LeBron James and Drake sitting side by side courtside at a high school basketball championship game. Yes, it really happened Friday night in Chatsworth. It was just another Hollywood moment made possible because James’ son, Bronny, was finally cleared to make his season debut for Sierra Canyon, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect: The Southern Section Open Division championship game.
Somebody forgot to tell Sierra Canyon’s opponent, Corona Centennial, not to play the role of spoiler. The Huskies, led by the best guard trio anywhere in California, came away with an 80-72 victory, handing Sierra Canyon (15-1) its first playoff defeat since the 2018 season and ending a 21-game playoff winning streak.
“With Drake here, LeBron here, you have to show off for them,” Centennial sophomore guard Jared McCain said. “It amped up the whole crowd. It’s the most amazing feeling I’ve had in my life.”
Sophomore guard Kylan Boswell, who picked up a UCLA scholarship offer this week, scored 24 points and made six threes. Junior guard Donovan Dent scored 21 points, and McCain had 16.
“Their guards are amazing,” Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier said. “We didn’t compete today, and they played great.”
Centennial finishes its season with a 21-2 record because coach Josh Giles and his players have opted out of participating in next week’s regional playoffs so the team can play in front of college recruiters next weekend in Arizona. Considering the way they played, the players won’t need any more exposure. Big games were also turned in by 6-foot-6 sophomore Aaron McBride and 6-10 sophomore Devin Williams. The Huskies had 12 blocks. Only Amari Bailey, who finished with 33 points, was a consistent threat for Sierra Canyon.
As if the Open Division championship game needed any more hype, the timing of James being cleared to play after missing Sierra Canyon’s first 15 games because of offseason knee surgery suddenly made a ticket into Sierra Canyon’s not very large gym a valuable commodity. This was your TMZ moment, especially when LeBron James and Drake entered the gym together right before player introductions.
There were TV cameras, video cameras and cellphone cameras aimed and capturing every moment. There was a boom microphone hovering behind Chevalier throughout the game because a documentary crew has been following the Trailblazers.
James came in from the bench at the 2:12 mark of the first quarter, picked up an offensive foul, then made a steal and scored his first basket of the season with 59 seconds left in the quarter.
What got LeBron James and Drake to leap up out of their seats twice in the second quarter was a pair of spectacular one-handed dunks by Bailey. It was a 39-39 tie at halftime, and you could say unequivocally it was 16 minutes of pure entertainment. Centennial made six threes and blocked eight shots. Bailey and Shy Odom each scored 13 points for Sierra Canyon.
Bronny made a major contribution in the fourth quarter. With Bailey sent to the bench briefly after getting banged up on the floor, James scored off a drive, then made a three-pointer with the help of a fortunate rim bounce. An eight-point deficit by Sierra Canyon was cut to three. Pops was standing, cheering and offering words of encouragement.
“He was getting tired, but it was great to have him back,” Chevalier said.
Dent said the Huskies were ready for the atmosphere and refused to lose their focus.
“We came in with the mindset, ‘Don’t get caught up with the fans or celebrities,’ ” Dent said. “It’s just a basketball game.”
Centennial lost its opening game to Studio City Harvard-Westlake of the Open Division playoffs, then fought its way back to win its pool and then the championship.
“We belong here,” Giles said.
In the City Section Open Division girls’ basketball final at Palisades, the Dolphins defeated Western League rival Hamilton 62-44. Demonnie Lagway led Palisades with 19 points. The boys’ championship game between Birmingham and Westchester will be played Saturday night at Westchester.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.