Posted On: 11/21/18 7:13 PM

Taking advantage of the early start to the season and a spectacular venue, Montgomery High Head Coach Ed Martin organized a quality kickoff tournament in the South Bay, the San Diego Tip-Off Challenge. The four-day event pitted seven of San Diego’s top 25 programs – and one powerhouse from Southern California.

Guess who came out on top?

Sierra Canyon, the No. 1 ranked team in California according to several preseason rankings, laid waste to the field, en route to an 86-40 route of San Diego’s No. 2 ranked team, St. Augustine, in the championship game. 

The Trailblazers three-game run was so dominant that Martin named the entire team MVP of the event.

We explore in this piece some of the takeaways from the event.

San Diego Tip-Off Challenge – What we learned


Sierra Canyon is going to be tough for any team in California to beat

I joked about this with a friend of mine after the game – it’s going to be pretty tough for any team in So-Cal to beat a team with three players with “verified” social media accounts. But all jokes aside, defeating the Trailblazers is going to be a tall task. Beyond the overwhelming physical talent, the team is deep and committed to defense. If there was a team built to beat them in the state, I think it’s Bishop Montgomery. The Knights have the prerequisite guard talent and bigs to compete. But, as with many of the main contenders, the question is what happens when Sierra Canyon goes deep into its bench and doesn’t miss a beat?

St. Augustine is going to be fine

There were a lot of parallels between the Saints loss to Sierra Canyon and San Diego State’s loss to Duke a couple of days later. The Saints, much like the hometown Aztecs, were outmatched against an opponent that looks seemingly invincible at this point. But better days are ahead for the Saints as they get some key pieces back after football (Tyson McWilliams, Byron Cardwell) and transfer (6-7 forward Nakial Cross). Also, their performance against the San Diego teams – blowouts of Helix and Sweetwater – bode well moving forward. There’s been debate about who is the #2 team behind Mission Bay, and I think both Torrey Pines and St. Augustine make compelling cases. 

Sweetwater needs a guard to emerge

Sweetwater finished the weekend 1-2, and it’s frontcourt duo of CJ Jackson and CJ McMillan lived up to their end of the bargain. But the Red Devils’ guard play – which has traditionally been the team’s strength – was erratic at best. Sophomore guard Jimmy Mattox had a solid opening game against Christian, but faded in matchups against Saints and Santa Fe Christian. Kris Aguilo and Arlene Velasco had moments, but neither were consistent. The Red Devils appear to be one of the favorites in Division 3, but the guard play has to improve for them to realize their potential. 

Santa Fe Christian isn’t skipping a beat

“Death Taxes and…” is a commonly used phrase to discuss constants in the field of sports. We can use that phrase to describe Santa Fe Christian’s Chad Bickley, who seems to be able to reload on the fly year after year without the high-level prospects of some of his private school counterparts. Bickley’s teams buy into his offensive philosophy of spacing, passing, cutting and perimeter shooting and playing hard nosed, disciplined defense. This year’s team, led by a talented sophomore trio and some very solid upperclassmen, appears to be right on schedule to being a contender for an Open Division berth – or a third consecutive D1 title. 

Christian, Montgomery compete despite missing key pieces  

If Saints were Exhibit 1 of teams playing shorthanded in the tournament, the Patriots and Aztecs would be #2 and #2a. The Patriots were essentially treading water as they await the return of players from football (Javier Jimenez) and transfer (Kobe Sanders, Kobi Price and Michael Perez) en route to a 1-2 record. Montgomery was without the services of two-year starter Ze’Tiam Burton, which resulted in Ed Martin relying in a number of younger role players. Both teams will be better served for the experience, as it has allowed other players to step up. For Christian, 2022 Vinny Signorelli looked good shooting it from the perimeter, and Montgomery’s Alex and Eddie Magdalena proved to be pests on the defensive end.