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High school basketball: Top 50 Class of 2022 prospect Chance Westry leaves Sierra Canyon - HIGHSCORE
High school basketball: Top 50 Class of 2022 prospect Chance Westry leaves Sierra Canyon
Despite starting the high school basketball season in Southern California with a perfect 7-0 mark, national power Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) has suffered a number of significant personnel losses. At the top of the list is four-star guard Chance Westry, a Pennsylvania native who is returning home and no longer with the program due to personal reasons, head coach Andre Chevalier told the Los Angeles Daily News.

Regarded as the No. 34 overall prospect in the Class of 2022, Westry averaged 14.2 points per outing in five appearances this season. He did not play in Sierra Canyon's previous two contests.

Max Allen, a 6-foot-8 post player, left the team before the regular season officially got underway April 22.

Bronny James is also unlikely to join the lineup this year after tearing his meniscus in February and 7-foot-3 center Harold Yu, who lives in China, also will not join the team.

Top five Class of 2022 prospect Amari Bailey has carried the load offensively in recent games, scoring 35 points in a 70-54 victory over Windward last Tuesday before recording a triple-double with 32 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in their most recent win over Crossroads on Friday.

Despite the voids in the lineup, the Trailblazers have now won 59 consecutive league games and remain a strong contenders to capture their third consecutive CIF Southern Section Open Division title. Playoffs begin May 28.
Amari Bailey drives to the basket during his 35-point performance against Windward.
Photo by Nick Koza
Amari Bailey drives to the basket during his 35-point performance against Windward.
Extending the Season: No Sierra Canyon-Sheldon trilogy, but three fantastic finishes - HIGHSCORE
Extending the Season: No Sierra Canyon-Sheldon trilogy, but three fantastic finishes
Video: Sierra Canyon wins at buzzer
Trailblazers advance to state in dramatic fashion.

The lights at Golden 1 Center, home of the Sacramento Kings, have never shined so bright for a high school event.
 
In each of the past two seasons, the star-studded boys basketball team from Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) played against hometown Sheldon (Sacramento). The energy and excitement was palpable for the games that capped the CIF's 12-game state basketball championships.

The Trailblazers brought an entourage that included former NBA players and Hollywood celebrities, who sat courtside for all to see.

They are high school basketball's version of the Showtime Lakers.

The hometown fans walked away disappointed each of the past two seasons as the flashy visitors showed more than just a little glitz — Sierra Canyon won each game handily, 76-52 and 75-62. But Huskies were hopeful that with a strong cast returning, including Marcus Bagley, younger brother of Kings' star Marvin Bagley, they would return in 2020 to flip those results.

The Huskies and Trailblazers appeared on a collision course before the coronavirus pandemic struck the country full force last week.

Sierra Canyon, featuring 5-star prospects in Ziaire Williams, Brandon Boston Jr. and Amari Bailey, plus the sons of LeBron James (Bronny James) and Dwyane Wade (Zaire Wade), captured its third straight Southern California regional title in the most dramatic way possible.
This buzzer beater by Ziaire Williams against Etiwanda would turn out to be the last shot of the season for Sierra Canyon.
Photo by Louis Lopez
This buzzer beater by Ziaire Williams against Etiwanda would turn out to be the last shot of the season for Sierra Canyon.
The Trailblazers pulled off a 63-61 stunner over Etiwanda as Williams, a McDonald's All-American, finished off a 13-0 run to close the game with a fade-away, 17-foot swish at the buzzer to set off a wild celebration.

"It was truly surreal," Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier said a week after the shot. "How magical was it for us to just fight all the way back from that seemingly endless hole? And then to win it on that shot by Ziaire. Truly surreal."

Sheldon's path to the Northern California finals was similarly unlikely — perhaps even more so.

One week before the finals, the plug was pulled on the Huskies' season after a student in Sheldon's district was quarantined as a precaution for coronavirus.

Two days of public outcry and political pressure led to top-seeded Sheldon being reinstated, but the Huskies found themselves down eight late on the road in the semifinals against a very determined Dublin squad.

Yet, they fought back to win 65-64, powered by Bagley's 27 points that included an improbable go-ahead shot with 17.5 seconds remaining.

"I'm proud of all of our guys, our team," Bagley told Joe Davidson of the Sacramento Bee. "I'm happy. We've been resilient all year. Learned a lot about our team. We're built for this. That's why this game meant so much."

That win vaulted Sheldon in the semifinals against another team built on great resolve, the Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland) Dragons. Winners of 18 straight games after a 5-7 start, O'Dowd looked capable of derailing the Sierra Canyon-Sheldon trilogy.

The Dragons had one the top freshman in the country, 6-foot-8 14-year-old forward Jalen Lewis, one of the state's top juniors in Marsalis Roberson and Cal signee Monty Bowser, as well as their own motivation.

It was five years ago that Ivan Rabb sank a game-winning free throw with less than a second to play to shock Mater Dei (Santa Ana) in the state final. A book "Dragon Hoops," was supposed to be released on the anniversary of that game, and O'Dowd was bent on repeating the feat.

It would have been a tall order, but O'Dowd was at the top of its game after a decisive 13-point road win over second seed Archbishop Mitty in the NorCal semifinals.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is our last game," O'Dowd coach Lou Richie said after the game. "Tomorrow is not promised."

Turned out, Richie called it.

The morning of the delayed O'Dowd-Sheldon NorCal finals on March 12, CIF Executive Director Ron Nocetti canceled that game and the weekend's 2020 state championship games.

"While we understand this decision is disappointing, we strongly believe that the opportunity to compete in this event does not outweigh our obligation to place the health and safety of our member schools and school communities above all else," he said.

No Sheldon-Sierra Canyon trilogy. No O'Dowd epilogue. No Trailblazers' three-peat.

All three coaches lamented the disappointment — how thrilling it would have been to watch all those talented athletes under the simmering spotlight.

But each coach recognized the bigger picture — health and safety. They also found silver linings in ending on a high note.

Sheldon coach Joey Rollings focused on how his team inspired a community to keep them in the tournament, and how the Huskies reciprocated with a likewise effort, without practicing for three days.

"My kids never quit," Rollings told the Bee's Davidson. "We got to go out on an exciting note. We wish we could play another game, but we can't control that. Our kids seem to understand. They're disappointed, but kids are resilient." 

Richie had a similar message for his Dragons, who featured seven seniors.

"A lot of the kids were very upset," Richie said. "They're hurt. Disappointed. I tried to convey that they had a great season. It's disappointing it ended that way, but don't let things you can't control get you down. Besides that, when we focus on our last game, it couldn't have gone any better. If we played like that in the NorCal or state finals, we definitely would have had a shot."

Teams took their best shot at Sierra Canyon all season, Chevalier said. The Trailblazers had a giant "X" on their back from Day One.

Despite that target they finished 30-4, No. 15 in the final MaxPreps national rankings and won section and regional titles.

"It's always great to win your last game and the way we did was amazing," Chevalier said. "We would have loved to be able and play that last game to try to three-peat as state champion. But sometimes life takes priority over sport. We want our country and this world to be safe.

"All that said, going 30-4 this season, starting in China and going all over the U.S. with a big target on our back is a great testament to who we are as a team. I'm super proud of how they reacted to all they had to deal with, and then to play our best basketball at the end of the season was very special. It is a very special group."
TyTy Washington named 2020-21 HIGHSCORE Arizona High School Basketball Player of the Year - HIGHSCORE
TyTy Washington named 2020-21 MaxPreps Arizona High School Basketball Player of the Year
Each year since 2006, MaxPreps has recognized outstanding performers in high school basketball. America's source for high school sports continues the tradition to close out the 2020-21 season by naming the top player in each state. Selections are based on team success and individual excellence, in addition to local and state accolades.

TyTy Washington of AZ Compass Prep (Chandler) is the 2020-21 MaxPreps Arizona High School Basketball Player of the Year. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound senior helped the Dragons go 27-1 en route to the program's first GEICO Nationals invite.

Washington averaged 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds per contest to lead AZ Compass Prep to the No. 2 spot in this week's MaxPreps Top 25.

A leading candidate for MaxPreps National Player of the Year honors, Washington put together a number of strong performances in big games, including averaging 18.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per contest in three games at the Montverde Academy Invitational.

Regarded as the No. 30 prospect in the Class of 2021, Washington holds 34 college offers including Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, LSU, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Texas Tech, UCLA and USC among others.

Each state's MaxPreps Player of the Year will be considered for inclusion in the MaxPreps All-America Team, which is scheduled to be released April 13.
TyTy Washington in action against Prolific Prep during a February game.
Photo by Mark Jones
TyTy Washington in action against Prolific Prep during a February game.

William Benjamin named 2020-21 HIGHSCORE New Mexico High School Basketball Player of the Year - HIGHSCORE
William Benjamin named 2020-21 MaxPreps New Mexico High School Basketball Player of the Year
Each year since 2006, MaxPreps has recognized outstanding performers in high school basketball. America's source for high school sports continues the tradition to close out the 2020-21 season by naming the top player in each state. Selections are based on team success and individual excellence, in addition to local and state accolades.

William "Deuce" Benjamin of Las Cruces (Las Cruces) is the 2020-21 MaxPreps New Mexico High School Basketball Player of the Year. The 6-foot-1 junior guard helped the Bulldawgs go 14-1 en route to the Class 5A state championship game.

Benjamin averaged 27.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 87 percent from the free throw line.

Despite falling just shy of capturing their second consecutive state championship, Benjamin recorded 21 points, five rebounds and five assists in his team's state championship game loss.

"Deuce" is the son of Las Cruces head coach William Benjamin, who is 277-90 during his 12-year tenure with the program.
High school football: Unconventional Arkansas coach that never punts lands college head coaching gig - HIGHSCORE
High school football: Unconventional Arkansas coach that never punts lands college head coaching gig
Kevin Kelley approached and accomplished things on the high school football field few have ever done. The Pulaski Academy (Little Rock, Ark.) head football coach announced Thursday he was leaving his post to take the same job at NCAA FCS program Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C.

The nine-time state champion has earned national attention for his statistical-driven, no-punt, high risk-high reward approach while piling up head-spinning numbers at the small (1,221 enrollment K-12), private, independent school in central Arkansas.

The 51-year-old's revolutionary offenses and methods were featured on segments of 60 Minutes, HBO's Real Sports and NFL Films and he once was a guest speaker at MIT. He was a pioneer of analytics in the high school game.

In 18 seasons, he boasted a record of 216-29-1 and was recently inducted into the Arkansas Hall of Fame.

His rise in fame coincided with the invention of numbers-driven MaxPreps.com and he quickly became the poster coach for entering team and individual statistics. His teams often ranked near or at the top of all offensive categories.
Kevin Kelley, Pulaski Academy
File photo by Rickey Miller
Kevin Kelley, Pulaski Academy
Among the Bruins' remarkable feats since 2004:

* Scoring more than 600 points 13 times and at least 700 seven times, topped out at 790 in 2019 and 789 in 2011.

* That 2011 squad was his only team to finish 15-0. Three other times the Bruins went unbeaten including his final season in 2020 (13-0), the only time they finished No. 1 in the MaxPreps Arkansas computer rankings. They finished ranked second in 2008, 2016 and 2019 and No. 3 in 2011.

* In all but one season (2009), they averaged more than 500 yards per game, while once clearing the 600-yard plateau in 2019. That year, they averaged a ridiculous 648 yards, 439 through the air and 209 on the ground.

* Average yards per game per year since 2010: 529, 537, 513, 556, 516, 581, 550, 571, 597, 648 and 579.

* Points per game since 2014: 50.2, 50.8, 47.8, 56.0, 50.2, 56.4 and 50.7.

* In a 2017 game, the Bruins pilled up what was then a national record 991 total yards during an 86-56 win over Little Rock Christian Academy. Layne Hatcher set a state record with 745 yards passing to go along with nine touchdown passes.

Hatcher is one of the most prolific passers the country has ever seen. He's the state leader with 15,483 career passing yards.  But Hatcher is not nearly alone among Kelley's pupils.

A 2020 story by MaxPreps senior writer and historian Kevin Askeland highlighted that Kelley has coached 12 of the top 100 single-season passing yardage marks in history.
Layne Hatcher, Pulaski Academy's record-setting quarterback in 2017.
File photo
Layne Hatcher, Pulaski Academy's record-setting quarterback in 2017.