SACRAMENTO — An estimated 5,000 fans showed up at the Golden 1 Center on Saturday night to support Sheldon in the CIF Open Division Championship, with a line for tickets that wrapped around the arena well after tip-off, but those fans had little to cheer about as Sierra Canyon throttled the Huskies, 76-52.
“We definitely wanted to take control early,” Sierra Canyon head coach Andre Chevalier said. “We’ve been in so many big games and arenas over the last two years that these guys are oblivious to the crowd. These guys are celebrities in their own right, so they’re used to the cameras, lights and people asking for autographs.”
The loudest reaction the crowd gave was a series of oohs and ahs on a monster dunk by Trailblazers freshman Amari Bailey, who scored nine off the bench. He threw down a one-handed rip over Brennen Newsom, and with a foul called on the play amidst a heavy collision, his free throw after shaking himself off from the play gave Sierra Canyon (32-3) a 26-13 lead.
“I didn’t know I had made the dunk,” he said. Bailey also delivered the exclamation point, throwing a ball off the backboard and then finishing with a two-hand flush with 1:13 left for the last of his team’s 13 dunks.
Perhaps the most amazing part was that the Trailblazers didn’t even play one of their best games. They committed 20 turnovers, giving the ball away five times within the first 2:04. Sheldon (24-11) could hardly capitalize, needing three minutes to score at all, and the Huskies would trail for the entire night.
“I thought we’d have a good shot at beating them with 20 turnovers,” Sheldon head coach Joey Rollings said.
The one player for Sheldon to put up impressive results was Marcus Bagley, who scored 17 on the court that his brother calls home. Having spent his freshman year at Sierra Canyon, Bagley moved to Sacramento and enrolled at Sheldon when his brother, Marvin, was drafted by the Kings. The only other member of the Huskies to reach double-figures was Darren Tobias, who finished with 12 off the bench.
“We just don’t have the type of experience that those L.A. schools have,” Rollings said. “They’re playing this type of competition night in and night out.”
The Huskies shot just 32.8% for the game, including 3-for-18 on 3-pointers, missing their first six from beyond the arc and never finding their stroke while getting outrebounded 50-25. Bagley’s teammates are certainly quite talented, they just couldn’t compare to what Sierra Canyon had on the court. Kenyon Martin Jr. led all scorers with 23 and picked up 12 rebounds for a double-double, Cassius Stanley scored 20 and Terren Frank added 13. The Trailblazers were so dominant that they won by 24 despite getting just six points from Vanderbilt commit Scotty Pippen Jr. and three from seven-footer Christian Koloko, who is committed to Arizona.
“The Open Division is a beast,” Chevalier said. “If you win the Open Division, you’re the true champion of California and one of the best teams in the country.”
Facing such a great opponent was no consolation for Sheldon, falling to the Trailblazers in the Open Division Championship for a second year in a row and dropping to 0-3 overall in state championship games.
“As always, you can look back and think you could have done this or that,” said Kaito Williams, who was held to three points, all on free throws.
It would be hard for Sierra Canyon to look back with any regrets on what was a remarkable night for the entire school. Stanley was quick to mention that the girls had also won the Open Division title, with Chevalier’s daughter scoring a game-high 20 points.
“Don’t ask me about my daughter, or I’ll start crying,” he said. “For her to win and then for us to win is a dream come true for my family. It’s surreal.”