Etiwanda girls basketball team holds off Sierra Canyon, will defend CIF State Open Division title in Sacramento

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The numbers were hard to ignore, but that’s exactly what Etiwanda girls basketball coach Stan Delus asked his players to do.

Sierra Canyon outrebounded the Eagles 42-21 through the first three quarters of Tuesday night’s CIF State Open Division regional championship game.

Etiwanda celebrates after defeating Sierra Canyon 54-51 in their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. The Eagles advance to the state finals once again and will face Archbishop Mitty for a rematch of last years state championship game.(Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)(Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Sierra Canyon’s Jerzy Robinson, (#5), shoots the ball over Etiwanda’s Kennedy Smith,(#11), and Aliyahna Morris, (#25) during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. (Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s (#), Sierra Canyon’s (#), during the CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. (Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Aliyahna Morris, (#25), shoots the ball over Sierra Canyon’s Christy Reynoso, (#0)), during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. The Eagles advance to the state final again and will face Archbishop Mitty for a rematch of last years state championship game.(Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Sierra Canyon’s Jerzy Robinson, (#5), drives the basketball against Etiwanda’s Arynn Finley, (#2),during the CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. (Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Sierra Canyon’s Emilia Krstevski, (#1), rebounds the ball against Etiwanda during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. (Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Arynn Finley, (#2), celebrates near Sierra Canyon’s Christy Reynoso, (#0), after scoring a three-pointer during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. (Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Kennedy Smith, (#11), looks to score against Sierra Canyon during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. The Eagles advance to the state final again and will face Archbishop Mitty for a rematch of last years state championship game.(Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Grace Knox, (#23), reacts after getting fouled and scoring a basket against Sierra Canyon during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. The Eagles advance to the state final again and will face Archbishop Mitty for a rematch of last years state championship game.(Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Mykelle Richards, (#22), loos to score against Sierra Canyon’s Mackenly Randolph, (#4), during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. (Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Sierra Canyon’s Mackenly Randolph, (#4), looks to score against Etiwanda their during the CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. (Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Kennedy Smith, (#11), drives to the basket against Sierra Canyon’s Mackenly Randolph, (#4), during the CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. The Eagles advance to the state final again and will face Archbishop Mitty for a rematch of last years state championship game.(Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Grace Knox shoots the ball over (#1), Sierra Canyon’s Emilia Krstevski, (#4), during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. (Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Aliyahna Morris, (#25), shoots the ball over Sierra Canyon’s Christy Reynoso, (#0)), during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. The Eagles advance to the state final again and will face Archbishop Mitty for a rematch of last years state championship game.(Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Kennedy Smith, (#11), drives to the basket against Sierra Canyon’s Mackenly Randolph, (#4), during the CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. The Eagles advance to the state final again and will face Archbishop Mitty for a rematch of last years state championship game.(Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Kennedy Smith, (#11), and teammate Aliyahna Morris, (#25), after defeating Sierra Canyon 54 -51 in their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. The Eagles advance to the state final again and will face Archbishop Mitty for a rematch of last years state championship game.(Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Grace Knox shoots the ball over (#1), Sierra Canyon’s Emilia Krstevski, (#4), during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. (Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Kennedy Smith, (#11),and Aliyah Phillips, (#3), compete for a rebound against Sierra Canyon’s Jerzy Robinson, (#5), during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. (Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Grace Knox shoots the ball over (#23), Sierra Canyon’s Mackenly Randolph (#4), during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. (Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Sierra Canyon’s Jerzy Robinson, (#5), shoots the ball over Etiwanda’s Kennedy Smith,(#11), and Aliyahna Morris, (#25) during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. (Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Aliyahna Morris, (#25), shoots the ball over Sierra Canyon’s Christy Reynoso, (#0)), during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. The Eagles advance to the state final again and will face Archbishop Mitty for a rematch of last years state championship game.(Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Etiwanda’s Kennedy Smith, (#11), drives to the basket against Sierra Canyon’s Mackenly Randolph, (#4), during the CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. The Eagles advance to the state final again and will face Archbishop Mitty for a rematch of last years state championship game.(Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

Sierra Canyon’s Emilia Krstevski, (#1), rebounds the ball against Etiwanda during their CIF State Open Division girls basketball regional championship game at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., March 5, 2024. (Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)

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And yet, Etiwanda held a two-point lead going into the final period of play. Delus had a simple message for his players before heading back onto the court.

“I told them those first three quarters don’t matter anymore,” Delus said. “Just go out there and win these final eight minutes and bring this victory home.”

The Eagles won the rebounding battle during the final period by the slimmest of margins (10-9), and Grace Knox and Kennedy Smith scored seven points apiece in the quarter as Etiwanda escaped with a 54-51 victory and earned an opportunity to defend its Open Division state championship in Sacramento.

Etiwanda (31-3) will square off against San Jose Archbishop Mitty (30-0) for that CIF Open Division championship Saturday at 6 p.m. at Golden 1 Center. It will be a rematch of last season’s Open Division state championship game, which Etiwanda won 69-67 on a put-back by Jada Sanders at the buzzer.

“We knew what needed to be done that final quarter,” said Smith, who was held scoreless through three periods. “We had to get ourselves locked in.”

Knox led the way for Etiwanda with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Aliyahna “Puff” Morris and Arynn Finley scored 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Sierra Canyon (31-3) was led by Jerzy Robinson, who recorded a game-high 25 points and 15 rebounds. Emilia Krstevski finished with 14 points and a game-high 16 rebounds, while Mackenly Randolph had 10 points added eight rebounds. The Trailblazers won several categories on the final stat sheet.

“I’m really proud of the effort. We outrebounded them (the Eagles) in both games, and we felt that would be a key against them,” Sierra Canyon coach Alicia Komaki said. “But it’s hard to hang your hat on that or having more second-chance points (25-15) when the final outcome doesn’t go your way.”

Etiwanda and Sierra Canyon have faced off in the CIF Southern Section and CIF State regional championship games the past three years, and the loser of the first game avenged the setback the first two times. Etiwanda cruised to a 65-44 victory in this year’s Southern Section championship game Feb, 23.

Sierra Canyon raced to a 7-0 lead after three minutes Tuesday night, forcing Delus to use an early timeout. Etiwanda also watched Mykelle Richards and Grace Knox get whistled for two fouls in the opening period. The Eagles leveled the score by quarter’s end and began the second period with a 10-0 run.

Finley and Morris each scored five points in the opening period, and Shaena Brew came off the bench to score five points during that second period run.

“It was great seeing those two (Finley and Brew) making some big shots,” Delus said. “We always tell them to be ready in case your opportunity comes.”

Sierra Canyon cut the deficit to five points by halftime, thanks in part to its work on the offensive glass. Krstevski had nine offensive rebounds in the game and a majority of her points came on easy put-backs. The Trailblazers closed out the third period with a 6-0 run to get within 40-38 of the Eagles.

“Both teams are so good defensively, and we knew points were not going to come easy,” Komaki said. “You just have to take whatever you can get.”

Robinson tried to will her team to the victory at the end, scoring 11 points in the final quarter and twice bringing the Trailblazers level on the scoreboard.

Knox was the catalyst for Etiwanda wining the rebounding battle down the stretch. She had six rebounds in the final quarter, four on the offensive end.

Robinson sank a 3-pointer to get Sierra Canyon within 53-51 with a few seconds to play. The Trailblazers were out of timeouts, however, and Etiwanda was content to let time expire without inbounding. Sierra Canyon was called for a second delay of game, a technical foul that sealed the Eagles’ victory.

“The Etiwanda-Sierra Canyon rivalry just brings out the best in everyone,” Delus said. “We knew this one wasn’t going to be easy, just based on what’s happened the last two years. I asked them to show me heart and mental toughness. They did it and have a chance to win another state championship.”

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