Sierra Canyon girls win Open Division title, notes on Jared McCain and California prospects

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Juju Watkins wanted Sierra Canyon to go undefeated in her senior season. More than 100 days after she made that public, her goal stands as strong as ever. 

The Sierra Canyon Trailblazers girls basketball team is now 30-0 after beating the Etiwanda Eagles 70-57 and, in doing so, capturing the program’s first CIF Southern Section Open Division title. 

Last year, this same game had ended in defeat for Sierra Canyon. Etiwanda limited Watkins’ scoring in the second half then, and she fouled out with a few minutes to go. 

That was the last time Watkins and Sierra have looked beatable. They avenged that loss to Etiwanda a week later and ended the season as state Open Division champions, but this year has been different

This group is still pretty hungry,” Watkins said back in October.

Months later, there’s no doubt about that — or about Watkins’ status as a generational talent

The USC commit’s scoring prowess is well documented by now. She’s a big guard in transition who’s hard to stop once she gets downhill, a smooth operator in the midrange, and has legitimately deep range from three. 

16 of her 24 points came from the free throw line in Saturday’s final, but this wasn’t a star player getting star player calls. Watkins is a terror in the open court and very physical at the rim. Teams have no choice but to foul her a lot of the time.  

Her playmaking, in my eyes, can go by overlooked. In some ways, that’s justifiable. We’re talking about someone who scored a career-high 45 points in January, then shattered her own record days later by dropping 60 — but she’s unselfish on the break and also understands the defensive attention she’ll command in the half-court. 

It was Watkins’ defense, though, that really set the tone for Sierra at the Honda Center. She finished with six emphatic blocks and it was the most dominant defensive performance I’ve ever seen from her.

Etiwanda’s star player, junior forward Kennedy Smith, was swarmed from the offset. The smallest player in Sierra Canyon’s starting lineup was 5-foot-9 Izela Arenas, who was backed by the 6-2 Watkins, 6-1 Mackenly Randolph, 6-2 Crystal Wang, and 6-4 Emilia Krstevski

Smith is a talented player who can rebound, handle the ball, and play inside-out but it was a rough night at the office. In her first possession, she was blocked by Krstevski, a freshman rim protector who didn’t shy away from the moment and pitched in with 18 solid minutes.

Smith was held to 12 points on 4-of-17 from the field and suffered some sort of minor lower leg injury in the second half, although the Etiwanda junior did well to come back into the contest. 

Sierra Canyon led by double digits for most of the game after the second quarter, but a late run by Etiwanda made it a seven point game with one minute left.

It was junior Mackenly Randolph who iced the game for the Chatsworth-based team. After making a pair of free throws, a steal and a layup from the versatile forward definitively put a bow on Sierra’s first-ever CIF-SS Open Division title

“We’re a very different team than we were a year ago,” Sierra Canyon head coach Alicia Komaki said after the game.

Starting this week, both teams will participate in the regional Open Division playoffs to have a chance to contend for the California state title in March. 

Prospect notes

The rest of the day was a great opportunity to evaluate some of the standout prospects across high school basketball in a high-pressure environment with real stakes — including a current five-star sensation and two of California’s top talents in the appetizing class of 2026.  

Let’s start with Jared McCain and Centennial’s insane buzzer-beating victory over St. John Bosco in the CIF-SS Open Division boys title game. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to watch Aaron McBride’s last-second steal and dunk. It’s probably the craziest ending to a game that I’ve seen live. 

McCain is a five-star recruit who committed to Duke last March. After watching him in-person on Saturday, it’s clear that he’s a skilled — and ultra-popular — prospect, but I’m still unsure about what his best role in the backcourt is. For one, I was impressed with McCain’s body. He’s not explosive, but he’s stocky and can really get into defenders to force contact and get to his spots. 6 of his 15 points came from the charity stripe. 

However, I want to keep seeing what the Cen10 guard can do when his shot isn’t dropping. McCain can be a lights out three-point shooter, but creating separation can be tough for him and he’s more of a scorer than a playmaker. In the long run, is he a score-first lead guard or an off-ball shooting guard type? 

Aaron McBride, the night’s hero who came up with the game-winning steal and poster dunk, will never forget Saturday night in Anaheim. It was an awesome play to lead Cen10 to a threepeat of the CIF-SS Open Division title, but McBride was great all game long with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and a couple of assists. He played with impressive efficiency at the basket and never got hurried when handling the ball or finding the open man. Stan Johnson, McBride’s coach at LMU next season, tweeted today: “I can’t wait to coach this kid. Flat out winner. He’s special.”

Centennial’s Devin Williams, a 6-foot-10 senior who is committed to UCLA, popped early on with a couple of big blocks. He wasn’t as productive afterwards, but he understood his role and remained engaged in the paint on both ends. Williams has my attention, but he’s still fairly raw — especially on offense, where he’s at his best in a simple role right now. 

Down the other end of the court, I was tracking St. John Bosco’s Brandon McCoy Jr. (freshman) and Elzie Harrington (sophomore). 

Of all the boys’ prospects I watched, McCoy might have been the most intriguing. You can tell he’s a freshman because he’s still skinny and growing into his body, but that’s about it. Apart from that, he was dynamic off the bench for Bosco and only grew into the game as it got closer. McCoy buzzed around on defense (he had 3 steals) and really pursued rebounds. That paid off, as he had this insane one-handed tip dunk in the fourth quarter.

Harrington will be hurting after turning the ball over in the game’s final possession, but I’m sure he’ll bounce back stronger from that setback. The Bosco sophomore played with kinesio tape on his shoulder and a brace on his knee, but that didn’t matter too much as he led his team with 15 points. Harrington already has great size for a guard at 6-5, is a creative ballhandler, and shows flashes of being a three-level scorer who can create his own shot. 

In the first boys’ championship game of the day, I had my eye on Mater Dei freshman Brannon Martinsen who helped the Monarchs to a 66-53 CIF-SS Division 1 title win against Etiwanda. Martinsen is a 6-foot-7 face-up forward with fluidity and a sweet stroke. The trust Mater Dei deposits in the star freshman is telling, but then again, he’s part of California’s highly-touted class of 2026.

To wrap up the Sierra Canyon-Etiwanda game, it’s worth highlighting the contributions of Mackenly Randolph and Izela Arenas. They’re juniors, so Alicia Komaki will get them back for another season but they’ve already been incredibly important this year. 

Randolph is a powerful finisher and rebounder, who finished with a double-double on Saturday with 17 points and 11 rebounds. However, her game is fairly refined and I always see her play with a steady demeanor. Randolph can push on the break and has soft touch on her shot, as she’s able to stretch the floor and comfortably convert her free throws.

Arenas’ consistency over the last month or so has been remarkable. She provides Sierra with outside shooting and can also bring the ball up to get the team into their sets. Her 19 points on Saturday were crucial for the Trailblazers.

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