Los Angeles Times

Sierra Canyon is too much for Taft

- By Luca Evans and Eric Sondheimer

A few hours before Sierra Canyon hosted a Division I regional basketball opener that turned into a party for a Woodland Hills Taft crowd in Chatsworth, Toreadors coach Derrick Taylor picked up the phone, exasperate­d.

Some kid on campus, he said, was buying tickets for Tuesday night’s game against Sierra Canyon and selling them for $25. By tipoff, he had found out it was a freshman on his team.

“What can I say?” Taylor said. “Capitalism at its best.”

Everyone on campus was excited, as evidenced by the roars that went through Sierra Canyon’s gym after Bishop Brooks hit a threepoint­er to open the game. Everyone was over the top. Taylor was not. This was a decorated coach with the benefit of hindsight at the days when he and Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier had their battles in the City Section, he and former Cleveland coach Chevalier competing to attract the best kids in the San Fernando Valley.

So everyone walks into the gym against Sierra Canyon, Taylor said, and gets intimidate­d. Not him on this night. Not his reigning City Section-champion Toreadors. They would muck it up if the Trailblaze­rs tried to play gritty or run with them if they tried to play fast.

“I’m just going to play it by ear, see whichever one of the styles that work,” Taylor said. “Now, if neither one of them work, yeah, s—, call 911. There’s an assault.”

After a back-and-forth first quarter, the sirens came in the second as Taft couldn’t run with Sierra Canyon, the Trailblaze­rs shooting the lights out and dominating the paint en route to an 84-47 win.

Senior Jimmy Oladokun scored 16 points, Ashton

Hardaway added 15 points with a few deep threes, and Noah Williams had 14 points and Bronny James 13.

Twenty years ago, when the high school basketball landscape ran through the City Section, the tables were turned. Chevalier was a young coach trying to knock off Taft, his Cleveland program brimming with talent such as future NBA player Nick Young, and Taylor had a cupboard full of future Division I athletes.

Twenty years later, Chevalier has ascended through the private-school ranks. It’s now his turn to guide a roster full of future college talent as private and prep schools reign.

“You think back on it, you always wonder — what if it stayed the same?” Taylor said of the changing game. “... You either adjust to it or you get consumed by it and you get bitter.”

Sierra Canyon advances to the second round of the Division I bracket to play Etiwanda on Thursday.

In other games, topseeded Sherman Oaks Notre Dame defeated Fairfax 84-68. Notre Dame will host Manhattan Beach Mira Costa on Thursday. Mira Costa beat San Diego Montgomery 49-45.

The night’s biggest upset belonged to King/Drew of the City Section. The No. 16 seed in Division II, King/ Drew defeated top-seeded Anaheim Canyon 73-65. No. 2-seeded Las Flroes Tesoro got 26 points from Carson Brown in a 60-51 win over Bakersfiel­d Centennial.

In Division IV, Van Nuys Grant beat Newport Harbor Sage Hill 59-57 on DJ Gains’ late three-pointer.

In Division I girls, Orange Lutheran rallied for a 62-59 road win over City Section Open Division champion Westcheste­r. Granada Hills beat Torrance Bishop Montgomery 59-57, and No. 16 West Hills Chaminade upset No. 1 Ontario Christian 88-65.

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