By Harold Abend
Contributing: Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens
Not only does the CIF Southern Section dominate the girls basketball state rankings with 13 of its playoff-bound teams gracing the top 20, seven of those teams come from Division I-AA, that section’s top division.
While it makes for peak action at a section level, it limits the pool of teams from the division that can qualify for the upcoming Southern California Open and Division I brackets.
If all four top seeds — Mater Dei, Troy, Santiago and Long Beach Poly — make it through to the quarterfinals, Mater Dei and Poly will qualify for the Open Division, and Troy and Santiago will go to Division I.
A number of quality D1 teams will be eliminated with additional spots from the CIFSS filled by teams from the 1A Division.
A new twist to the section playoff scene from around the state this year is the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division.
In establishing an Open Division of its own, the CCS made it an offer the teams almost couldn’t refuse (even though in reality they couldn’t) by making every team chosen for the 8-team bracket eligible to move on to the regional playoffs despite what they do.
Even if a team loses in the first round, the format calls for the section to allow that team to continue in the Northern California bracket in their original enrollment division.
Not only that, but the CCS has also instituted a consolation bracket so the teams that lose can stay warm for later games by continuing to play.
Lastly, with the CIF using the Cal-Hi Sports rankings beginning this year as part of its criteria for the open division, we felt it necessary to get out and see the teams so as to do the best possible job in preparing the rankings each week.
As the playoffs begin, the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan has personally observed all top five teams, and 13 of the top 20, a number we doubt anyone in the state can match.
Here are this week’s rankings:
(Updated through games played Saturday, Feb. 16; previous ranking in parentheses)
1. (1) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 26-0
The Kevin Kiernan-coached juggernaut continues to roll after the Monarchs opened defense of their CIFSS Division 1AA title with an 89-31 rout of Long Beach Wilson. Mater Dei’s cover girl called “Lou” did most of the heavy lifting after super sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson dropped in 31 points, including seven 3-pointers. Next up is a Wednesday second-round match-up with host Victorville Silverado.
2. (2) Windward (Los Angeles) 27-0
The Wildcats reached the century mark in 100-21 blowout of Costa Mesa in the first round of CIFSS Division 4AA playoffs, and then rolled again in a 76-31 win in the second round over Pasadena La Salle on Saturday at home. With the 4AA bracket starting before the 1AA bracket, the Wildcats temporarily forge ahead of Mater Dei for the best record among ranked teams by virtue of already playing in the second round. Next up is Morro Bay and unless the girls from the Central Coast have the world famous Morro Rock in the lineup it will probably be another rout despite the fact Windward will be the visiting team.
3. (3) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 23-3
The Dragons finished up league play with two easy wins over Piedmont and Alameda, their 17th straight victory since a 15-point loss to Windward. The defending Division III state champions enter the CIF North Coast Section Division III playoffs as the top seed and earn a first-round bye. They open on Friday versus the Mill Valley Tamalpais at Eureka victor.
4. (4) St. Mary’s (Stockton) 25-2
The Rams have been the dominant team in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section for years but until this season they haven’t been in the Division I bracket because of school enrollment criteria. They are the top seed in that bracket and open on Tuesday against Bear Creek of Stockton. Due to a right ankle injury, UC Santa Barbara-bound guard Onome Jemerigbe will likely miss the entire section playoffs. Looking way down road, St. Mary’s should still have little trouble winning its section title and then getting at least to the CIF Northern California open division semifinals. At that point, if Jemerigbe is out, her absence would become much more of a problem.
5. (5) St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 25-4
Considering the closeness of the first two games, and the intense rivalry developed over the past few seasons, the 48-40 win over state-ranked Salesian of Richmond for the first-ever Tri-County – Rock League title is very rock-solid. It also solidifies the Panthers’ ranking and earns them the top seed in the CIFNCS Division IV playoffs. They open against Middletown in what will be a long ride and even longer ride back for the girls from just south of Clear Lake.
6. (6) Santiago (Corona) 25-2
Coach David Wolfe’s squad raced past Warren of Downey 70-25 in the first round of the CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs. As the No. 3 seed, the Sharks will play San Clemente in the second round. Up next after that might be state No. 15 Millikan of Long Beach.
7. (7) Troy (Fullerton) 24-3
Alecia Dimas netted 14 points with Briana Roberson getting 13 as the Warriors blasted Chaparral of Temecula 60-27 in their first CIFSS Division I-AA playoff game. With the win, Troy advanced to a second-round matchup with Arcadia. The team is seeded second in that bracket behind No. 1 Mater Dei. Since the Monarchs are eligible for the open division beyond the section playoffs, Troy (along with No. 6 Santiago) is one team that could greatly benefit in the Division I state playoffs.
8. (8) Miramonte (Orinda) 25-1
The Matadors routed Dublin 75-46 to end league play and fall in as the No. 2 seed behind No. 3 Bishop O’Dowd in the CIF NCS Division III playoffs, earning a bye and a date in the second round with the Novato San Marin at Alameda Encinal winner.
9. (9) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 23-4
For the Jackrabbits, their first CIFSS Division I-AA playoff game went much like the other state-ranked teams in the division. They jumped out to a 20-0 lead against Downey and went on to double-up the Vikings 66-33. Top scorers were Keyla Morgan with 12 points and Jada Matthews with 11. Coach Carl Buggs’ squad plays next against Great Oak of Temecula. A win in that game would then set up a quarterfinal showdown against No. 10 Etiwanda.
10. (10) Etiwanda 25-2
McKynzie Fort stormed the defense of Eastvale Roosevelt for 23 points as the Eagles cruised past the Mustangs 83-33 in the opening round of the CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs. Etiwanda, seeded No. 5 in the insanely tough bracket, gets Edison of Huntington Beach in its next game. Edison is 18-7 and should force the Eagles to play at their best to keep on going. After that, Etiwanda is in line to meet No. 9 Long Beach Poly in the quarterfinals.
11. (11) Chaminade (West Hills) 24-3
The top seed in CIFSS Division 3A playoffs had a first round bye before a 71-25 blowout of San Dimas, a 54-43 first-round winner over Azusa. Against host San Dimas, both Devin Stanback (16 points, 10 rebounds) and UC Santa Barbara-bound Mi’Chael Wright (13 points, 11 rebounds) registered double-doubles. Next up is Costa Mesa Estancia.
12. (12) Carondelet (Concord) 23-3
The Cougars had blowout wins over Livermore Granada and San Ramon California to capture the East Bay Athletic League title. They enter the CIFNCS Division II playoffs as the top seed and earn a bye in the opening round. Action begins for them on Friday with the Fremont American at Santa Rosa Maria Carrillo winner.
13. (13) Salesian (Richmond) 23-6
Every loss that the Pride has suffered is to a team ranked ahead of them and they own a win over St. Mary’s despite the two losses, including the 48-40 setback last week in the league championship. Every team below them also has at least one loss to an unranked team so no drop for now. As expected, Salesian snagged the CIFNCS D4 No. 2 seed and opens against San Francisco Lick Wilmerding.
14. (14) Bishop Alemany (Mission Hills) 23-5
As the top seed in the CIFSS Division III-AA playoffs, the Warriors won’t have too many roadblocks in front of them in the early rounds and they didn’t in a 69-27 romp past San Juan Hills in the second round. Alemany raced out to a 19-0 lead and was led by Leslie Lopez-Wood with 17 points and five assists. The girls advanced to a second-round matchup with Irvine.
15. (15) Millikan (Long Beach) 25-3
The Rams are in one of the most interesting second-round matchups in the entire CIF Southern Section as they will face Highland of Palmdale and the high-scoring Ashley Kelsick. She had 42 points when Highland beat West Ranch of Santa Clarita in its first-round game and has been one of the top scorers in the state all season long. Millikan did its part by crushing Rancho Cucamonga 73-19. The Rams led 46-11 at the half and received a game-high 14 points from Erin Hagan. With a win over Highland, Millikan would likely play No. 6 Santiago of Corona next in the quarterfinals.
16. (16) Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley) 24-2
Senior guard Briah Nelson netted 15 points to pace the Mustangs past Upland 48-34 in the CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs. The girls may need to play better in the second round against Los Alamitos, which is 22-5 and won the Sunset League title. If Rancho Verde does move on, the quarterfinal opponent likely will be No. 7 Troy of Fullerton.
17. (17) JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 22-6
The CIFSS Division 4AA No. 2 seed opened with a ho-hum 60-26 win over San Marino and followed that with a workman-like 74-38 victory over City of Industry Workman in the second round. Now is where the going gets dicey within the Southern Section, where often the higher ranked team travels in the second round of the playoffs due to losing a coin flip. Instead of the game with No. 7 seed Bishop Montgomery being at home, it’s in Torrance where the hosts already posted a 60-54 win in week two over the Lions this season.
18. (18) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 21-6
It took overtime in a 54-50 victory, but the Monarchs avoided a sweep by Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco and beat the Irish in the West Catholic Athletic League playoff title game. Sacred Heart Cathedral bottled up Kelli Hayes, but Brown-bound Emily Dinger (22 points, five three-pointers) lit it up and Vanessa Garner returned to her first full game back to provide much needed ball-handling and defense. Despite having an overall better body of work and a recent win, the Irish got the top seed in the new CCS Open Division with Mitty seeded second.
19. (19) Serra (Gardena) 23-5
Senior center Tatiana Howard tossed in 14 points as the Cavaliers cruised past Twentynine Palms 72-35 in the second-round of the CIFSS Division IV-AA playoffs. Howard will have her hands full in the quarterfinals as she and her team will meet Duke-bound Kendall Cooper and her team from St. Anthony of Long Beach. Cooper also is a center and last week was named to the McDonald’s All-America Game. Serra also won last week 65-17 against Rolling Hills Prep of San Pedro.
20. (20) Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 21-6
The No. 5 seed in CIFSS Division 4AA playoffs blew out Nipomo and then beat Sherman Oaks Notre Dame 59-41. That set up a big game upcoming with a St. Bernard of Playa del Rey team fighting to get back into the state top 20 and remain in the hunt for big things in Division IV when Windward exits for the Open Division. This also is another round where this division’s higher seeds may have to travel due to losing a coin flip. That’s why the home court advantage switches to Oaks even though St. Bernard is the higher seed at No. 4.
Teams That Dropped Out:
On the Bubble
Berkeley 16-10, Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 22-7, Bishop’s (La Jolla) 17-11, Bullard (Fresno) 20-5, Brea-Olinda (Brea) 18-7**, Brookside Christian (Stockton) 23-4, Cajon (San Bernardino) 26-0, Canyon (Canyon Country) 23-4, Centennial (Corona) 22-4, Clovis West (Fresno) 20-5, Eastside College Prep (East Palo Alto) 20-6, Edison (Fresno) 24-6, El Dorado (Placentia) 24-4, Enterprise (Redding) 25-1, Foothill (Santa Ana) 21-6, Hanford 22-4, Heritage (Brentwood) 22-4, Horizon (San Diego) 20-7, J.W. North (Riverside) 18-5, Kennedy (Sacramento) 21-5, Keppel (Alhambra) 24-4, La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 14-11, La Costa Canyon 26-2, Lynwood 19-5, McNair (Stockton) 24-3, Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 22-3*, Oakland Tech (Oakland) 19-4, Orange Lutheran (Orange) 22-5, Ridgeview (Bakersfield) 23-3, Sacramento 23-4, Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 20-5, St. Bernard (Playa del Rey) 24-7, San Clemente 19-5, Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) 23-5, Wilcox (Santa Clara) 22-2, Woodbridge (Irvine) 25-3.
(*not including forfeits) (**season complete)
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