I was on-hand for the opening night of the annual Take Flight Challenge on Friday at Redondo Union HS (Redondo Beach CA) and the night-cap contest between Mayfair (Lakewood CA) and Bishop Montgomery (Torrance CA) was an exciting wire-to-wire affair that had the Monsoons, behind 44 points by 6-5 2020 Josh Christopher, outlast the Knights 73-65.  6-2 2022 Dior Johnson added 27 points off the bench for Mayfair while 6-7 2020 Isaiah Johnson had a team-high 28 points for the Bishop Montgomery.

Here are 10 players at the event that caught my attention.

Josh Christopher             6’5”    2020   Mayfair (Los Angeles CA)
When Josh is playing hard & fully engaged defensively, there’s not a better SG in the West (and arguably the country).  Christopher willed his Monsoons to an exciting come from behind 73-65 win over Bishop Montgomery by exploding for a game-high 44 point masterpiece that fully displayed his vast offensive arsenal.  Christopher’s stat line also included an impressive 16 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 blocks.  Josh and fellow Monsoon guard Dior Johnson combined for all but 2 of Mayfair’s 73 points.

Isaiah Johnson                6’7”    2020   Bishop Montgomery (Torrance CA)
Having a long-time reputation as an athletic and high-energy forward, Isaiah has scored at a very high clip during his senior season.  Johnson scored a team-high 28 points on a variety of explosive flushes (including one under duress by Josh Christopher that gave his Knights a 1 point lead at the end of the 3rd quarter) as well as crafty moves around the cup.  Oregon State signee is a nimble defender and active visitor on the glass (12 boards).

Dior Johnson                   6’2”    2022   Mayfair (Lakewood CA)
Very talented and electric playmaker did not start against Bishop Montgomery nor did he enter the game until after the 1st quarter ended but yet he exploded for 27 points in 3 quarters of play.  Sizzling ballhandler with tremendous change of direction ability and flashy passer has very nice touch on silky jump shot.

Reece Dixon-Waters        6’4”    2021   St. Bernard (Playa del Rey CA)
Steady and consistent WG with a smooth 3-point stroke sparked St. Bernard to an early double-digit lead over Long Beach Poly and his Viking teammates held on for a narrow 53-50 win.  Reece tied teammate Damion McDowell with a team-high13 points.  Reece (a very good student) is currently ranked #52 nationally by 247Sports.com and has Pac-12 offers from  Stanford, UCLA and USC.

Peyton Watson                6’7”    2021   Poly (Long Beach CA)
Watson has had a meteoric rise since the end of his sophomore season last year.  Although he has skyrocketed up the rankings since then (currently sits in the #29 spot in Rivals.com’s 2021 national rankings), Peyton is still very much a work in progress.  After a slow start (had just one FG en route to 8 1st half points), Watson caught fire in the 2nd half and rallied the Jackrabbits to pull within range of knocking off St, Bernard before falling short as Peyton missed a 3-point shot that was followed by his younger brother Christian Watson’s corner 3-point attempt as time expired.  Watson ended up with a game-high 19 points and was stellar on the defensive end with 6 blocks and 5 steals.  Long, wiry and skilled with the ball for a swingman, Watson’s next step in his development is to get stronger in order to finish better through contact and develop a more consistent scoring production.  Great kid from a terrific family.

Shemar Morrow               6’5”    2020   Shadow Mountain (Phoenix AZ)
Athletic, lefty slashing scorer with improved perimeter stroke had 24 points (most of those buckets in 2nd half) to defeat Redondo Union 66-62.

Christian Moore               6’4”    2022   Brentwood (Los Angeles CA)
Strong WG with nice shooting touch had a game-high 19 points as Brentwood knocked off Maranatha (Pasadena CA) 80-51.

Ashton Hardaway            6’6”    2023   Bishop Montgomery (Torrance CA)
Son of former NBA star Penny Hardaway, Ashton is a skilled forward with plenty of basketball IQ and excellent work-ethic.  Displayed a smooth perimeter stroke here and as he continues to settle into his young body, Ashton will emerge as a force to be reckoned with in the SoCal freshman class.

Xan Wesley                      6’4”    2020   Redondo Union (Redondo Beach CA)
Sturdy wing with deep 3-point stroke had a game-high 28 points versus Shadow Mountain (Phoenix AZ).

Davon Cobbs                   6’3”    2020   Shadow Mountain (Phoenix AZ)
Quick and athletic WG is an excellent slasher who had 16 points in win over Redondo including a thunderous dunk through the lane.