CHATSWORTH — Sierra Canyon junior guard Amari Bailey is becoming an all-time great California high school basketball player right in front of our eyes.
In a virtual Open Division semifinal game thanks to both teams being 2-0 in pool play, Etiwanda took a 76-75 lead over Sierra Canyon with 1:53 to play after Jahmai Mashack snagged an offensive rebound and then put in a layup. The Trailblazers hadn’t been down in a game with under two minutes to play all season until Friday night.
From there, Sierra Canyon and Etiwanda each had empty trips on their next possessions. When Sierra Canyon got the ball back down by one with under a minute to go, Trailblazer head coach Andre Chevalier had a simple message for his team:
“Get Amari the ball and set a ball screen and let him figure it out,” Chevalier said.
The plan worked as Bailey, a UCLA commit, scored two of his game high 25 points on a right elbow jump shot to give Sierra Canyon a 77-76 lead. He was also fouled on the play and hit his free throw. Etiwanda didn’t score again in the game and Sierra Canyon went on to win 82-76. The Trailblazers will meet Corona Centennial in the Open Division championship game next week.
“Amari has always found his role for us and delivered,” Chevalier said. “This year, it’s been at the highest level. I’m speechless as to what he’s been able to accomplish. Today he was even injured and willed his way to get well enough to get the ball in the hole at the time he needed to.”
Bailey had bumped knees with an Etiwanda player earlier in the game.
Just like in last year’s CIF State regional championship game, Etiwanda gave Sierra Canyon all it could handle, but in that game and on Friday night the Trailblazers made more plays in the dying moments and walked away victorious. Mashack and Marcus Green each scored 19 points for Etiwanda on Friday, but the Eagles couldn’t hold on to their fourth quarter lead.
Legendary Mater Dei forward Stanley Johnson is known as one of the all-time great winners in California high school basketball after leading the Monarchs to four straight upper-Division state titles from 2011-2014. Johnson never won three straight upper-Division Southern Section championships in a row though and Bailey will have that chance next week.
“That’s definitely something that’s on my mind,” he said earlier this season.