Bronny James' Sierra Canyon season debut spoiled in front of LeBron, Drake

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·4 min read
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Bronny James made his return Friday night for Sierra Canyon in front of his father and Drake. (Krysten Peek/Yahoo Sports)
Bronny James made his return Friday night for Sierra Canyon in front of his father and Drake. (Krysten Peek/Yahoo Sports)

CHATSWORTH, Calif. — Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James didn’t make the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons after the Phoenix Suns eliminated the defending champions in six games last week. The Los Angeles Clippers are still in the playoffs (and playing at home tomorrow night) but it was the CIF Southern Sectional Finals between Sierra Canyon and Corona Centennial that was the hottest ticket in town Friday night.

James and longtime friend, Drake, were seated courtside to watch his son, Bronny James, return to the court for the first time this season. The sophomore, fresh off making the cover of Sports Illustrated, has been sidelined since February after undergoing knee surgery. Bronny has been practicing for a month with the team and looked comfortable during warmups wearing a knee brace.

This game was not your typical high school basketball game. There were Drake songs played during timeouts with the rapper bobbing his head and even singing along to a few lyrics. NBA draft prospects Scottie Barnes and BJ Boston were sitting in the stands along with NBA rookies Cassius Stanley and Cole Anthony.

Corona Centennial (21-2) held on to win the Open Division title, winning 80-72 and handing Sierra Canyon (15-1) its first loss of the season.

It was back and forth between the two teams during the first quarter with Bronny checking into the game for the first time six minutes into the game. He had a steal at halfcourt followed by a tough layup that brought Sierra Canyon within one point. LeBron was visibly proud seeing his son return to the court for a competitive game of basketball for the first time in over a year. Bronny’s minutes were limited in his first game back, playing only six minutes in the first half.

“By yourself! Screen coming, get through,” LeBron yelled from the sidelines as his son played defense. Down the stretch, it was a defensive stop from Bronny that turned into a euro step layup from Bailey on the other end. Junior guard Amari Bailey, a UCLA commit who averaged over 25 points this season for Sierra Canyon, closed out the half with two impressive dunks that got both LeBron and Drake out of their seats, shaking their heads.

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Centennial came out strong in the second half, leading by nine points at one point. Sierra Canyon would slowly chip away and the closer they got, the more animated and involved LeBron and Drake got on the sidelines. Drake even pulled the ref over to have a few words during a timeout in the fourth quarter.

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Sierra Canyon did everything to get back into the game, but Kylan Boswell and Centennial's sharpshooting was too much for the Trail Blazers. Bailey would make a tough play at one end to bring Sierra Canyon within one point and then Boswell would answer with a 3-pointer at the other end.

“Bron was talking to me on the sidelines and he was just telling me, ‘you can’t get tired, you gotta keep pushing,” Bailey told Yahoo Sports.

Bronny saw more minutes in the second half and even hit a key 3-pointer to cut the lead to three, 70-67, with 4:23 left in the fourth quarter. Boswell hit two deep 3-pointers out of timeouts to extend the lead to eight with 90 seconds left to go in the game and the Trailblazers couldn’t answer. Boswell finished with 26 points (six 3-pointers) and Bailey led Sierra Canyon with 33 points.

“We knew we had to stay locked in and do what we needed to do, even with LeBron and Drake in the building,” Boswell said after the game. “They didn’t say anything to me personally during the game but I could hear Bron on the sidelines. it’s nice to get out here and get a W and a championship playing in front of them.”

Bronny James (Krysten Peek/Yahoo Sports)
Bronny James (Krysten Peek/Yahoo Sports)

Drake and LeBron made their way over to Bailey, who was sitting in a chair behind the bench, visibly upset after the loss.

“Drake came up to me afterward and he just said, ‘Do you know how many L’s I’ve taken in my life to get to where I am? Keep your head up.’ And Bron just reminded me that he lost the Finals on his home court and came back and won a championship the next year,” Bailey said.

It was a gutting loss for Bailey and Sierra Canyon but to get advice postgame from NBA royalty and one of the most successful music artists in the world isn’t a bad consolation prize.

“I'm definitely going to remember this game and use it as motivation next season. We’ll be back,” Bailey said.

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