April 21, 2024

The game of the year in girls’ high school basketball has finally arrived. Sierra Canyon (30-1) and Etiwanda (28-3) have been eyeing each other from afar for months knowing they’d eventually meet to decide the Southern Section Open Division championship. It’s happening on Friday night at California Baptist.

The two powerhouses took care of business in their Open Division pools, each going 3-0 to set up what will likely be two games in the coming weeks, first for a section title, then in the regional playoffs to decide a chance to play for a state title. It happened last season, when Sierra Canyon, led by JuJu Watkins, won the section title, then lost to Etiwanda for the regional title. The Eagles went on to win the state title.

Sierra Canyon has its impressive trio of Mackenly Randolph, Jerzy Robinson and Izela Arenas. Etiwanda has McDonald’s All-American Kennedy Smith, plus rising juniors Grace Knox and Aliyahna Morris. The coaches, Alicia Komaki and Stan Delus, finally get to stop looking ahead and focus on each other.

In the City Section, Mariah Blake wants another ring. She was a key figure on last season’s 29-2 Westchester girls’ basketball team that won the Open Division championship and came through with 23 points and 16 rebounds Saturday to help the Comets return to the championship game with a 66-58 win over Hamilton at El Camino College.

Westchester will face top-seeded Birmingham on Saturday at Pasadena City College.

“We’re confident,” Blake said.

Westchester assistant coaches EJ Jackson and Bri Anugwom have guided the Comets into the final after taking over the team just before the end of the regular season when head coach Dominic Grimes was put on administrative leave.

The Comets (22-5) and Western League rival Hamilton (24-6) split their two league games. Serenity Johnson aided Blake’s cause with 14 points. Jade Fort scored 20 points for Hamilton.

Birmingham (23-6) advanced with a 49-44 semifinal win over King/Drew. Zoee Mitchell, whose brother, David Elliott, was the City player of the year when he led the Patriots to the 2021 City title, led Birmingham with 15 points. Natalie Lopez added 13 points.

King/Drew and Los Angeles CES will meet for the City Section Open Division boys’ title on Saturday at Pasadena City College. King/Drew, seeded No. 2, held off Birmingham 62-56 at El Camino College.

Coach Lloyd Webster has a chance to win King/Drew’s first upper division title in his seventh season as coach. His young team is growing up, with two sophomores, a freshman, a junior and senior in the starting lineup. Donald Thompson Jr. finished with 20 points in the Golden Eagles’ semifinal win.

Donald Thompson Jr. dunks for King/Drew.

Donald Thompson Jr. of King/Drew with dunk against Birmingham.

(Nick Koza)

Alex Dupre scored 27 points for Birmingham.

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