In a basketball season in which cameras have followed Bronny James seemingly everywhere and fans have waved signs proclaiming their unconditional love for him and his famous NBA father, LeBron, Friday night brought forth a moment that showed he’s becoming more than a social media influencer.
With Chatsworth Sierra Canyon clinging to a six-point lead with just over five minutes left against Etiwanda in a decisive Southern Section Open Division playoff game before a sold-out gym of more than 2,200 at Calabasas High, the freshman made a three-point shot from the right baseline. It brought an abrupt end to an Etiwanda comeback attempt and propelled the Trailblazers to a 73-62 victory.
“We were trying to come back,” Etiwanda’s Jahmai Mashack said. “It was a great three and great timing.”
Said Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier: “It was huge. That’s definitely the biggest shot of his career and it was the thing that catapulted us to the gap we needed to have enough space to win.”
Sierra Canyon (27-4), the defending Southern Section Open Division and state champion, finds itself where it wants to be. The Trailblazers will face Santa Ana Mater Dei for the Open Division championship next Friday at The Pyramid. Mater Dei went 3-0 in its pool by defeating Studio City Harvard-Westlake 65-46.
Sierra Canyon’s two McDonald’s All-Americans, Ziaire Williams and BJ Boston, took charge to lead the Trailblazers offensively with 23 and 19 points, respectively. Sophomore Amari Bailey also played a key role with 18 points and aggressive defense in the second half on Etiwanda’s Jaylen Clark, who finished with 32 points.
The game had to be halted for 10 minutes early in the third quarter because of a disturbance on the Etiwanda side of the bleachers. Etiwanda held a 39-38 lead. The intensity level for both teams was high from start to finish.
Bailey, in particular, was pumped, because he didn’t play well the last time the two teams played, a 47-43 Sierra Canyon win at the Classic at Damien.
“I told myself it’s going to be the biggest game,” Bailey said. “I wanted to show them you can’t mess with us.”
Bailey said he was proud of James, who also scored a basket in the first half and filled in at point guard when Williams was pulled after picking up his fourth foul.
“He’s not a freshman anymore,” Bailey said. “He’s like a grown man. He’s going to do a lot of special things.”
“Midyear, there was a shift in him,” Chevalier said. “I don’t think he feels the pressure to score a lot because we have so many scorers now. When he gets a wide open look at the basket, all of us are confident he can make it, especially that corner three.”
In a Division 1 semifinal, Los Angeles Windward received 23 points from Devin Tillis to defeat San Juan Capistrano JSerra 67-61. Windward will play Riverside Poly in the championship game. Poly defeated La Verne Damien 63-61.
In Division 2-AA, unseeded La Canada St. Francis continued its dream season, knocking off Eastvale Roosevelt 60-33 behind UC Irvine-bound Andre Henry, who scored 22 points. St. Francis will play Santa Clarita Christian, which defeated West Hills Chaminade in overtime 89-83. Ty Harper scored 30 points for Santa Clarita Christian. Kenneth Simpson scored 33 points for Chaminade.