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Etiwanda girls basketball outlasts Sierra Canyon once more, repeats as regional champion: 5 takeaways

Grace Knox led the Eagles with 19 points

Etiwanda girls basketball broke through to win its first CIF-SS Open Division title two years ago and then its first Open Division State title last season.

On Saturday, the Eagles will have a chance to clinch their second of each in the span of one postseason.

Etiwanda turned in its second defensive gym against Sierra Canyon in the last two weeks on Tuesday for a 54-51 win, nursing a single-digit lead for nearly the entire game and never letting go. With the victory, Etiwanda retained its status as the undisputed top team in Southern California and set up another highly-anticipated state title game against Archbishop Mitty.

Grace Knox scored a team-high 17 points for Etiwanda, and Jerzy Robinson led all scorers with 25 points.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

1. Etiwanda rides defense to victory again

The way Etiwanda ran off with the section championship in the second half on Feb. 23, it was easy to forget that the first half was a 20-15 defensive slugfest that went just five points in Etiwanda's favor. But this game started just like the last one, with both teams flying around on defense and showing tension on offense from the get-go. And Etiwanda never broke the game wide open.

Sierra Canyon's defense was stellar was welll. Holding Etiwanda to 54 points is no joke, and the Trailblazers held Kennedy Smith scoreless until the fourth quarter and to seven points total. But that's a feel that Etiwanda is historically quite comfortable with.

2. Knox comes up clutch again

5-star junior transfer Grace Knox was the hero for the Eagles offensively just in like the last meeting. Both times, it was the second half where she did her most damage. Knox led Etiwanda with 17 points, mostly in the paint, and also including a big three in the fourth quarter.

For Sierra Canyon, it was a different hero keeping them in the game from last time – 6-4 sophomore Emilia Krstevski. After helping anchor the paint but struggling offensively in the section finals, Krstevski had 14 points and owned the glass, plus blocking a handful of shots once again. Etiwanda never quite found an answer for her inside dominance, but won anyway.

3. Robinson heats up, but Trailblazers can't hit enough shots

Sierra Canyon's Jerzy Robinson was a bit out of sorts in the Southern Section finals, but was the only player on either side to find a prolonged scoring rhythm in this one. She scored a game-high 25 points, and even Etiwanda's world-class paint defense wasn't enough to keep her from bullying her way into points at the rim. 

But the Trailblazers' inability to hit three-pointers and space the floor more was their undoing, like last meeting. Robinson opened the night with a three and closed it with a desperation three, and those were the only two three-pointers that Sierra Canyon hit in either championship bout.

Etiwanda never pulled away, with its biggest lead coming by eight points. And Sierra Canyon kept knocking. Robinson tied the game at 40 with 6:55 in the fourth quarter, and it wasn't only time the Trailblazers would tie the game down the stretch. But they never took the lead, and Etiwanda was able to manufacture enough points in a defensive slugfest to edge Sierra Canyon out.

4. Eagles end trend, make history

Believe it or not, Tuesday was the first time in six years that the Southern Section Open Division champion won the Southern Region Open Division title. The last team to do it was Windward in 2017-18, which did go on to win state. Etiwanda is now one win – against nationally top-ranked Archbishop Mitty – from winning back-to-back state titles. Even if they fall short, this win over Sierra Canyon rightfully opens up conversations about this era of Etiwanda girls basketball being considered a dynasty of sorts.

5. Sierra Canyon's senior class had one heck of a run

This is the end for one of the most accomplished classes in Sierra Canyon history – one that included Louisville commits Mackenly Randolph and Izela Arenas, Pomona-Pitzer commit Kayla Malek, and Long Beach State-bound Christy Reynoso.

Their senior season didn't result in quite as much glory as their previous two campaigns, but the Trailblazers' 2024 class left nothing to be desired. Namely, a State Open Division title in 2022, a Southern Section Open Division title in 2023, sweeps of the Mission League in the program's first two years in the conference, and national championship votes a season ago.