SACRAMENTO — With just minutes left in the game, Sierra Canyon ballooned a five-point lead to 11 in two quick plays. After a struggle from either team to pull away the entire game, Scotty Pippen Jr. hit a 3-pointer that was followed by a three-point play by Cassius Stanley.
The much-anticipated CIF Open Division State Championship delivered everything the 5,000 in attendance wanted to see as Sierra Canyon topped Sheldon of Sacramento 75-62 in a game that had 14 lead changes and 11 ties at the Golden 1 Center.
Pippen Jr. finished with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists. KJ Martin had 11 points and 13 rebounds, Duane Washington Jr. added 14 points.
“All year long we heard we weren’t supposed to be here,” Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier said. “I’m so proud of these guys.”
Washington Jr., the bonafide leader of the Trailblazers, fouled out on a technical foul with a little over three minutes to play – but his leadership from the bench was still impactful.
“I said something to the other player, the ref caught me,” Washington Jr. said with a grin. “I totally owned it, I should have known better. But I was able to support from the sideline. What a game.”
Sierra Canyon (27-4) carried a two-point advantage into halftime, 38-36, despite Sheldon’s 18 free throw attempts in the half to Sierra Canyon’s six. The equalizer was the Trailblazers’ shooting percentage from the floor – a 53-percent clip.
Midway through the third quarter, Sheldon’s Dale Currie squared up a NBA-range 3-pointer, only for Washington Jr. to come down on the ensuing possession and dial up an NBA-range 3-pointer of his own.
It was obvious this game was created for two heavy weights.
“These guys have continued to grow together and love each other,” Chevalier said.
The largest lead of the game, before the final moments, was in the third quarter when Sheldon led by just six, 52-46. It was quickly erased by a four-point play from Pippen Jr., eventually setting up a 56-56 score heading into the final frame.
Pippen Jr. has lifted his play the last two games. In the Southern Regional final he had 22, and Saturday night he scored 16 of his 21 in the second half.
“Scotty’s play has been elite as of late, high level,” Chevalier said of the junior.
Stanley had 16 points of his 23 points in the opening half, including two three-point plays. One foul was drawn on Sheldon’s 6-foot-5 physical forward Ronald Agebsar. The big man had four fouls before the break, and eventually fouled out in the fourth quarter.
Agebsar’s absence was felt by Sheldon (29-6), as the Trailblazers out-rebounded the Huskies 44-24 for the game.
The Trailblazers claimed two of the three best pieces of silverware a high school basketball team can, and they won them at the highest level – the Open Division. The Southern Section title eluded Sierra Canyon after a heart-breaking loss to Mater Dei, but the Trailblazers would later win the Open Division Southern Regional title over Etiwanda before topping Sheldon in the Open Division State final Saturday night.
“No better way to finish out my senior year than to go out like this,” Washington Jr. said.