Player of the Year
ETHAN THOMPSON, BISHOP MONTGOMERY
By BLAKE ATWELL
After a 70-63 loss against Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd to open the 2017 season, few still believed in the Bishop Montgomery Knights' chances of contending for a state championship. Certainly not many could have predicted the Knights would take down five nationally ranked teams in route to CIF Southern Section Open Division and state titles.
However, Montgomery's 6-foot-4 senior star shooting guard and Oregon State signee Ethan Thompson was prepared to silence any doubters, for the entirety of the season.
As freshmen, Thompson, Jordan Schakel, and David Singleton captured a CIF Divisional State championship, a Bishop team led by Ethan's older brother Stephen Jr.
The trio stayed together through four years, putting everything together in 2017 for Montgomery. The dynamic trio led the Knights to a MaxPreps national top five finish. Thompson finished the year putting up 22.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per contest, leading his team through every crucial game.
After snatching a league championship, Montgomery's road in pursuit of a CIF Southern Section Open Division title began against Oak Park. The Knights prevailed 83-68, earning a matchup on the road with Santa Margarita.
Against Margarita, Thompson dominated from start to finish with 21 points and nailed every clutch shot Montgomery needed, escaping with a three-point victory. It became clear Thompson and Montgomery were dangerous, with Sierra Canyon awaiting next in the Southern Section semis at USC's Galen Center.
A double-header sellout of Bishop against Sierra Canyon and Mater Dei versus Chino Hills and the famed Ball brothers created an electric atmosphere, in which Thompson thrived. He put together yet another outstanding performance, scoring 21 points and leading Montgomery to a 70-63 win.
"This year, we have all five returning starters, so that just shows what experience does," Thompson said following his team's emphatic win.
The coherence of Montgomery's group began to put everyone on notice, with Thompson leading the charge.
For the CIF crown, Montgomery would square off against national powerhouse Mater Dei under the bright lights of the Honda Center. For those who still had any doubts about how good Thompson and his team could really be, they were ready to
prove their mettle. Mater Dei had just taken down heavily favored Chino Hills, and were picked by many to shut down Montgomery's run.
In an emphatic performance, Thompson produced several jaw-dropping plays and guided Bishop to a 70-55 championship victory. Scoring 23 points, he converted on a magnificent 360-degree dunk that punctuated his team's continued dominance.
Bishop Montgomery shocked two highly ranked national teams, had won CIF, and they weren't done yet.
To start their quest for a State championship in the Open Division, the Knights destroyed Torrey Pines in the first round. Next up was the LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball-led Chino Hills Huskies, who attracted national attention by going undefeated in 2016, easily winning state and CIF. 2017 brought even more attention to Chino and the Ball Brothers, with LaMelo Ball scoring 92 points in one game towards the end of the regular season.
However in the end, none of the hype would phase Thompson and Montgomery, beating Chino Hills 87-80.
"This is the reason we've been on this run, because we always have a chip on our shoulder playing like the underdog," Thompson said.
The last team in Southern California standing in the way of Montgomery's journey to the state title game was Mater Dei, setting up a highly anticipated rematch of the two teams for a trip to Sacramento. Mater Dei led much of the game, but Montgomery's resilience showed yet again. A late fourth quarter comeback, led by Thompson and David Singleton, pushed Montgomery over the edge with a 60-53 victory.
A triumphant year for Ethan Thompson and the Knights reached its culmination in a showdown with Woodcreek for the state championship. Inside Sacramento's Golden One Center, the stage couldn't get any bigger. Thompson was faced with the opportunity to cap off one of the greatest runs in the history of California high school basketball, a shot to finally defeat all odds. Bishop Montgomery capitalized on their chance for a ring, defeating Woodcreek 74-67. Thompson finished his high school career with a bang, torching yet another defense with 26 points, 17 of which coming in the second half.
Thompson was fantastic throughout the year, and will continue his basketball career at Oregon State. Ethan will rejoin forces with his older brother Stephen Jr., who led the Pac-12 in minutes played (36.2 per game) and scored 16.3 PPG this past season.
An inspirational figure in Thompson's life has always been his father, Stephen Sr., who dominated the high school basketball landscape in the late 1980's for Crenshaw, winning back-to-back state rings in '85 and '86 before starring at Syracuse. Stephen Sr. is now an assistant at Oregon State, and will get to coach both of his very talented sons next season.
To wrap up his career at Bishop Montgomery, Ethan finishes with 1,948 points, fifth in school history. Thompson has been recognized as the Open Division Player of the Year, Breeze Sports Player of the Year, and won the Wooden Award as the High School Player of the Year. He is a First-Team Max Preps All-American, and was recently named California's Mr. Basketball award.
Ethan Thompson is simply an incredible basketball player, who guided Bishop Montgomery through all trials and tribulations to extraordinary heights, and for that, he is Prep2Prep’s Southern Section Player of the Year.
Coach of the Year
DOUG MITCHELL, BISHOP MONTGOMERY
Mitchell led Bishop Montgomery on its historic run through the Southern Section playoffs all the way to the state Open Division championship.
Along the way, Bishop Montgomery knocked off nationally ranked programs Chino Hills, Sierra Canyon and Mater Dei before taking down Woodcreek and its star forward Jordan Brown.
Bishop Montgomery's Doug Mitchell is the Prep2Prep SS Coach of the Year.
FIRST TEAM ALL-SS
Ethan Thompson, Bishop Montgomery
Thompson keyed a run to a state title for Bishop Montgomery, and coach Doug Mitchell gave him accurate praise, calling him the best player to ever play for the school. Thompson averaged 22.8 points,
7.7 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 2016-17, leading the Knights to a late-season surge that saw them twice defeat Mater Dei, and take down Chino Hills, Sierra Canyon and Torrey Pines en route to
section and state titles, finishing with a seven-point win over Woodcreek in the state final in Sacramento.
Thompson is heading north to attend Oregon State after graduating from Bishop Montgomery, and leaves behind quite a memorable run folks won't soon forget.
Spencer Freedman, Mater Dei
When looking up a Mater Dei game during the regular season, there were the usual standouts of Sueing and Bol, but also consistently in the game story was Freedman, who built quite a name for himself in 2016-17. The guard from Santa Monica caught the attention of new Washington head coach Mike Hopkins, who gave his first offer to Freedman. The Monarchs guard and Trinity League player of the year averaged 14.5 points, 5.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
Marvin Bagley III, Sierra Canyon
Bagley and Ball have had plenty of national attention, and deservedly so. One player — Bagley — is returning for his senior season at Sierra Canyon, while the other is off to UCLA. Bagley
averaged 24.6 points and 10.1 points per game for the Trailblazers.
Kezie Okpala, Esperanza
Okpala didn’t play for a program that got a ton of the attention during the season, but that didn’t matter to Esperanza, which can polish its CIF Division II state title, with much thanks
due to Okpala. The 6-foot-8 senior averaged 30.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game for the Aztecs.
Onyeka Okongwu, Chino Hills
Lost at times in Ball Mania was Okongwu, who was a pillar in the paint for the Huskies in 2016-17. The 6-foot-9 big man built upon a freshman season that saw him establish himself as a force, and in that same romp over Birmingham, Okongwu scored 20 points. It was an example of a theme that built throughout the season, and should have the Chino Hills faithful smiling in the next two seasons, as Okongwu is only a sophomore. Come 2019, colleges will be salivating as he prepares to make his decision.
SECOND TEAM ALL-SS
LaMelo Ball, Chino Hills
LaMelo Ball’s highlight of the 2016-17 season came in his 92-point performance in a win over Los Osos — or perhaps it was his half-court shot that he called in Steph Curry fashion. Both went viral, but neither helped the Huskies to a title in 2017. No worries, though, for the guard who will almost certainly end up at UCLA, following in the footsteps of older brothers Lonzo and LiAngelo. Ball struggled in the postseason, though, and his Huskies lost to Mater Dei in the Southern Section Open Division semifinals, and again to Bishop Montgomery in the state tournament.
Cody Riley, Sierra Canyon
Riley ended his recruitment before his senior season tipped off at Sierra Canyon, but saved one of his best performances for late February, when the forward scored 34 points in a win
over Heritage Christian in the CIF Southern Section Open Division first round. Ultimately, though, the Trailblazers would fall short of their goal, losing in the Southern Section Open
Division playoffs and the Southern California regional opener against St. Augustine. Riley is off to UCLA, joining Jaylen Hands and LiAngelo Ball in another solid recruiting class for coach Steve Alford.
THIRD TEAM ALL-SS
Justice Sueing, Mater Dei
Sueing’s versatility and ability to score off the dribble added another weapon to a Mater Dei team that also featured Bol as a rim protector.
Sueing averaged 17 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in a campaign that saw the Monarchs upset Chino Hills but fall short of bringing home hardware in two losses to Bishop Montgomery.
Jordan Schakel, Gianni Hunt
ST. JOHN BOSCO: