One year ago, the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers saw their CIF Southern Section Open Division championship hopes dashed by Mater Dei. The second time around, they made sure to get a different result.
Reaching the Open Division title game for the second straight season, Sierra Canyon brought home the trophy with a 64-57 win over Bishop Montgomery.
“The Mater Dei loss had the boys focused for today, they pushed through to be able to get back to this place,” head coach Andre Chevalier told Mars Reel after the game.
Early on, it appeared as if Sierra Canyon was going to run away with the game. The Trailblazers got out to a 10-0 start, and led 17-5 at one point before Bishop Montgomery was able to settle down and get back in the game.
Using a big effort from point guard Josh Vazquez, who hit three three-pointers in the first half alone, Bishop Montgomery was able to close the gap and pull to within 34-27 at the half. They continued their momentum in the third quarter as Vazquez hit two more threes to spark an 8-3 run to pull within two, 37-35.
However, that would be the closest Bishop Montgomery would get, Cassius Stanley would make sure of it. He finished with a game-high 29 points, hitting multiple jumpers throughout the game, including a buzzer-beater from about 30 feet out at the end of the third quarter.
“I just wanted to help my team win,” Stanley said. “In the beginning of the game, they were giving me the jump shot a lot and so from there I just hit a couple jumpers. It just got pretty easy from there.”
Bishop Montgomery still had some life after few big plays from Nick Schrader, Will Crawford and Gianni Hunt kept the team within striking distance. Sierra Canyon built up an early double-digit lead in the third quarter, but the Knights wouldn’t go away.
It took clutch shooting by Stanley and Scotty Pippen Jr. and some strong defense from Christian Koloko to finally hold Bishop Montgomery at bay.
— Sierra Canyon Sports (@SCanyonSports) February 24, 2019
“They boys and their resilience, their individual talent, their ability to want to play for each other, it all came to the forefront,” Chevalier said. “We were able to get some stops, Christian was great around the paint blocking shots. Every game someone steps up for us. Cassius was amazing on offense and Christian was amazing on defense.”
Pippen would finish with 12 points. Vazquez led Bishop Montgomery with 19 points. Although Sierra Canyon won the Open Division state title last season, a Southern Section title was something that still eluded the group.
“It’s always great to have something to strive for that you haven’t done,” Stanley said. “Going into the year, we were like, ‘We better make sure we win CIF. State is cool, but we couldn’t lose CIF.’”
Both teams will be headed for the playoffs, and in Sierra Canyon’s case, they have the opportunity to do something unique as they begin their state title defense.
“Now we can try to do something special,” Chevalier said. “It’s been a long time I guess since somebody’s won back to back CIF state titles, we’re trying to get to that point.”
David Yapkowitz is a contributor for Mars Reel based in Southern California