Trailblazers pass national test

Trailblazers pass national test

It was a star-studded affair Monday night at Sierra Canyon school in Chatsworth.

With all the trimmings, bells and whistles.

A made for TV event went off without a hitch. It was New York vs. California. It was basketball meets Hollywood.

And ESPN was there to capture all of it.

Jay Bilas and Paul Biancardi were on the call, LeBron and Carmelo were sitting courtside and the Kardashians even stopped by.

Sierra Canyon with Bronny James prevailed 62-51 against Christ the King with sophomore Kiyann Anthony.

James finished with 12 points and threw down a monster slam dunk in the first quarter which brought the crowd to its feet and cell phones instantly turned to social media.

Anthony had eight points, including two 3-pointers.

It was 20 years ago to the day, James’ and Anthony’s fathers went head-to-head. St. Vincent-St. Mary took on Oak Hill. The dads each scored over 30 points on that night.

“It was a very special night and special game for our school, community and fans,” Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier said. “Everything went well.”

Isaiah Elohim scored 17 points to lead Sierra Canyon and showed he is getting his groove back after being sidelined with a leg injury for six-plus months. James’ 12 took the burden off and 6-foot-10 center Majok Chuol had eight points and nine rebounds in a very balanced effort for the Trailblazers (7-1).

UCLA-bound Brandon Williams scored all 17 of his points in the second half to lead CTK (2-2). Anthony finished with a basket and two 3-pointers.

Sierra Canyon jumped to an early lead and never trailed. It was 27-17 at halftime. CTK cut the deficit to six points in the third quarter but could get no closer.

“Our guys were focused and engaged,” Chevalier said. “I thought we did a nice job defensively and we were able to keep them off the glass.”

LeBron and Carmelo embraced at halfcourt for a few words to reminisce about their battle 20 years ago.

 

Other top athletes and entertainers in attendance were NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, NBA champion Nick Young, 2000 NBA No. 1 draft pick Kenyon Martin and Los Angeles radio personality Big Boy from 92.3 The Beat.

 

Sierra Canyon now travels to Ohio for a game Saturday against SV-SM at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

Girls soccer getting ready for big test

The Sierra Canyon girls soccer team is looking forward to an exciting 2022-2023 year on the pitch.

The team lost several players to graduation but returns a good core, including three key players.

Natalie Babcock, Anya Jones and Olivia Theodoratos.

Babcock is a center-back and will be a key cog in the Trailblazers defense. Jones will play at mid-field and Theodoratos will be a forward.

Theodoratos will be looked upon to score goals for Sierra Canyon.

Jones is recovering from a toe injury and will be back in December, hopefully.

“We lost some good veteran players from our league championship team,” Sierra Canyon coach WIll Beard said. “But we have some good players coming back. We lost some experience and we have to find a way to make up for the goal production from last year. I am confident the girls will step up.”

Theodoratos gets the nod first trying to help ease the burden of the graduated Viktoria Balbin, now at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

Another big key for Sierra Canyon will be goalkeeper Audri Kilonsky. Kilonsky gets to be the main keeper this year after waiting her turn for a couple years.

“Audri gets her moment now,” Beard said. “She has been waiting for this. It’s now her turn. She will doa great job.”

The team plays Crossroads, Viewpoint, Highland of Palmdale and Cleveland of Reseda for nonleague games and will travel to Bakersfield to participate in the Garces Memorial tournament.

Sierra Canyon is also in the Mission League this year against quality programs such as Harvard-Westlake, Chaminade, Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks, Marymount and Flintridge-Sacred Heart.

“We are in a great league and face tough competition each match now,” Beard said. “We will be challenged for sure.”

Wigfall receives top honor, Division 1 Coach of the Year

What a year it was for the Sierra Canyon girls volleyball program.

The Trailblazers won 35 matches, shared the Mission League championship with Marymount and won the Southern Section Division 1 championship.

Sierra Canyon became the first ever school in the San Fernando Valley and surrounding areas to win the championship at the highest level.

So, as you can only imagine, the postseason awards are rolling in.

Olivia Babcock was named the Division 1 player of the year with Hawaii-bound junior Danica Rach earned a first-team selection.

But a big honor went to veteran coach Stefanie Wigfall for a second time.

Wigfall was named the Div. 1 coach of the year, just five years after taking home the same honor in Div. 3 when she helped lead the Trailblazers to state and Southern Section titles.

“This is all due to the girls hardwork and the unbelievable help from the coaching staff all year round,” Wigfall said. “This honor is for all of them because they all made it possible for me.”

Wigfall is humble but has plenty of reasons to not be. Wigfall just got done with another 30-plus win season. Wigfall has amassed 160 victories covering the last five seasons with the state championship and two SS championships.

“I am just the person who gets to step out in front,” Wigfall said. “All the credit goes to the kids, coaches, athletic department, staff and others who helped us on our journey.”

Wilson leads young Trailblazers in tennis

Wilson leads young Trailblazers in tennis

There is no doubt the future is bright for the Sierra Canyon girls tennis program.

And a big reason for that is and will be freshman Lyric Wilson.

Wilson turned in the greatest single season performance in school history this past fall with an astonishing 31-1 record. Wilson helped lead the Trailblazers to a share of its first ever league (Angelus) championship and a team playoff berth in the Southern Section team championships.

“It was so much fun to be on a team and all work toward a common goal,” Wilson said. “We want to gain more respect, keep winning league championships and move up.”

Wilson dominated the league competition, being selected to the first team and was runner-up for the MVP award. Wilson qualified as the number 2-seed for the Southern Section individuals tournament. Wilson also won 6-0, 6-0 as the number 1 singles player in the school’s first ever team playoff match.

“I am a very aggressive player on the court and have a big forehand that helped me throughout the year,” Wilson said. “My plan is to improve and go to college,”

Wilson doesn’t just excel on the court. Wilson is great in the classroom and great with her teammates.

Wilson was awarded the Angelus League scholar athlete honor, was voted team MVP along with Betty Chen and won the team veteran award.

“She did a wonderful job and is an incredibly talented tennis player,” coach Rajeev Datt said. “She is a leader by example and a pretty tough cookie.”

Wilson’s plan is to go to college but she may have a future to make a living playing tennis.

Her track is currently on a college to pro path as she qualified and competed in the USTA 14-under nationals in Orlando, Florida.

Wilson also attends the TMX Academy in Burbank everyday after school and travels around the country on the USTA junior circuit.

“I think any college coach would love to have her,” Datt said. “She will help any program.”

Soccer looking for quick start

Soccer looking for quick start

The Sierra Canyon boys soccer team is ready for an exciting 2023 campaign.

Coach Chris Bonawandt is excited about the team’s development and guidance from several returning starters.

The goalkeeper is Arman Sahi and he is a two-year starter.

“We need to keep the other teams from scoring and Arman is our guy,” Bonawandt said. “Arman is a smart guy and knows our system.”

Visili Fovos, Constantine Theodoratos and Anthony Najafi form a three-person core up the middle for the Trailblazers. The three will be key in helping the younger, more inexperienced Sierra Canyon players navigate the rough waters of the Mission League.

Fovos is a central defender and will be just in line ahead Sahi.

Theodoratos is a mid-fielder until reinforcements from the football team make it out to the pitch.

“Constantine is an amazing athlete,” Bonawandt said. “He is tenacious. No one can stop him. He is a coach’s dream.”

Najafi will be counted on to score goals for the Trailblazers.

“Anthony is a big goal scorer for us,” Bonawandt said. “He knows how to find the back of the net. Anthony will give opposing defenses problems.”

Sierra Canyon is good up the middle but has some younger guys on the outskirts. The key will be blending the veterans and youth into a cohesive unit.

“We have a key player in every line,” Bonawandt said. “We start two freshmen almost every match. We need everybody to step up and work together.”

Loyola and Harvard-Westlake will be strong teams in the league with St. Francis.

“These are the big boys,” Bonawandt said. “Those programs don’t know much about us. It’s a clean slate for us. Our goal is always playoffs. We want to qualify and take it from there. Anything can happen in the postseason.”

Trailblazers get their 6th ring

Trailblazers get their 6th ring

The Sierra Canyon football team took care of business Saturday night and won the Southern Section Division 2 championship with an impressive 23-7 victory against Inglewood.

Not only did the Trailblazers win their eighth consecutive game and give Inglewood its first loss this year, they won their sixth championship and fifth in the last seven playoff years.

“A lot of hard work and great leadership,” SIerra Canyon coach Jon Ellinghouse said. “We stuck together and made it all the way through.”

Once again, Dane Dunn was front and center. Dunn rushed for 201 yards on 32 carries and all three touchdowns.

“He’s been our go-to-guy and he delivered for us,” Ellinghouse said. “He’s had an incredible playoff run.”

Dunn, only a sophomore, has totaled nearly 800 yards in the playoff with nine touchdowns in four games.

Dunn set the tone for the evening taking the first handoff 50 yards down to the two-yard line and then easily went into the end zone for a touchdown. It was a two play, 52-yard drive in 17 seconds.

Dunn scored again with 5:27 remaining in the second quarter and one more time in the fourth quarter.

“We had a lot of third and fourth down plays that got us a new set of downs,” Ellinghouse said. “Dane was a big part of that.”

The defense wasn’t bad, either.

Sierra Canyon (10-4) held Inglewood (13-1) to its lowest total in its last 43 games and Jae’on Young had two interceptions.

Inglewood shot itself in the foot multiple times.

Husan Longstreet thought he had two touchdown passes. However, a 36-yarder to New Jersey-import Jamari Johnson was wiped out on a penalty and a 67-yard toss was wiped out when Longstreet was pass the line of scrimmage.

Inglewood also muffed a punt that led to an Ashton Zamani field goal and failed to take advantage of a Sierra Canyon muffed punt in the second half.

Longstreet finished 16 of 29 for 134 yards. He connected with Terrell Bradshaw for a 16-yard touchdown in the second quarter to bring the Sentinels to within 14-7. That was their only look at the game.

Sierra Canyon started the year 1-3 and fell to 2-4 after its third consecutive home loss (Bishop Amat in double overtime). The Trailblazers then won the Mission League and eight games in a row.”

“A lot of other teams would have folded and cashed in the season,” Ellinghouse said. “Not this group and not these coaches. We found solutions to our problems.”

Sierra Canyon is expected to be chosen for the Div. 1-AA regional bowl game next week and would have to win to reach its fifth state final in school history.

Back in familiar spot, the finals

The Sierra Canyon football program is right back where it likes to be.

The Trailblazers went into La Puente and knocked off host Bishop Amat 29-23 on Friday night in a Division 2 semifinal game.

Dane Dunn rushed for 166 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead Sierra Canyon (9-4), which has reeled off seven consecutive victories.

The victory not only avenged a heart-breaking 31-28 double overtime setback to Bishop Amat back in week 6 but advanced the Trailblazers to their 7th championship game appearance in the last 12 seasons with playoffs.

“It’s really just great for the school, kids, parents, fans and the entire Sierra Canyon community,” Sierra Canyon head coach Jon Ellinghouse said. “We believed all year. Others didn’t. We got off to a rough start. The kids stayed locked in. The coaches stayed locked in. We got this thing right.”

Sierra Canyon fell behind 7-0 just as it did last week in a quarterfinal game against fellow Mission League-rival Serra of Gardena. But the Traiblazers never panicked and came up with another come from behind victory.

Sierra Canyon scored 19 consecutive points and led by 12 points at halftime. Trailing 7-6, Xavier White returned a Richie Munoz interception 28 yards for a touchdown. More importantly, it put Sierra Canyon on top for good. Alonzo Esparza then threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Byrd.

The lead grew to 22-7  thanks to an 8-minute plus drive and 27-yard field goal from Ashton Zamani before two touchdowns from Bishop Amat.

Rodney Sermons returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score and Adrian Ramos rushed for a 6-yard touchdown. It was 22-20 with under nine minutes remaining and anybody’s ballgame.

However, Terrell Cooks returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards to set up good field position. Dunn scampered 43 yards and scored from three yards out for a 29-20 lead.

Jae’on Young and Jaylen’dai Sumlin each had interceptions late to thwart any Lancers comeback bid.

Sierra Canyon held Bishop Amat to 23 points. The Lancers had scored 70 and 64 points in their previous two playoff games.

Sierra Canyon is 7-3 all-time in the semifinals and 5-1 overall in championship games with five victories in a row, going for six next week against Inglewood. Sierra Canyon will host either Friday or Saturday.

Inglewood knocked off Chaminade 41-38 in overtime in an instant classic at South Torrance HS.

 

Inglewood is 13-0 overall this year and most famous for running up the score 106-0 last year against Morningside before losing to Alemany in the Div. 2 semifinals.

Watkins stays home, will attend USC

Watkins stays home, will attend USC

She is a superstar. She is a can’t-miss-prospect. She is a state champion. She is a Team USA gold medalist.

And she is headed to USC.

JuJu Watkins announced Tuesday in a special ceremony at school on ESPN that she will stay home and attend USC next year to continue her academic and athletic career.

“It was a very meticulous process and it was a long process and we took all of our time,” Watkins said. “There is no place like home.”

Watkins is the number 1-ranked player in the country and expected to play at the highest levels across the world. She chose to stay close to home instead of attending South Carolina or Stanford.

“I could fit in at all three but could only choose one at the end of the day,” Watkins said.

Watkins averaged 24 points and 10.5 rebounds last year while helping the Trailblazers to their fifth state title and second in the Open Division. Watkins is a force at all three levels.

“She can really do it all,” Sierra Canyon coach Alicia Komaki said. “She can drive, post up and hit the three. She is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. And she does it all within our team concept. She gets other players involved and knows when to take over.”

Watkins helped Team USA to a gold medal in the 17-under championships over the summer. Watkins has secured NIL deals with several companies and should only see that expand by staying in Los Angeles.

College, the pros, money, fame and fortune are definitely in her future.

However, all she wants at the moment is to win basketball games and another state championship.

Basketball team has large target on back

The Sierra Canyon girls basketball team has a big, giant ‘X’ on its back this year.

After winning the Open Division state championship last year and the core of the team all returning, Sierra Canyon will get every team’s best shot to try and take it down.

“We know we are the ones being hunted this year,” Sierra Canyon coach Alicia Komaki said. “Last year there was a group of teams all trying to get to the top spot. We got there at the end. We know that means every team is coming after us. We love the challenge to not get caught.”

Komaki has great weapons at her disposal. Number one is all-american JuJu Watkins. Watkins is a generational-type talent that comes along once every 10-15 years. Watkins is labeled as a can’t miss prospect. Watkins is making her decision between USC, Stanford and South Carolina.

“Obviously, JuJu is an exceptional talent and great player. She can do it all on the court. I am glad she is on our side. It makes my job easier.”

Watkins had plenty of help.

MacKenly Randolph is a junior power forward with several Division 1 offers and Izela Arenas is a top junior guard. The role players are excellent, as well.

Christina Reynoso, Sophia Ruelas and Kayla Malek are experienced veterans that know the system well. And watch out for talented freshman forward Emilia Krstevski. She is a force on the block.

Sierra Canyon joins the Mission League this year and will battle with Harvard-Westlake, Alemany and Marlborough. Gone are the days of beating up on Crossroads, Campbell Hall and Paraclete.

The team will take several out-of-state trips this year. Louisiana, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Massachusetts are all on the docket. Plenty of frequent flyer miles to go around.

One goal for the program is to win the Southern Section Open Division championship on its way to the state championship. The section title has eluded the Trailblazers in recent years. Sierra Canyon lost to Windward in 2019 and Etiwanda last years before coming back to win the highest crown, knocking off both teams it lost to on the way, respectively.

“We would love to win the Southern Section title first,” Komaki said. “That’s always the first championship we want.”

Where are they now? Isis Diaz making an impact at Johns Hopkins

Where are the now? Isis Diaz making an impact at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland

Former Sierra Canyon cross country standout Isis Diaz has picked up right where she left off for the Johns Hopkins University women’s cross-country team.

Diaz, who had stellar freshman and senior campaigns in Chatsworth finishing in the top 10 in the state in Division 5, has made her mark in the collegiate ranks.

“I love seeing Isis excel as a freshman in college,” Sierra Canyon cross country coach Troy Samuels said. “I always knew she would be successful. Her opportunity here at Sierra Canyon was a blessing and only prepared her for future success.”

Diaz recently ran a 6K race in 22:43.6 on October 29th in the Centennial Conference championships. That effort placed her 9th and helped her team finish high in the standings, taking home the conference championship.

Back in September, Diaz ran a 5K in 18:52.1 for an 8th-place finish in the Baltimore Metro meet. Diaz also ran a 19:41.7 on October 15th in the Panorama Farms Rowan Invitational in another 5K race.

“Just the fact that Isis is running and contributing as a freshman is unbelievable,” Samuels said. “She is a big part of the team and the plans moving forward for the program.

Diaz had a bright future set when she entered Sierra Canyon back in 2018. Diaz finished 9th in the state in Division 5 as a wide-eyed youngster.

After a couple subpar years, Diaz recaptured the old magic for her senior season.

Diaz won her heat in the Southern Section prelims, placed third in the section finals and took home an impressive 10th-place finish in the state meet.

Her re-emergence late in high school has propelled her in college, thus far.

Diaz was the second fastest freshman in the conference and was an all-conference second team selection.

Diaz is majoring in behavioral biology and has a bright future on and off the racecourse.

“Isis is everything we dream of when it comes to a Sierra Canyon student and product,” Samuels said. “She was given an opportunity; she took advantage of the opportunity and is now reaping the rewards of that opportunity. I couldn’t and I know the whole school community couldn’t be happier for her.”