Sierra Canyon High School boys basketball coach Ty Nichols vividly remembers his first visit to Springfield.
The Trailblazers suffered a 49-48 loss to Oak Hill Academy in the championship final of the 2016 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions at JQH Arena. Ty-Shon Alexander hit an off balance 3-pointer at the final buzzer to give the Warriors a win.
“I remember the kid falling out of bounds hitting that shot. It was a great shot and a great high school basketball game,” Nichols said.
Despite a bad memory and a second-place finish, Sierra Canyon (11-1) accepted the invitation to come back to the Tournament of Champions this season. The Trailblazers are presently ranked No. 2 in the nation in the USA Today Super 25 Expert rankings.
“The tournament people that run it are outstanding and the people in southwest Missouri are outstanding people,” Nichols said.
Sierra Canyon senior Cody Riley was on track to be named MVP of the 2016 Tournament of Champions until Alexander sunk his game-winning 3-pointer. Riley is signed to play for coach Steve Alford at UCLA.
“(Riley) is a manchild, he’s just a beast. He’s super skilled, he handles it, passes it, shoots it. He does everything for us,” Nichols said.
Two other Trailblazers are signed with NCAA Division I basketball programs. Outside shooter Adam Seiko is signed with San Diego State, and point guard Remy Martin is signed with Arizona State.
“Adam can really shoot it for us, and Remy is a super athletic point guard, he’s gotten more athletic since you saw him last,” Nichols said.
Sierra Canyon junior Marvin Bagley III is the No. 1 college basketball prospect in his class according to 247sports.com. Bagley transferred to Sierra Canyon last year from a school in Arizona and was ruled ineligible to play as a sophomore. He made the trip to Springfield with the team in 2016 but did not play in the Tournament of Champions.
“Marvin is a super talented, super unselfish, totally team-oriented guy,” Nichols said.
Bagley played a key role in an 83-79 revenge win this season. Sierra Canyon defeated Oak Hill Academy Dec. 15 in Indiana in a televised ESPN showcase game. Bagley scored 28 points.
Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, Connecticut, Louisville, Arizona and Arizona State are among the 14 Division I college basketball programs to offer Bagley scholarships.
The Trailblazers open their 2017 Tournament of Champions appearance Jan. 12 at 6:30 p.m. against Republic at JQH Arena. Nichols said his team is excited to return to the tournament and attempt to reach the championship final for a second consecutive year.
“It’s three games in three days against great competition,” Nichols said. “You’re looking at top 5 teams in certain polls, and the local teams are really good.”
2017 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions
Jan. 12-14, JQH Arena, Springfield
Reserved seating, lower level: $45 for three nights or $15 for single night
General admission, upper level and bleachers:
Adults: $36 for three nights or $12 for single night
Students: $30 for three nights or $10 for single night
Thursday, Jan. 12
5 p.m. Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nevada) vs. Madison Prep (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
6:30 p.m. Republic (Republic, Missouri) vs. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, California)
8 p.m. Kickapoo (Springfield, Missouri) vs. Montverde Academy (Montverde, Florida)
9:30 p.m. Memphis East (Memphis, Tennessee) vs. Greenforest Christian Academy (Decatur, Georgia)
Friday, Jan. 13
4:30 p.m. Consolation semifinal
6 p.m. Consolation semifinal
8 p.m. Championship semifinal
9:30 p.m. Championship semifinal
Saturday, Jan. 14
2:30 p.m. Seventh-place game
4 p.m. Fifth-place game
6 p.m. Great Southern Bank Slam Dunk Contest
7 p.m. Third place game
9 p.m. Championship final