SANTA ANA, CA - It was late in the first quarter. Long Beach Poly turned the ball over, and six-foot-seven star forward K.J. Martin soared through the middle of the lane for a thunderous slam. Sierra Canyon’s elite athleticism overpowered Long Beach Poly in game 11 of the Nike Extravaganza, 80-60, behind monstrous games from Martin and five-star recruit Cassius Stanley.
“I knew this team was undersized, so I just tried to get the ball to the basket as best I could,” said Martin, who went off for 29 points and 20 rebounds. “When they started double teaming me, I looked for my teammates to get them open shots.”
Stanley added, “We really attacked the basket and played our game. For us, it’s all about playing hard, smart and together.”
Sierra Canyon possessed superior speed and talent across the board. Point guard Scotty Pippen Jr. and wing Duane Washington Jr. added 12 points each.
Junior guard Giordan Williams led Long Beach Poly with 15 points, and six-foot-two Malik Salahuddin added 13. Jesse Galloway scored 11 points and Darryl Pork Jr. posted 10. Sierra Canyon held Poly to just 35 percent shooting. The Trailblazers shot 58 percent themselves, and grabbed 46 rebounds to Poly’s 18.
Leading by four points after the first quarter, Sierra Canyon allowed a Justin Rene three-pointer for Long Beach Poly to start the second. Rene finished with nine points. Martin converted three points on an and-one inside multiple possessions later, and Washington Jr. made a layup to stretch Sierra Canyon’s lead.
One Pippen Jr. three later, Sierra Canyon had a 26-19 lead. Stanley spun through the lane and finished at the rim with under two minutes left in the half. Three plays after, a Sierra Canyon steal led to a wide-open Stanley fastbreak dunk. Salahuddin responded with two made free throws for Poly, and Sierra Canyon took a 41-25 lead into halftime.
Sierra Canyon scored 19 points in the third quarter, highlighted by another powerful Martin flush at the rim. With a 23-point lead entering the fourth, Stanley took over for the Trailblazers, and finished with 23 points. He opened the quarter slashing to the rim for two, and sliced through the Poly full court trapping defense for multiple layups. Salahuddin hit his third three of the game for Poly, but it was too little too late.
After the loss, Poly drops to 17-7, but are are 8-1 in league. Poly has two games remaining, against Jordan and Camarillo, before gearing up for Southern Section playoffs. The Jackrabbits are currently ranked as the 16th best division one team in the Southern Section.
Sierra Canyon moves to 19-3 overall with their only losses coming against 20-1 Shadow Mountain-Phoenix, 24-0 Bishop Montgomery and 21-4 Bishop Gorman-Las Vegas. The Trailblazers are ranked third in the division one Southern Section polls and are presumed locks to make the open division eight-team playoffs.
“I think we can win a state championship,” Martin said. Sierra Canyon lost to Bishop Montgomery in last season’s Southern Section semifinals, and are looking for revenge this year.