By Harold Abend
Contributing: Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens
The #CalHiSportsCaravan didn’t log quite the miles it did two weeks ago, but it did hit the road again last week.
On Saturday afternoon, in what quite possibly could be a preview of the CIF Northern Regional Open Division final in March, host Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland used superior height and defense to post a decisive 80-59 victory over St. Mary’s of Stockton.
Duke-bound 6-foot-4 USA Team Gold Medalist Oderah Chidom led the way for O’Dowd with a double-double 22 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.
Another front line player, 6-foot-4 Virginia Tech-bound Breanna Brown, also had a double-double after finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Cal-committed 6-foot-2 power forward K.C. Waters had eight points and eight rebounds, but her physicality was key in O’Dowd building leads of 32-11 after one quarter and 50-28 at the half.
In what turned out to be a key strategy, Dragons’ head coach Malik McCord had his girls come out pressing a team itself known for a vise-like press.
When asked prior to the game by the Caravan if he might employ that strategy, the four-year Dragons skipper smiled and had a two word answer. “You’ll see.”
Not only was the Dragons’ defense working, but they were getting easy baskets on offense by lobbing over the top of a St. Mary’s team that doesn’t have a player over 5-foot-10 on the roster.
“Some of them were chippy practice-type layups,” said Chidom with a surprised look.
“We knew they work hard, and we weren’t going to take them lightly, but they’re small and we had a game plan we worked on all week, continued McCord. “All they had to do was execute the game plan and that’s exactly what the girls did.”
One of the main reasons O’Dowd’s press worked was because of sophomore point guard Asha Thomas (eight points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals). She also had the job of being the primary defender of her St. Mary’s sophomore counterpart at point guard, Brijanee Moore.
Moore was the only Rams’ player to come up big, even though she’s only 5-foot-6. She had 22 points and nine rebounds with three steals, but Thomas, fellow Dragons’ sophomore Aisia Robertson (15 points, six rebounds and three assists), and San Diego State-bound guard Ariel Bostick (nine points, four assists, three steals, three rebounds), all guarded her at some time in the game and made her work hard for every point.
St. Mary’s started to make a run, and when Chidom picked up her fourth foul at the beginning of the third quarter, the Rams picked up steam and had a 19-4 run of their own that cut it to 54-45 with less than two minutes left in the third.
From there, however, the Dragons re-took the momentum with rebounding and easy lobs for buckets, and drew away until the final buzzer.
The two most staggering statistics were O’Dowd’s’ 44-22 rebounding advantage, and a 19-4 advantage on assisted baskets.
“We took advantage of our size and we didn’t do that last year,” Chidom said. “It was important for us to win here on our home court to get the number one seed in the playoffs.”
Here are this week’s rankings:
(Updated through games played Saturday, Feb. 9; previous ranking in parentheses)
1. (1) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 25-0
The Monarchs followed up their easy win over Oaks Christian at the Nike Extravaganza with two even easier Trinity League wins, 78-23 over visiting Orange Lutheran, and 57-17 at Fullerton Rosary. Coach Kevin Kiernan’s girls snagged the No. 1 seed in the CIF Southern Section Division 1AA playoffs and open play on Saturday against Long Beach Wilson.
2. (2) Windward (Los Angeles) 25-0
The Wildcats kept pace record-wise with Mater Dei after two lopsided Alpha League wins last week that followed a hard-fought win over JSerra two Saturdays ago in San Juan Capistrano. First, they posted a 26-point win at a Chatsworth Sierra Canyon team that gave No. 5 St. Mary’s of Berkeley fits in a two-point loss at the Nike Extravaganza, and then they blew out visiting Los Angeles Brentwood 78-39. Coach Vanessa Nygaard’s club is the No. 1 seed in the CIFSS Division 4AA playoffs and opens on Saturday with Costa Mesa.
3. (3) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 21-3
Despite beating No. 4 St. Mary’s of Stockton by 21 and solidifying themselves as not just a state power but a national one as well, the Dragons can’t move up until either No. 1 Mater Dei or No. 2 Windward fall from the ranks of the undefeated. That probably won’t happen until the CIF Southern Regional Open Division playoffs when the two could meet in the final. O’Dowd, meanwhile, has without doubt become favored to win the CIF NorCal Open Division title. This week, head coach Malik McCord’s girls finish up West Alameda County – Foothill League play with road games at Piedmont and Alameda.
4. (4) St. Mary’s (Stockton) 24-2
Yes, the Rams lost big to Bishop O’Dowd but there’s still no team below them with a resume that deserves to be higher in the state rankings. In fact, head coach Tom Gonsalves’ team still owns a win over No. 5 St. Mary’s of Berkeley and has a win over a Salesian of Richmond team that has split with that Berkeley team. It’s obvious the top three may be in a class of their own, so the Rams don’t drop compared to the next best group of teams in the state. On Monday, St. Mary’s closed the regular season with a 91-22 win over St. Francis of Sacramento. The bad news, though, is that UC Santa Barbara-bound guard Onome Jemerigbe went down with an ankle injury. Her status for the rest of the season is unknown.
5. (5) St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 22-4
The Panthers reversed an overtime loss to No. 13 Salesian of Richmond with a 59-53 victory last week at Contra Costa College. Later in the week, they posted an 18-point victory over an Eastside College Prep D5 contending team that has some solid wins over good teams. St. Mary’s continues to be ranked behind their namesakes from Stockton due to a head-to-head loss, but unlike in previous years with no open division there is a chance this year that the Panthers can avenge that loss in this year’s NorCal Open Division playoffs.
6. (7) Santiago (Corona) 24-2
It will be a one-spot bump for the Sharks after they edged Centennial of Corona 61-57 to cap a 10-0 run through the competitive Big VIII League. Losses to Keppel of Alhambra and Etiwanda are way in the past, but the closeness of the score against Centennial could be a sign of weakness heading into the CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs. On the other hand, this also is a team with a January win over Troy of Fullerton, which is one of the hottest teams in the state right now. Santiago opens its postseason Saturday at home vs. Warren of Downey.
7. (8) Troy (Fullerton) 22-3
The Warriors rolled to a 25-6 edge in the first quarter and went on to rout Fullerton 70-29 in their Freeway League finale. They went 10-0 in league and have a nine-game win streak heading into the playoffs. Troy, which also won last week 58-20 over Sonora of La Habra, begins the CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs as the No. 2 seed and plays Chaparral of Temecula in its first-round game. The Warriors were even seeded above Santiago (No. 3 seed), which goes against traditional seeding practices around the state because Santiago beat Troy 65-57 in January. We will not change the state rankings, however, to match those seedings. The two teams could have a rematch in the semifinals.
8. (9) Miramonte (Orinda) 24-1
As the CIF North Coast Section Division III playoffs approach, the big question is can the Mats do better than the 73-49 loss they took to O’Dowd in the NCS title gamelast year and the 70-51 loss in the CIF Northern Regional final. The young team, which posted three league wins last week with the closest by 37 points to arch-rival Campolindo of Moraga, gets a one-spot bump this week due to the loss suffered by previous No. 6 Chaminade. Over the past two years, Miramonte is a combined 55-3 going into this week’s final league game against Dublin on Tuesday night.
9. (10) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 23-4
The punishment for the Jackrabbits losing to Troy of Fullerton two weeks ago was being dropped from what likely would have been a No. 2 seed in the CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs down to No. 4. This also means that since Mater Dei is the No. 1 seed that Long Beach Poly will have to face the Monarchs likely in the semifinals instead of the final. In last week’s games, Keyla Morgan popped in 19 points and grabbed 16 rebounds as the Jackrabbits handled state-ranked Millikan of Long Beach 60-42 to wrap up the Moore League championship. Morgan also had 18 points earlier in the week when Poly beat Long Beach Wilson 65-34. This week’s first-round playoff matchup comes Saturday vs. Downey.
10. (12) Etiwanda 24-2
With previous No. 10 Millikan losing by 18 to Long Beach Poly and with previous No. 6 Chaminade losing to an Alemany of Mission Hills squad that the Eagles have split with, it results in a two-spot jump in this week’s rankings. The team won last week 67-25 against Rancho Cucamonga and 87-11 against Glendora. It also will take a 12-game win streak into the CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs. Still, Etiwanda’s season may not last past the quarterfinals because that matchup may have to come against Long Beach Poly. And then with a win, the next game for the Eagles probably would be against Mater Dei. In a way, it’s too bad so many top teams are in that division because it’s guaranteed that one or perhaps several top-ranked teams in the state will be done early while many lesser teams from sections that don’t pack in their best teams into a top bracket will be playing long into March.
11. (6) Chaminade (West Hills) 23-3
After a previous 49-46 home win over arch-rival Bishop Alemany, and then a 57-50 loss last week on the road in Mission Hills, it’s a five spot drop for the Eagles, who also posted a blowout win later in the week against Flintridge Sacred Heart. Coach Kelli Dimuro and the girls were awarded the top seed in the CIFSS Division 3A playoffs and received a bye. Alemany is the top seed, meanwhile, in Division 3AA. The Eagles meet the San Dimas versus Azusa winner at home on Saturday.
12. (14) Carondelet (Concord) 21-3
The Cougars have a win over St. Mary’s of Berkeley and that team just split with Salesian. That win coupled with a 21-point win over a Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco team that has beaten Archbishop Mitty twice, and a strong overall body of work allows Carondelet to move back ahead of Salesian and Millikan and behind the Chaminade squad that dealt them one of their losses. Last week, the Cougars had two East Bay Athletic league blowouts and in their closest game, a 77-54 non-league win over Antioch Deer Valley. Prior to moving on to the CIF NCS Division II playoffs, they close out league play against Livermore Granada and San Ramon California.
13. (13) Salesian (Richmond) 21-5
The Pride have a loss to Santiago of Corona and a split with Berkeley St. Mary’s after the 59-53 loss last week. They also have a loss to Stockton St. Mary’s, Pinnacle (Arizona) and Miramonte. All five of the losses are to top teams, four ranked teams in California, and Arizona’s No. 2 ranked 28-2 Pinnacle. Salesian meets Pinole Valley in its first playoff game this week, which is for teams in the Tri-County Rock League.
14. (17) Bishop Alemany (Mission Hills) 22-5
The big win by the Warriors last week (57-50) over previous No. 6 Chaminade does help them move up three spots this week and also drops the Eagles five spots. It’s still not enough for them to go all the way in front of Chaminade due to some of the earlier losses, such as those against La Jolla Country Day and Keppel of Alhambra. Alemany also won last week 73-55 over Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood. The team was seeded No. 1 in the CIFSS Division 3AA playoffs (Chaminade is No. 1 in Division 3A) and received a first-round bye. It will play the winner of a game between San Juan Hills of SJ Capistrano and Pacifica of Garden Grove in the second round on Saturday.
15. (11) Millikan (Long Beach) 24-3
The loss to Long Beach Poly was by 60-42 but there wasn’t another team beyond Alemany that has done enough to go up in front of the Rams in this week’s rankings. Besides, their only other losses were to Long Beach Poly and Troy. Despite the loss, Basha Brulee-Wills had a double-double for Millikan with 11 points and 13 rebounds. The Rams meet Rancho Cucamonga in their first-round game in the CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs and by the second-round could have to figure out how to slow down the amazing Ashley Kelsick of Palmdale Highland, who has been averaging nearly 40 points per game in recent weeks.
16. (16) Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley) 23-2
The Mustangs are yet another team in the ultra-tough CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs and will enter the postseason on a 12-game win streak since a loss to Rock Canyon of Colorado. They wrapped up a 12-0 record in the Inland Valley League (including two wins over bubble team J.W. North of Riverside) with triumphs last week against Arlington of Riverside (72-32) and Vista del Lago of Moreno Valley (77-16). Rancho Verde’s opening-round playoff game comes against Upland, the third-place team from the Baseline League.
17. (18) JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 20-6
August Touchard knocked down 27 points with Courtney Vaccher adding 18 as the Lions broke open a tie game at halftime to beat bubble team Orange Lutheran 62-50 in their Trinity League finale. JSerra only lost twice in league play and both came to No. 1 Mater Dei. The Lions won’t have to play the Monarchs again, but may get another crack at No. 2 Windward in the CIFSS Division IV-AA playoffs. They are seeded second and open Thursday at home against San Marino.
18. (15) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 18-6
There are those that say how can Mitty be in front of Sacred Heart Cathedral when the Irish just beat the Monarchs for a second time and took the WCAL crown? Simple. The Irish split with a St. Francis team that Mitty beat twice. Like the Irish, the Monarchs also own a sweep over St. Ignatius. Mitty also has a win over an Eastside Prep team that Irish killer St. Francis lost to. “No Vanessa (Garner), no D’andree (Galipeau) and no Kalyn (Simon). Three D1 players on the injured reserve. Tough pill to swallow but no one will feel sorry for us,” wrote head coach Sue Phillips in an email. “Finished the last game (against Irish in a 47-43 road loss) with two frosh, one soph, one Jr. and one senior.” We’re not feeling sorry for the Monarchs, either, but their overall body of work deserves holding them in this spot unless they lose this week in WCAL playoffs where they were awarded the No. 2 seed behind the Irish and open at home on Tuesday against Belmont Notre Dame.
19. (NR) Serra (Gardena) 21-5
The Cavaliers barely got by Bishop Montgomery of Torrance in a 67-66 win last week, but still break back into the rankings based on an 11-point win at home last week over previous No. 20 St. Bernard that followed an earlier two-point loss on the road. Serra also moves in ahead of Oaks Christian based on a head-to-head win. Also, their other losses are by 15 to Mater Dei, seven to Etiwanda, five to Millikan, and the one stinker loss is by three to Ridgeview, but that is not a real bad loss. The girls received the No. 3 seed in the CIFSS Division 4AA playoffs and open at home on Thursday against San Pedro Rolling Hills Prep.
20. (19) Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 19-6
There was some thought about dropping out the Lions with the thinking that maybe they should have fallen further after their recent loss to No. 1 Mater Dei. And while they do have that bad loss to La Jolla Country Day, they do have quality wins over Chaminade and Sierra Canyon. Oaks Christian also is playing in the very difficult CIFSS Division IV-AA playoffs (same as Windward, JSerra and others) so this is a ranking that will be sorted out in the next few weeks. Besides, we also don’t like dropping out teams that won twice during the previous week, which Oaks Christian did last week over Santa Clara of Oxnard (80-41) and Oak Park of Agoura Hills (65-35). The Lions play Nipomo in their first playoff game on Thursday.
Team That Dropped out:
Previous No. 20 St. Bernard (Playa del Rey)
On the Bubble
Berkeley 14-10, Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 20-7, Bishop’s (La Jolla) 17-10, Bullard (Fresno) 19-4, Brea Olinda (Brea) 18-6 , Brookside Christian (Stockton) 22-4, Cajon (San Bernardino) 25-0, Canyon (Canyon Country) 22-4, Centennial (Corona) 21-4,Clovis West (Fresno) 18-5, Eastside College Prep (East Palo Alto) 18-6, El Dorado (Placentia) 22-4, Enterprise (Redding) 23-1, Foothill (Santa Ana) 20-6, Hanford 20-4, Heritage (Brentwood) 19-5, Horizon (San Diego) 18-7, J.W. North (Riverside) 17-5, Kennedy (Sacramento) 20-5, Keppel (Alhambra) 23-4, La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 12-11, La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 24-2, Lynwood 18-5, McNair (Stockton) 24-3, Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 21-3*, Oakland Tech (Oakland) 17-4, Orange Lutheran (Orange) 21-5, Ridgeview (Bakersfield) 21-3, Sacramento 22-4, Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 19-4, San Clemente 18-5, St. Bernard (Playa del Rey) 22-7, Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) 22-5, Wilcox (Santa Clara) 20-2, Woodbridge (Irvine) 24-3
(*not including forfeits)
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