Etiwanda dominates Sierra Canyon to take Open Division girls' basketball crown

Since the season started it seemed inevitable that Etiwanda and Sierra Canyon would play for the CIF Southern Section Open Division girls’ basketball championship for a third consecutive year.

The Southland’s two premier programs met again Friday night at California Baptist in Riverside, and the question was whether the game would live up to the hype.

The game might not have, but Etiwanda sure did. The Eagles used a 12-0 run early in the third quarter to take control in a surprisingly one-sided 65-44 victory.

“We had a really good week of preparation,” coach Stan Delus said. “In my eight years at Etiwanda, I’ve never seen a group so locked in. We said we weren’t going to defend our title from last year, we were going to win this one. Never in my 24 years of coaching has a team taken everything it learned from all the adversity of the season and put it into one game like this.”

Junior Grace Knox led the charge with 19 points and 12 rebounds while McDonald’s All-American Kennedy Smith, Mykelle Richards and Aliyahna Morris each added 13 points for the Eagles (29-3).

Despite the graduation of JuJu Watkins, now a freshman star at USC, the Trailblazers were confident in their trio of McDonald’s All-American Mackenly Randolph, Jerzy Robinson and Louisville-bound guard Izela Arenas. Robinson scored 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, while Randolph had 14 points and 16 rebounds and Arenas added 11 points for the Trailblazers (30-2), who won the rebounding battle 45-36 but made just 15 of 60 shots from the field and were 0 for 14 beyond the arc.

“That was the worst basketball game of my Sierra Canyon career,” coach Alicia Komaki said. “For as bad as we played we should’ve lost by 60 points. It was not pretty basketball. They’re always more physical than us. We expected that. We have to figure out a way to generate more offense. We’ll regroup.”

Both teams looked nervous early before Arenas finally broke the scoreless tie on a pair of free throws with 4:47 left in the first quarter. Knox made a bank shot for the first field goal after Etiwanda missed five shots.

Knox sprinted for an uncontested layup off a turnover to give Etiwanda a 40-23 lead with 20 seconds left in the third quarter, and the margin was 15 heading to the fourth for the defending Open Division state champions, who fell to Sierra Canyon in the section finals last season before getting revenge in the regional finals.

The teams could meet again in the regional finals March 5, but Delus insisted his team’s mentality will be the same as it was to start the section playoffs.

“Were going after the state championship as if we haven’t won anything yet,” Delus said. “The goal this year was to win both [section and state], and starting Monday we’re going to have that zero-zero mind-set again.”

Division 2AA

St. Anthony 64, Moreno Valley 58 — Kadence Lloyd had 22 points and seven rebounds, Ryann Bennett had 14 points and Melaiah Joseph added 13 to lead the victorious Saints (24-7) at Azusa Pacific University. Leiayjah Mills had 15 points and Bella Medina added 13 for Moreno Valley (28-5).

Division 5A

Antelope Valley 71, St. Pius X-St. Matthias 44 — Niya Price had 25 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots while Ariana Soil added 26 points for the Antelopes (16-6), who led from start to finish and were up 32-8 at halftime at Azusa Pacific. Stephanie Zesati had 13 points with nine rebounds and Evelyn Martinez had 11 points for the Warriors (19-12).


Division I
Sun Valley Poly 57, Arleta 47

Division II
Granada Hills Kennedy 53, Van Guys 43

Division IV
Gardena 54, Fremont 12

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