We love the story of San Francisco Mission trying to become the first S.F. public school to win a CIF state basketball title and we actually think the Bears will get it done in the Division III final on Saturday at the Golden 1 Center. Go inside to see which other teams we think will win state crowns this weekend.
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(All selections done with utmost respect to all players and coaches who have reached a state championship game.)
(Stockton office assistant editor Paul Muyskens wrote two of these four breakdowns)
NorCal hoop fans have been following Moreau’s Damari Milstead since he was pup freshman starter four years ago. Photo: Twitter.com.
Moreau Catholic (Hayward) 25-9 vs. Esperanza (Anaheim) 29-3, Saturday, 4 pm
This game will feature two talented guards that both scored over 40 points in a game during the postseason, but we will give the slight nod to the Aztecs, who entered our Top 20 state rankings this week at No. 18 and has the senior headed to play in the Pac-12 next season.
Stanford-bound Kezie Okpala scored a school record 46 points during the regional semifinals and is averaging 30.7 points and 10.6 rebounds for the SoCal champions, who are looking for a state championship after losing twice in the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs. The Mariners’ resiliency will be tough for Esperanza to overcome. They trailed St. Francis of Mountain View 69-60 with under four minutes remaining before coming back to force overtime and getting the win in the NorCal final. Their Grand Canyon-bound standout Damari Milstead scored 43 points in that game.
While Milstead is averaging 25.9 points per game, the Mariners also have a difference maker in freshman Kyree Walker who is averaging 21.3 points per game. If he has a big game, it could be the difference on the Mariners pulling off the win, which wouldn’t be an upset but the winner of a contest that we look at being basically 50-50.
Predicted Score: Esperanza 72, Moreau 68
Mission (San Francisco) 34-1 vs. Villa Park 27-6, Friday, 4 pm
Both of these teams have had to overcome some adversity to reach the Golden 1 Center.
For Mission, it had to beat a St. Ignatius of San Francisco team that was the No. 2 seed in the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division when the playoffs began. Mission was accomplished in the NorCal semifinals. The Bears then had to go on the road and beat Vanden of Fairfield team that earlier this season only lost to state No. 7 Sheldon by seven points. They got through that as well and are now on the verge of becoming the first S.F. public school to win a state title. The only other S.F. school to reach the state finals was Washington in 1982, which lost in the Division I championship to Carson. The Bears are already on the all-time state list for most wins in a season. The S.F. record is 36 set in 2001 by McAteer. While that record can’t be broken, McAteer that season only got as far as the NorCal finals.
Villa Park had to overcome losing in the CIF Southern Section divisional finals to Colony of Ontario. In fact, that loss was doubly hard to swallow because the Spartans also fell to 0-6 all-time in CIFSS finals. But now after avenging the loss to Colony in the SoCal D3 final, Villa Park can win its first state title.
Both teams are guard oriented. Mission features all-state grid-hooper Niamey Harris (23 points vs. Vanden) along with seniors Jamion Wright and Jayden Fostin. Villa Park has brothers Myles and Julian Franklin. Caleb Banuelos also can be huge making 3-pointers for the Spartans. In the end, it’s too hard to go against Mission’s momentum plus the fact that Villa Park has a loss to a Campolindo of Moraga team that went out in the NorCal D3 regional quarterfinals.
Predicted Score: Mission 60, Villa Park 54
St. Patrick-St. Vincent (Vallejo) 27-7 vs. Helix (La Mesa) 31-5, Saturday, 12 noon
While it’s hard to go against a Helix squad that has ramped it up to a very high level since the mid-season addition of 6-foot-9 junior transfer Miles Norris, we are in this case just because of how well the Bruins have done against elite NorCal competition all season.
Obviously, if St. Patrick-St. Vincent comes up with a stinker outing like it did in the NCS Division IV semifinals against Lick-Wilmerding (a 71-68 overtime loss) of San Francisco it wouldn’t even be close against Helix. We are going off the assumption that the team instead will be like the one that beat Lick-Wilmerding in a NorCal rematch (73-55) and then beat No. 1 seed Palma of Salinas (73-48) in the NorCal final. The Bruins, with 6-foot-4 Tavian Henderson (16.0 ppg) leading the way, also notched a regular season win over NorCal Open Division team Salesian of Richmond and early on also beat NorCal D1 state finalist James Logan of Union City.
One of Helix’s losses before Norris was by 57-48 to Serra of San Diego. Later on, head coach John Singer’s crew beat the Conquistadors 80-36. Helix also has Dylan Lee on the perimeter plus the all-around skills of Jaylen Arnold.
Prediction: St. Patrick-St. Vincent 66, Helix 61
St. Francis CCC (Watsonville) 29-2 vs. Rolling Hills Prep (San Pedro) 28-2, 12 noon, Friday
It will be a matchup of two teams making their first appearance in a state final and we will give the slight advantage to the team that has a head coach with a state championship pedigree.
The Huskies have won two straight games by one point led by head coach Harvey Kitani, who won two state championships at Fairfax of Los Angeles with Division I titles in 2004 and 2007. Junior guard Alex Garcia had 26 points in the SoCal finals while sophomore guard Chris Koon was the CIF-SS John Wooden Division V Player of the Year.
The Sharks, who have now won 23 straight games, were led by Jason Watkins in their NorCal championship win against Elliot Christian of Lodi as he scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half and knocked down a go-ahead three pointer with under a minute to go.
We also can’t get Rolling Hills Prep’s win over a CIF Southern Section champ from a higher division out of our heads. In that one, RHP handled Brentwood of Los Angeles 67-45.
Prediction: Rolling Hills Prep 57, St. Francis CCC 55
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