Video: Full highlights
SACRAMENTO, Calif. —
For all its flair and spectacular dunks, for all its dazzling passes and head-shaking scores, one prevailing trait gets lost in the analysis of one of the finest high school basketball teams ever assembled.
took the best shot of De La Salle (Concord)
in the first half, maintained its cool and trust, then blew away the Spartans with a series of all of the above en route to a 70-50 California Open Division title victory Saturday night at Sleep Train Arena.
The victory put a pretty bow on a 35-0 season and assured a mythical national championship. It cemented the school's first state title and erased a bitter defeat in last year's Division I double-overtime championship loss.
Ironically, national player of the year favorite Lonzo Ball
, known for his ultimate calm, was anything but at halftime and lashed out at his team that trailed 30-28. The 6-foot-6 senior point guard then finished off an otherwise quiet night for him, with three consecutive dunks in the final two minutes to finish with 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
"We weren't going to lose two years in a row and I let the team know it," said Lonzo, a UCLA commit. "You lose and it's a long drive home."
Considering the Huskies defeated 11 top 50 teams in the country this year, including three of those teams multiple times and ran roughshod on Southern California regional foes, the discussion if they are the best team in state history came up after the game. Lonzo Ball had an emphatic answer. And he stretched the boundaries.
"We believed before the start of season we had the chance to be the best ever — anywhere," he said. "Tonight sealed it in our minds."
Said Chino Hills coach Steve Baik, whose team scored at least 100 points 18 times, which tied a state record: "We have to be in the conversation. Our body of work is pretty impressive. Historians will need to take a hard look."
The Huskies sure proved they aren't just Lonzo or his brothers, junior LiAngelo Ball
(18 points, seven rebounds) and freshman LaMelo Ball
(14 points, five assists). Elizjah Scott
, a high-flying 6-5 junior, made six of seven shots, grabbed eight rebounds and had 16 points. Onyeka Okongwu
, an impressive and long 6-9 freshman, added seven points, nine rebounds and five big blocks.
The performance impressed impressive first-year De La Salle coach A.J. Kuhle, a former University of Denver coach who was recommended to the Spartans by Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich. He knows hoops.
"It's great basketball," Kuhle said. "Throw it to the open man, and the more you do it, the easier the game becomes. And they do it very well."
But De La Salle had them on the run early, rattling off a 17-4 run to take a 20-9 lead, keyed by three outside buckets from 6-5 USF-bound guard
(16 points) and a pair of inside hoops by 6-4, 240-pound post Emeka Udenyi
(11 points, 11 rebounds).
When Chino Hills went on a 14-0 run finished off with a slam dunk by Okongwu, the Spartans didn't get rattled, and finished the half with a 10-5 run to take a 30-28 halftime lead.
But it took less than a minute for that lead to vanish and the Huskies were gone. A driving layup by Lonzo Ball and three-pointer from LaMelo Ball started it all.
"We've been in tough jams before," Baik said. "We weren't panicked but we weren't real happy that we weren't playing our best. Everything started on the defensive end."
The long reach of Okongwu, Scott and Lonzo Ball hindered De La Salle's shooting. The Spartans were 50 percent in the first half, but just 7 of 28 in the second.
"They have great length, very active, with a lot of high level players," Kuhle said.
When asked to sum up the season, Baik just took a giant sigh and smiled.
"It's a dream come true working with these kids," he said. "They're so unselfish. They work so hard. Everything worked out to perfection. It was a perfect year."