills Ayala; G Adam Seiko, Jr., Chatsworth Sierra Canyon; G Deschon Winston, Jr., Lake Balboa Birmingham; G/F Donald Gipson, Sr., L.A. Fairfax; G Christian Juzang, Sr., Viewpoint; G Cassius Stanley, Fr., Studio City Harvard-Westlake; G Wolfgang Novogratz, Sr., Studio City Harvard-Westlake; G Wes Slajchert, Soph., Oak Park; G Jacob Davison, Sr., Montebello Cantwell-Sacred Heart; G Ryan Murhpy, Sr., Calabasas; G Miles Oliver, Jr., Etiwanda