Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.) plays its most complete game of the season, as the No. 15 team in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com knocks off the Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.), the nation’s No. 2 ranked team, 70-63, to advance to the CIF Southern Section Open Division title game. Oregon-State bound Ethan Thompson and San Diego State-bound Jordan Schakel leads the way for Knights.
The CIF Southern Section Open Division semifinals have been highly anticipated since it became clear California had four elite teams this season. After those four teams — FAB 50 No. 2 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.), No. 13 Chino Hills (Calif.), No. 15 Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.) and No. 16 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) — won their respective quarterfinal games on Tuesday night, the semifinal games at the Galen Center in downtown Los Angeles became a hot ticket.
Some basketball-crazed fans paid $300 plus for a single face-value $40 court seat on Craig’s List and in first semifinal, a majority of them expected to see Marvin Bagley III and his Sierra Canyon teammates advance to the section title game. Bishop Montgomery, however, had other ideas and played its most complete game of the season, winning 70-63, to advance to the prestigious CIFSS Open Division section title game for the second time in three seasons.
Bishop Montgomery was the No. 4 seed in the playoffs, but hadn’t really shown what it was capable of so far this season because of injuries — until this game. The Knights opened the season ranked No. 7 in the FAB 50 and No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and finally looked the part after losing their first game of the season without David Singleton and with Jordan Schakel severely limited.
Schakel had a big second half and Oregon-St. Ethan Thompson sparked them to begin the game, as Bishop Montgomery (26-2) took a 13-2 lead as Thompson had six points in that run. Thompson had 12 points in the first half as the Knights took a 37-30 halftime lead.
“I’m very proud of my team because they were extremely tough team,” said Bishop Montgomery head coach Doug Mitchell. “The guys followed our game plan perfectly to pinch off the drive and give up the 3-pointer.”
Mitchell expected the nation’s No. 2 ranked to make a run, and the Trailblazers did after trailing by as much as 16 points (20-4). Behind Bagley, Sierra Canyon (27-2) took its first lead on a 3-pointer by the nation’s top-ranked junior prospect that made the score 41-39 after his follow up lay-up cut the Trailblazers’ deficit to one-point. Bagley’s alley-oop slam with 3:45 in the third period made it 43-39.
Bishop Montgomery weathered the storm and took control behind the play of Schakel. The San Diego-St bound forward played tough defense inside on Bagley (who still finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds) and hit big shots down the stretch the spark the Knights after Sierra Canyon’s 13-0 run.
With Bishop Montgomery holding on to a 54-51 lead halfway through the final period and the shot clock running out, Schakel banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3:40 remaining. The shot seemed to take the sails out of Sierra Canyon and it really was magnified when Schakel hit another triple to make it 60-51 with 3:08 remaining.
“That was the most awesome feeling of my basketball life ever (making the bank shot),” said Schakel, who didn’t start and played limited minutes in the Knights’ season-opening loss to Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, Calif.). The Knights’ other loss was to FAB 50 No. 10 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.).
The game was sealed when Thompson finished a Euro step-through by Bagley with 1:19 remaining to make the score 64-54, as the Knights crowd started chanting, “We want Chino”. They were referring to a potential open final date next Saturday with Chino Hills, but the Huskies ended up losing to Mater Dei, 83-80, in overtime, in the semifinal nightcap.
Thompson finished with 21 points and five rebounds. Schakel made 4-of-10 3-pointers to finish with 20 points. Sophomore point guard Gianni Hunt hit two 3-pointers and finished with 10 points, while junior point guard Davy Singleton (who didn’t play at all versus Bishop O’Dowd) added 11 points and six assists.
Besides Bagley, Sierra Canyon was led statistically by Arizona St.-bound point guard Remy Martin. He finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five turnovers.
Bishop Montgomery will attempt to win its second CIFSS Open Division title game in three years, as it showed the country tonight it has the ability to be California’s, and one of the nation’s, best teams. It just took a while to show the country after its slow start.
“This game didn’t mean much because we still haven’t won a championship, but we’re growing as a unit,” Singleton said.