Highlights: Jordin Blackmon, Bishop Montgomery close Cali Live with narrow win over Moreno Valley

Photo by Dennis Lee

LADERA RANCH, CALIFORNIA – Despite graduating some key pieces, reigning Division I state champion Bishop Montgomery isn't going anywhere.

For the most part, that's exactly what the Knights showed last weekend at Cali Live 2024. Despite sustaining one lopsided loss to eventual champion Sage Hill, Bishop Montgomery went 3-1 with all three wins carrying weight. The first two came convicingly against Central Section powerhouses, 63-50 over St. Joseph and 71-50 over Clovis.

In their last game of the weekend, the Knights faced off against another potential CIF-SS Open Division team, Moreno Valley, and pulled out 52-48 victory that was close from start to finish. Jordin Blackmon, who recently earned 4-star status from ESPN HoopGurlz, led the game in scoring and had a strong weekend overall with many Division I coaches in attendance watching her closely. Sophia Dignadice, Armanyie Reed, and Atiya Watson added more scoring punch from what's sure to be one of the top guard rotations in SoCal and beyond in 2024-25.

Moreno Valley didn't set the world on fire in Ladera Ranch, going 2-2 in slate it could have plausibly swept, but it still had a solid showing. Everyone knows what they're going to get come November from the Vikings, who finished last season ranked No. 21 in California and return their whole team, led by Leiayjah Mills, Alaysha Mills, and Bella Medina.

Pulling out the close losses to Windward and Bishop Montgomery would've made a statement and probably sent some extra momentum into the summer. But those games were well-contested, and MoVal blew out Pinewood and edged out Jefferson (OR) in its other two contests. While their peak upside isn't quite clear, the Vikings are a safe bet to contend for a top-15 ranking in California half a year from now.

In addition to Watson, Reed, Dignadice, and Blackmon, who was named all-state and Daily Breeze Player of the Year, Bishop Montgomery will look to few developing forwards to fill the gap left by graduating bruiser Tiara Jones (CSU-Dominguez Hills) and potentially raise the team's ceiling substantially. That list includes rising seniors Deryn Harris and Alani Tyler, and sophomore Helen Long, who stands upwards of 6-1.

During evaluation periods, also known as "live viewing periods", NCAA coaches get rare opportunities to scout players in person at certified events. With dead periods and quiet periods taking up most of the summer, live periods provide the majority of the very few chances for those college scouts to watch players from May through August. No contact between NCAA D-1 or D-2 coaches and recruits is allowed during evaluation periods.

Other top CIF-Southern Section teams at Cali Live included Brentwood School, Windward, Fairmont Prep, St. Anthony, North (Torrance), St. Mary's Academy, Orange Lutheran, Village Christian, Mira Costa, Harvard-Westlake, Redondo Union, Santiago (Corona), Buena Park, Ventura, San Clemente, and many other prominent programs.

The showcase was also well-represented by SoCal's other two sections, the CIF-L.A. City Section and CIF-San Diego Section. Six of last season's eight Open Division City selections were in attendanc – Birmingham, Palisades, King/Drew, Hamilton, Granada Hills Charter, and El Camino Real. And the CIF-SDS had a slew of representatives across numerous divisions, including Open Division champion Mission Hills, Bonita Vista, Francis Parker, Victory Christian Academy, and Carlsbad.

Many other big-name programs came from out of the area and even outside the state to play as well, with the CIF-Central Section particularly well-represented by the likes of St. Joseph, Caruthers, Clovis, Central (Fresno), Bakersfield Christian, San Joaquin Memorial, Monache, and Morro Bay. Northern California contenders on-site included Acalanes, Pinewood, McClatchy, Vanden, St. Mary's (Stockton), and Cardinal Newman, and out-of-state strongholds Camas (WA), Jefferson (OR), and Democracy Prep Agassi Campus (NV) also made the trip to Southern Orange County.

(Lead photo by Dennis Lee)

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Lance Smith