Sierra Canyon reaches Classic final

A nationally-ranked squad from Utah got the team from SoCal revved up.

Sierra Canyon, a tiny school (enrollment 450) from the outskirts of Los Angeles, used a 22-0 run in the second half to pull away from Lone Peak in a 73-45 semifinal win on Monday night at the ‘Iolani Classic.

The Trailblazers will play the La Lumiere (Ind.)-Fairfax (Calif.) winner in tonight’s final.

The team from Chatsworth, Calif. looked every bit the part of a potential Classic champion. Point guard Remy Martin was the spark, driving relentlessly against the Knights’ man-to-man defense for 20 points. He committed just one turnover in a near-flaw performance. Center Cody Riley was their rim protector, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds and a block. Ira Lee and Adam Seiko added eight points apiece, and Michael Feinberg was solid and versatile with seven points, five boards and a dime.

Martin’s penetration didn’t have to end with points of his own, but Lone Peak’s man-to-man defense gambled on keeping the ball out of the hands of Sierra Canyon’s big men. Martin capitalized with 6-for-6 shooting from the field and 6-for-7 from the free-throw line. Even during his brief stints on the bench, he was up and advising his teammates.

“I’m a big leader. When I’m off the court, I’m still a leader. I’m still vocal,” Martin said. “The energy is contagious.”

All four of their top scorers on Monday are juniors. Feinberg is a sophomore.

Fred Jackson, a signee with Duke, led the Knights with 12 points, including a couple of treys. Max Benchley also scored 12 and hauled in six rebounds. The Trailblazers made sure Jackson worked extra hard for every inch of space by putting Seiko, their defensive stopper, on him.

“I saw him play (Saturday) and at AAU a couple of times in the summer,” Seiko said. “We watched film of him today. He likes to go right and score or pass it out, so we made sure we didn’t let him pass. Make him a pull-up shooter, and don’t let him get to the line. He’s a good shooter there.”

Jackson shot 5-for-12 from the field and was 2-for-4 from the foul line. He also had two boards, two steals, one assist and one block.

“Whatever coach tells me to do, I’ll do. I don’t care about what I have to do as long as we win,” Seiko added.

Lone Peak shot 6-for-24 from deep (25 percent) against a rugged man defense that was willing to be physical. Riley, a 6-foot-7, 250-pound force, enjoys his role.

“I feel like my guys are working and my job is to protect the rim. We rise to the level of our competition. We hard about how Lone Peak is ranked in the Top 25. We were amped up and ready to go,” he said.

The Trailblazers were at full blast from the start. Riley scored on an and-1, alley-oop dunk mere seconds into the game, and after Martin turned a steal into a reverse layup and Lee scored on a pull-up bank shot, it was 7-0.

“We shot the ball really well,” Trailblazers coach Ty Nichols said. “We just got on a run. But we knew they are a very good shooting team.”

Sierra Canyon’s aggressive man-to-man defense stifled Lone Peak’s offense. The Knights had five turnovers in the first quarter while the Blazers kept rolling. Frank Jackson banked in a wing 3 to help the Knights, but Martin kept attacking Lone Peak’s man defense. He scored four of his team’s six points to close the quarter. The Blazers led 25-9 entering the second quarter.

Along the way, Nichols was assessed a technical foul after storming onto the court when Riley went up for a dunk and collided with Jackson. There was no call.

“How do you not protect an All-American basketball player,” Nichols said. “I drew that technical on purpose. I had to do my job.”

The lead grew to 33-10 after Martin scored on a fastbreak bucket and again on a steal and and-1 layup. Dealing with some foul trouble, Nichols had his reserves flowing into the game long before then, and as the Blazers went cold the rest of the first half, the Knights for three points each from Max Benchley and Jackson to cut the lead to 38-24 going into the half.

Lone Peak cut the lead to 44-35, which is when the Trailblazers answered with a 22-0 run to put the game virtually out of reach.

Now the team from SoCal has a shot at its first ‘Iolani Classic title.

“We’re at a good place,” Martin said. “We’re playing really hard and we’re playing together.”


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