LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE – When the Chino Hills circus with Lonzo, LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball visited Damien for its annual Baseline League games a few years back, there was always a different electricity and buzz in the building.
Star power will do that.
St. Francis’ boys basketball team experienced that same feeling during Wednesday’s Mission League home game against Sierra Canyon and Bronny and Bryce James, the sons of Lakers forward LeBron James.
Tickets for the game sold out in 40 minutes, and the gym filled within minutes after the doors opened Wednesday night, an hour before the game started.
But there was disappointment for those hoping to watch Bronny James. After he warmed up with his teammates, word spread through the gym that Bronny would not play because he needed to rest a sore knee, according to reports.
But Sierra Canyon’s star power doesn’t end with the James duo. The Trailblazers also feature junior Justin Pippen, the son of NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, and Ashton Hardaway, the son of former NBA player and University of Memphis coach Penny Hardaway.
For St. Francis, having Bronny James sit out was helpful. The team that had lost four of its last five and was hoping to notch a significant victory over a Trailblazers team that is ranked No. 6 in CIF-SS Division 1 and likely headed for the Open Division of the playoffs.
Although St. Francis hung around for three quarters and gave Sierra Canyon a scare, the Trailblazers pulled away in the fourth quarter and won 61-43.
Sierra Canyon (18-4, 4-0) remains undefeated in the Mission League while the Golden Knights dropped to 16-8 overall and 2-2 in league.
Sierra Canyon junior Isaiah Elohim, a five-star recruit with offers to Arizona State, Kansas and several other colleges, finished with a game-high 24 points. Pippen added 12 and Hardaway had eight points.
St. Francis trailed by only three points heading to the fourth quarter, but even without Bronny James, the Trailblazers were still a load.
Sierra Canyon opened the fourth quarter with a 12-0 run to go up 15 points, and that was that.
“Someone said they have 11 Division 1 players and we don’t have any offers yet, but we have a few guys (that can play),” St. Francis coach Todd Wolfson said. “We battled. I’m not a big fan of moral victories, but I’m proud of our guys how they battled and how they competed. Our student section was fantastic. That’s why you come to St. Francis, to be in games like this.”
St. Francis coach Todd Wolfson talked about Wednesday’s 61-43 loss to Sierra Canyon. The Golden Knights only trailed by 3 heading to the fourth. pic.twitter.com/OYYmDmP9iN
— Fred J. Robledo (@SGVNSports) January 19, 2023
Jackson Mosley scored 12 points and was the only player for the Golden Knights to score in double figures. George Tupy had nine points and Brandin Dantzler finished with eight.
Mosley scored on a driving lay-up at the end of the first quarter to give the Golden Knights a 13-9 lead.
The Golden Knights kept the energy going with Dantzler swatting a ball to the stands. He then found himself loose on a break and slammed the ball to give St. Francis a 15-10 lead.
But the Trailblazers scored six straight points and led 23-21 at the break.
The Trailblazers surged ahead on Jimmy Oladokun’s dunk to go up, 38-29. The Golden Knights trailed 40-37 after Dantzler’s bucket to end the third quarter.
Sierra Canyon pulled away with a 12-0 run to start the fourth.
Mosley thought St. Francis had a chance to pull out a victory.
St. Francis’ Jackson Mosley led his team with 12 points in Wednesday’s loss to Sierra Canyon. Mosley talked about the atmosphere and energy taking on one of the Southland’s best and star-filled teams. pic.twitter.com/4oGVXhetQI
— Fred J. Robledo (@SGVNSports) January 19, 2023
“I thought we were really locked in throughout the first three quarters,” Mosley said. “I feel like some of us might of got gassed and they have players they can sub in and out. We were limited to six or seven players, but it was a great team effort.”
Mosley also talked about what it was like to be in a game with so much energy due to the star-power and notoriety of Sierra Canyon.
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“It was really fun having my friends out and playing against a really good basketball team,” Mosley said. “It was just a fun game. Maybe there was some nerves at the beginning, but I got my flow and rhythm going.”
The energy was so good Wolfson said he might have to bribe a few fans to get them all back for their next home game.
“Honestly, our crowd was awesome and it’s always been awesome,” Wolfson said. “But I may have to buy some donuts tomorrow to encourage some guys to come back next week when we play Loyola here.”