Girls basketball showdown: Who wins, Sierra Canyon or Etiwanda?

This is like Medusa, the fearsome deity of Greek delusion, turning a poor fellow to stone — and he being grateful for the chance. This is like Achilles, the mighty hero of the Trojan War, torching a pack of Trojan troopers in battle — and them reflecting in awe weeks later.

This would be the lasting legend of Chatsworth Sierra Canyon High‘s Juju Watkins, who’s constructed a buzz so nice that some opposing coaches merely really feel blessed — direct quote — to simply be part of her story.

“You can’t help but just root for her future success … we’re lucky that this player is coming from where all of us come from,” mentioned West Hills Chaminade coach Megan Kelso, whose workforce misplaced to Sierra Canyon 79-40 in January. “Her future is endless.”

There is little Watkins hasn’t proved, on one of the vital particular journeys in California ladies’ hoops historical past. In October, the USC commit boldly proclaimed she wished to go undefeated in her senior yr at Sierra Canyon, and thru practically two months of nationwide play the Trailblazers have emerged 29-0. Somehow, after being named the L.A. Times’ participant of the yr for 2 straight seasons, Watkins has additional refined her recreation as a senior — extra poised, extra mature, averaging 30 factors and 15 rebounds.

“She’s forever going to be synonymous with one of the best high school female basketball players to ever play, not just in California, but in the nation,” Sierra Canyon coach Alicia Komaki mentioned. “Like, she’s one of the best in the nation.”

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“And that’s important to Juju, her resume,” Komaki continued.

There is one lone blemish on that resume. One space, underneath “Awards and Accomplishments,” left unfulfilled. Last season, whereas entering into foul bother and falling within the Southern Section Open Division remaining in opposition to Etiwanda with tears in her eyes, was the one time the world has seen Watkins fail.

Two streaking ships, Watkins at Sierra Canyon’s helm and the dominant Kennedy Smith main Etiwanda, have plotted a course from the start of the season to satisfy once more within the Open Division remaining on Saturday at Honda Center. It was an inevitability that almost all everybody in Southern California anticipated.

The stakes are set: two straight Open Division championships for a proud public-school program from the Inland Empire, or a Southern Section title and a remaining field checked off for Watkins.

To put it merely, Saturday’s remaining is a recreation that elevates the very recreation itself.

“Going to be one for the ages, I think,” Kelso mentioned.

Ahead of Saturday’s matchup, the Times spoke with native ladies’ basketball coaches who’ve performed each Sierra Canyon and Etiwanda throughout the previous two years. Here are their ideas, predictions and matchups to look at:

Kennedy Smith issue

Watkins’ star shines so vivid that it usually overshadows different native expertise. Smith, Etiwanda coach Stan Delus feels, is simply as particular — a point-center who places up equally monstrous numbers, can thrive on the perimeter or bang on the within, and is so aggressive she requests to protect the opposition’s greatest participant.

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“She’s one of a kind … I think Kennedy’s a little bit overlooked,” Ontario Christian coach Matt Tumambing mentioned.

If Smith will get on the glass and Etiwanda wins the rebound battle, mentioned Newport Beach Sage Hill coach Kerwin Walters, they’ll have a strong likelihood to knock off the Trailblazers.

Etiwanda’s Kennedy Smith, in motion in opposition to Rancho Cucamonga, is a middle with level guard abilities.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Here’s a tantalizing chance: Smith and Watkins may find yourself taking part in collectively at USC. Smith, a junior, has a suggestion from the Trojans.

“They would do amazing together,” Delus mentioned earlier within the season. “Because Juju would be like, ‘Oh, my God, I actually have an equal.’”

Supporting solid

This is larger than Watkins in opposition to Smith. Both groups, Fullerton Rosary Academy’s Richard Yoon mentioned, are loaded with expertise at a stage above the remainder of the group in Southern California.

Etiwanda’s Aliyahna Morris is without doubt one of the greatest level guards within the space. If she’s attacking in transition, making good choices and feeling in rhythm along with her mid-range jumper, the Eagles are extraordinarily laborious to beat.

“She is an absolute monster defensively, on-ball,” Tumambing mentioned. “She’s probably one of the best defenders in the country.”

Sierra Canyon’s Mackenly Randolph, daughter of former NBA All-Star Zach Randolph, brings a stage of toughness on the inside and a nostril for rebounds to match Smith. And junior guard Izela Arenas is a shifty X-factor, able to quietly affecting the sport with smart move making and on-ball protection whereas popping off for 20-plus factors.

Sierra Canyon's Mackenly Randolph passes the ball from the high post.

Center Mackenly Randolph offers Sierra Canyon with robust play within the paint as a complement to star Juju Watkins.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)


When requested to choose a winner for Saturday’s matchup, most coaches leaned towards Sierra Canyon. Ultimately, most felt there have been two fundamental elements at play: Sierra Canyon having one of the best participant in Watkins and Etiwanda having extra depth and size to throw on the Trailblazers defensively.

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“When you take Juju out of the depth,” Walters mentioned, “there’s no one replacing that type of player.”

Regardless of the victor, everybody with an curiosity in ladies’ basketball shall be watching Saturday, Yoon mentioned.

“The standard is really Juju, and Kennedy is right there with her,” Tumambing mentioned. “And I think the standard she’s [Watkins] set for women’s basketball at the high school level, I mean, that’s the bar we want to reach.”