Similar to the boys, the big game in the CIF’s new open division won’t be a No. 1 vs. No. 2 game, but it still has the potential to be a dynamite matchup. There is movement, but no newcomers in the next-to-last state top 20 rankings.
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By Harold Abend
Contributing: Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens
There wasn’t a huge shakeup, but some movement everywhere but at the top and bottom of this week’s rankings.
While only two of the top four teams are competing for a state championship, it would seem at this point, but not absolutely certain, that the top four spots should remain intact.
With one more week to go and the field set for the six CIF state titles to be contested this weekend at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, several teams are in search of more than their first title while some are making their first appearance.
An example of both and one of the more interesting matchups is the Division II title game between Lynwood and St. Francis of Mountain View. Between the two coaches, they have won six state championships.
Ellis Barfield has “The Wood” back, this time in Division II after winning three Division I titles in 1993, 2002 and 2003.
St. Francis coach Brian Harrigan has the Lancers in their first-ever state title game in only his second year at the helm, however he won three Division III state championships at Sacred Heart Cathedral in 1998, 2007 and 2008 when his team went 33-0 and was the top team in the nation.
“The girls bought into my system and my system is predicated on guarding people,” said Harrigan about why he’s had early success at St. Francis.
Against a very talented Lynwood team with two D1-commited seniors on the roster and a D1-level junior, the Lancers will be an underdog but that doesn’t deter Harrigan.
“It’s all about the girls. They did what they had to do. Now, they have a lifetime opportunity they thought they’d never have, and a lifetime memory. We’re going to enjoy it.”
Another interesting matchup is in the Division V contest between Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) and Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth.
Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler will come in with five D5 state championships under his belt but as an underdog to a Sierra Canyon team making its first appearance in a state title game.
Here are this week’s rankings heading into the CIF state championships:
(Updated through games played Saturday, March 16; previous ranking in parentheses)
1. (1) Windward (Los Angeles) 32-0
The way the Wildcats played against Mater Dei left little doubt as to who is the state’s top team. It will all be for naught, however, if the girls don’t take care of business in the Open Division title game in a rematch with an O’Dowd team they beat by 15 points in the Oaks Christian tournament title game.
2. (2) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 30-2*
Despite an inability to overcome the exploits of Jordin Canada, the Monarchs’ girls never gave up in the loss to Windward, fighting tooth and nail to the very end. They lose Karlie Samuelson, who goes off to Stanford, but Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year Candidate Katie Lou Samuelson is back as is sharp-shooting point guard Andee Velasco and a slew of other returners. Look for this team to be high in the 2013-14 preseason rankings and competing for a state title once again.
3. (3) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 29-3
The Dragons will get a chance to repeat as state champions, only this time against Windward in the Open Division championship. It’s a foe nothing like the Laguna Hills team they faced last year in the 2012 Division III title game. To win, they will have to find a way to stop Jordin Canada with their quick guards and control the paint with its big girls.
4. (4) Santiago (Corona) 29-2*
Despite the Sharks being the No. 2 seed in the SoCal Open division, we left them behind Mater Dei since moving them up would have meant moving them to No. 2 and past O’Dowd, a shift they did not deserve based on their overall body of work. Just like we didn’t move them up, they don’t drop after a 79-68 home loss to Mater Dei in the SoCal Open semis. At this point, it looks like there isn’t a team below them that can knock them out of the top four.
5. (5) St. Mary’s (Stockton) 32-3*
Similarly to Santiago, the Rams don’t drop after playing very well, even leading at halftime of their NorCal Open Division title game 58-50 loss to O’Dowd. Thought was given to moving up Long Beach Poly since that team has a 23-point win in Arizona over a 28-2 Florida 5A champion Dillard team that was fresh off a win over the Rams. We’ll wait and see how Poly and O’Dowd do and then compare the bodies of work once again.
6. (6) St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 30-5*
A loss to O’Dowd by 10 in the Open semis means they hold steady behind their namesakes from Stockton, but they could drop a spot or two and behind Poly and others as well, particularly since some Bay Area rankings have them behind a Carondelet team that dealt them a loss.
7. (7) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 25-5
After all was said and done, the idea of opening things up for new teams and matchups envisioned with the new playoff format didn’t materialize in Division I. The Jackrabbits will face a familiar foe when they take the court against a Berkeley team they beat the first three years of their 2006-2009 four-peat. Like most all the teams from the south, Poly will be a huge favorite.
8. (8) Miramonte (Orinda) 27-3*
The Mats don’t drop in this group after how close they came to beating Stockton St. Mary’s and then how well that team did against O’Dowd. Look for this team to be a top five team coming into next season’s preseason rankings.
9. (9) Etiwanda 28-4*
The Eagles’ season ended with loss to Poly, but no drop since they have to get credit for the wins over Mater Dei and Poly. No team below them still playing has the overall resume of the No. 2 team from the Inland Empire.
10. (12) Bishop Alemany (Mission Hills) 31-5
After splitting a pair of games against Chaminade of West Hills during Mission League play, the Warriors faced the Eagles and once again handed them a 60-47 loss to earn a trip to Sacramento to play in the Division III state championship game and move ahead of the Eagles in the rankings. Hannah Johnson and Leslie Lopez Wood each scored 15 points in the win. In the SoCal Division III semifinals, they defeated Reseda 67-34. This will be Alemany’s first appearance in the state finals since 1998 and it will be favored against unranked Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco.
11. (10) Chaminade (West Hills) 31-4*
The fact that UC Santa Barbara-bound Mi’Chael Wright was held scoreless by league archrival Alemany in the 60-47 SoCal Division III championships says a lot about why this was the largest margin of victory in the three games played this season. Each team came into the game at Colony High with a win.
12. (11) Carondelet (Concord) 26-4*
The Cougars fall in behind a Chaminade team that beat them in the Platinum Division title game of the West Coast Jamboree. The Cougars’ showing against St. Mary’s of Stockton will keep them ahead of Salesian regardless of whether that team wins a Division IV state championship.
13. (13) Salesian (Richmond) 29-7
The Sacramento-bound Pride stay put and can’t move up at this point based on the pecking order of the Bay Area now being intact, although an unlikely win by Berkeley over Poly would throw a wrench into this. One thing for sure is Salesian will drop if it loses to Serra. In their win over Piedmont in the NorCal Division IV title game, other girls had to step up when State Junior of the Year candidate Mariya Moore was held to nine points.
14. (16) Lynwood 28-5
The way “The Wood” handled the best one-girl team in the state we almost moved them ahead of another one-girl team in Salesian, but it’s hard to drop a team that just won a regional title. Lynwood still gets a two-spot bump and can move up next week depending on what happens with Salesian and Alemany.
15. (15) Serra (Gardena) 26-6
Despite no movement this week, Serra did move ahead of Ridgeview of Bakersfield despite losing to that team earlier this season after defeating St. Bernard of Playa del Rey, which has a 20-point win over the Wolf Pack, for a second time, 63-54, to earn a trip to the Division IV state final. Siera Thompson had 24 points and seven rebounds in the SoCal Division IV finals and before that the Cavaliers defeated JSerra Catholic 52-43 in the semifinals. In the state finals, Serra will face No. 13 Salesian of Richmond and how it moves in our final rankings, up or down, will be determined by that game.
16. (17) La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 18-12*
First, the Torreys had the impressive win over Troy in the SoCal Open Division quarterfinals, and then they gave Windward everything they could handle before falling 52-46 in the semifinals. That type of performance in the Open Division trumps a loss in the Division II regional championship and gives this team a bump. Washington-bound McDonald’s All-American and Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year candidate Kelsey plum had 19 points and 11 rebounds against Windward. LJCD drags open division participant Troy along with them for a one-spot bump past Ridgeview.
17. (18) Troy (Fullerton) 25-4*
Ranked inside the top 10 two weeks ago, the Warriors had their season end in the first round of the SoCal Open Division playoffs with a 20-point loss to La Jolla Country Day, which then lost in the next round to No. 1 Windward of Los Angeles. Two of their losses this season were against Santiago of Corona with another coming against Mater Dei of Santa Ana, which just lost in the SoCal Open Division finals. Helping Troy remain inside the top 20 are wins against Long Beach Poly, Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley, St. Bernard of Playa del Rey and Millikan of Long Beach.
18. (14) Ridgeview (Bakersfield) 29-4*
No one wanted to admit it on the coaching staff or friends and family sitting directly behind the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan in Ontario, but the knee that Stanford-bound McDonald’s All-American and Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year candidate Erica McCall tweaked two weeks ago must have had some kind of effect on her because Lynwood’s girls were catching her flat-footed and driving around her. “She looks tentative moving on defense,” remarked Cal-Hi Sports Managing Editor Ronnie Flores. The margin of the loss and the way the team looked against Lynwood means they have to drop behind Open Division teams, particularly ones that won key games.
19. (19) Canyon Springs (Moreno Valley) 23-10*
The Cougars led 9-6 early and hung with Long Beach Poly the entire first quarter, but despite the large margin of their loss in the SoCal Division I title game, this team can beat any D1 team in NorCal and anyone on the bubble – and would give Mitty a real game.
20. (20) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 24-6*
After the way the Carondelet team that beat Mitty played, there is no bubble team down below deserving to take Mitty’s place that was a winner in last week’s regional finals. In fact, two league rivals of the Monarchs — St. Francis in D2 and Sacred Heart Cathedral in D3 — are playing for state divisional titles this weekend. Mitty won both the WCAL and CCS Open Division titles that included both of those teams.
Dropped Out: None
Teams On The Bubble: Agoura 24-13*, Berkeley 22-11, Bishop Amat (La Puente) 25-10*, Brookside Christian (Stockton) 26-5*, Clovis West (Fresno) 23-6*, Eastside College Prep (East Palo Alto) 23-9*, Enterprise (Redding) 29-2*, Florin (Sacramento) 23-10*, Gunn (Palo Alto) 21-7*, Heritage (Brentwood) 26-6*, Horizon (San Diego) 25-8*, J.W. North (Riverside) 24-6*, JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 24-8*, La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 30-3*, Lowell (San Francisco) 25-6*, Lynbrook (San Jose) 24-6*, Millikan (Long Beach) 27-5*, Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 27-5* **, Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) 24-7, Reseda 23-6*, Sacramento 27-5*, Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 25-6, St. Bernard (Playa del Rey) 27-8*, St. Ignatius (San Francisco) 21-11*, St. Francis (Mountain View) 24-8, Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 22-9**, Stockdale (Bakersfield) 24-6*, Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) 27-7*, Wilcox (Santa Clara) 23-5.*
**not including forfeits