Posted On: 03/2/18 10:22 PM
The CIF-SS boys basketball championship games from the Open Division on down to Division 5AAA will be played over the next two days at various sites across Southern California.
Crean Lutheran, the surprise team of this year’s playoffs, goes into its Saturday match-up with Palmdale Knight with back-to-back upset victories over San Gabriel Academy in the quarterfinals and St. Anthony in the Division 3AA semifinals.
Knight beat Huntington Beach Ocean View in the quarterfinals and edged Twentynine Palms in the semis to reach Saturday’s championship game at Azusa Pacific.
Below is a capsule of storylines to watch for, who to watch and what the keys will be for either side to come away with a victory.
Division 3AA Capsule
Overall Record: 22-9
League Record: 12-0, Academy League champions
Top Players: F Isaiah Johnson (6-6, 195, So.); G Maximus Bo (5-7, 150, Jr.); F Jake Conerty (6-4, 195, So.); G Chris Swardstrom (6-3, 170, Jr.); Gum Majak (6-7, 190, Jr.)
Others to Watch: F Derek Bagatourian (6-5, 180, So.)
How They Win: Anyone picking games in this Division have picked against the Saints at some point, whether it was as underdogs against San Gabriel Academy or against St. Anthony. A lot of the doubt has to do with two things: 1. Crean is a young, inexperienced team and 2. It hasn’t really had a go-to guy this season. Both of those are out the window for the championship game as the Saints have grown up fast and Johnson has turned in to a breakout star that few people saw as a freshman. Johnson scored 28 points in Crean’s upset over St. Anthony and they’ll need him to have a repeat performance against a long and athletic Knight team. Another key for the Saints will be the performance of Max Bo from 3-point range. The junior lit it up from deep during the regular season but hasn’t found the range so far in the postseason. Crean will need Bo to be on his game to spread the floor for the rest of the team.
Overall Record: 24-5
League Record: 14-0, Golden League champions
Top Players: F Dajour Lewis (6-5, 170, Jr.); G Mekhi Smith (5-10, 165, Sr.); G William Grant (6-2, 170, Jr.); G Mekhi Williams (5-11, 170, Sr.)
Others to Watch: F Jalen Thomas (6-3, 180, Sr.); F Jah-son Reyes (6-5, 180, Sr.)
How They Win: Knight is known for its all-out pressure defense which it deploys for 94 feet and 32 minutes a game. The Hawks look to jump on its opponents quickly, forcing turnovers with their length and turning those mistakes into easy points on the other end. Lewis, a talented 6-5 junior, is the main offensive cog for Knight. He can score in a variety of ways, inside and out, and his combination of size, length and fluid athleticism makes him a tough cover for any high school team. Grant, Smith and Williams are all physical, quick and athletic guards who aren’t shy about mixing it up in the defensive trenches. If Knight can limit the effectiveness of Johnson, force its normal amount of turnovers and take care of the basketball on its own end, they have a good shot at taking the 3AA crown.