Bronny James and Sierra Canyon advance to regional finals

The items had been at all times there. The expertise was at all times there. But it took all cushions eliminated, their season on its final legs, for the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers to achieve their closing type.

Suddenly, Bronny James is not a quiet, lead-by-example sometimes-Robin, however an especially vocal, poised Batman. Suddenly, Noah Williams is not an enormous with defensive promise and offensive query mark, however a dominant inside presence. Suddenly, these Trailblazers don’t roll over when challenged, however punch proper again with vengeance.

In a 64-47 win Saturday evening over Bishop Montgomery to advance to the Division I regional finals, the Trailblazers appeared as in the event that they’d perfected their identification after their worst regular-season and Southern Section Open displaying in coach Andre Chevalier’s tenure.

They rotated on protection with a vengeance, combating to maintain the aggressive Knights off the glass, as James scored 16 factors, Williams 15 and junior Osiris Nalls Jr. 14 within the win.

Bishop Montgomery’s LaQwon Cole, left, places up a shot in entrance of Sierra Canyon’s Bronny James.

(Craig Weston)

“We’re trying to get to the place where everybody plays their best game in the same game,” Chevalier stated.

This was highschool basketball at its most interesting, separated from Sierra Canyon’s accustomed air of huge arenas and movie star presence, only a tiny gymnasium packed near-capacity and thumping. Dudes prepared to protect. Dudes able to scrap. The final time these groups met within the Southern Section playoffs, Bishop Montgomery gained by two factors and a late scuffle prompted three Trailblazers to be ejected.

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So an hour earlier than tipoff within the state Division I regional closing, Trailblazers assistant coach Chris Howe surveyed a effervescent Bishop Montgomery gymnasium and remarked this recreation, merely, can be “three yards and a cloud of dust.”

Might resonate a little bit higher with an older technology, in an older fashion of ball. That phrase was first coined by legendary Ohio State soccer coach Woody Hayes, describing a troublesome fashion of operating the ball. Three yards a pop — and a cloud of mud.

The first quarter was three yards — rebound after rebound only for the prospect to shoot a free throw — and a cloud of mud, our bodies smacking towards the hardwood. An early 19-8 Trailblazers lead was moot; within a sweltering gymnasium and with athletes who didn’t stop, Bishop Montgomery was going to search out its manner again.

And after a strip of Williams beneath, the Knights’ 6-foot-8 Xavier Edmonds dribbled up, brutally chicken-wrapped Nalls with a behind-the-back dribble, and tossed a thunderous lob.

It ignited a silent gymnasium, the form of play that would shift momentum.

Maybe these Trailblazers would’ve folded if this had been December. Or January. Even February.

But Williams calmly hit a top-of-the-break three the subsequent journey down, and after snaring a rebound, James glided downcourt and elevated for a pull-up three.

Butter. Three-finger claw. And a yell from James, who’s grown up in February and March earlier than the followers’ eyes, abruptly an emotional ringleader consistently directing his teammates on the ground.

The shift in James’ mentality, Chevalier stated, got here after he’s understood how a lot teammates have wished his management — even when it’s expressed negativity.

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“I think it’s going to bode very well for him,” Chevalier stated Friday, “as he steps into the next level.”

Sierra Canyon will play Sherman Oaks Notre Dame within the regional closing Tuesday. The Trailblazers have gone 0-3 towards the Knights this season. Notre Dame defeated Mater Dei 81-59 within the semifinals Saturday.