Preseason Girls Basketball Rankings (Part I)

Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland sophomore guard Aisia Robertson flies to the hoop during CIF state playoffs last season. Her team is starting this season No. 1 in the state and No. 1 in the nation. Photo by Willie Eashman.

The bigs are great, the backcourt is too so Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland is the pick as state’s top team for 2012-13 season. The Dragons will have to win Open Division this time, though, to finish with state title. By Harold Abend.

Many of the usual suspects are at the top of the pecking order for this season’s Cal-Hi Sports Preseason Girls Basketball State Rankings, but the difference this year with the new Open Division format will be at the end of the season when many of those usual suspects will all be competing for the one state crown.

Some coaches, like Long Beach Poly’s Carl Buggs, aren’t crazy about it, especially with Poly’s enrollment making the Jackrabbits a Division I team every year.

“It’s that public versus private school thing but we’re always going to be D1 so it’s not an advantage for us when other private schools are thrown into the mix,” said Buggs, whose team this year is starting No. 2 in the state.

Other coaches sound more like fans.

“I like it,” said Fullerton Troy’s Roger Anderson. “It will be the toughest (playoff) division in the nation.”

In addition to Long Beach Poly, other perennial powers that are likely to be tabbed to play in the Open Division based on criteria include preseason No. 1 Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland, No. 3 Mater Dei of Santa Ana, No. 4 Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, No. 5 St. Mary’s of Berkeley, No. 7 St. Mary’s of Stockton and No. 8 Windward of Los Angeles. Preseason No. 6 Santiago of Corona may not be an Open Division team because the Sharks did not win a section title last year, did not play in a regional final last year and were not in the final top 10 of the state rankings.

Keep in mind as well that there also is a limit of only four teams from any one section that can be pushed into the Open Division, a limit that likely only will apply to teams from the Southern Section and the North Coast Section.

For more on the new CIF open division, CLICK HERE.
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(First 20 teams with long writeups, next 15 with shorter writeups, then group of next best teams to watch)
(Last year’s final rating in parentheses with 2011-12 win-loss record)
Contributing: Mark Tennis, Ronnie Flores, Paul Muyskens

1. Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 30-3 (4)
With all their top talent returning and looking matured and improved since last season when they were the CIF Division III state champions, there’s an excellent reason why most everyone agrees that not only are the Dragons the top team in California but the best in the nation. USA U17 star and Duke-signee Oderah Chidom, plus last season’s Division III State Player of the Year and Cal-bound K.C. Waters, Virginia Tech-committed Brenna Brown, and San Diego State-bound Ariel Bostick, make up the nucleus. Chidom, Waters and Brown are all at least 6-foot-2. A strong supporting cast is led by the outstanding speedy sophomore guard duo of Aisia Robertson and Asha Thomas, both future D1 level players. The girls will be tested in the top division of the Nike TOC and then after two days rest at home they travel to Southern California for the Oaks Christian tournament. But even before that the Dragons will meet No. 4 Mitty on Dec. 1 in the Monarchs’ house.

2. Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 31-4 (3)
This year’s Jackrabbits are a similar team to the Jasmine Dixon era with no real big size but lots of girls that can play and run the fast break. Junior Jada Matthews is the best big at 5-foot-11, and is continuing to develop. Senior 5-foot-8 guard and team leader Keyla Morgan is Kansas-bound. Arica Carter is a junior that is starting to blossom and has significantly improved her shot. Speedy guard Justyce Dawson is another rising junior. In addition, coach Carl Buggs has some good incoming freshmen, and the best one that shows good court sense already is very promising 5-foot-6 Briana Johnson. She will share the point guard duties with Dawson. Like O’Dowd, Poly is at the Nike TOC and Oaks Christian tournaments, but at this time due to the TOC’s new format, Buggs and the girls are not sure if they will be in the top division. Either way, they’ll be sprinting up and down the court.

Khalia Lark is the top returning player for two-time CIF Division I state champ Mater Dei, a team that also will be bolstered by transfers.

3. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 34-3 (1)
The two-time defending CIF Division I state champions lose Nirra Fields and Jordan Adams, but the 3-point shooting Samuelson sisters, Stanford-bound 5-foot-11 guard Karlie, and her 6-foot-3 little big sister and last year’s State Freshman of the Year, Katie Lou, come slightly east from the beach to Santa Ana after transferring from Huntington Beach Edison. The sisters lead a 22-girl roster that has a lot of other players that can contribute in a variety of ways. Junior Khalia Lark is a 6-foot post that Coach Kevin Kiernan says “has improved her outside shot and can mix it up inside.” Others Kiernan sees as solid contributors are junior guard Alli Brown, sophomore guard Cheyenne Allen, sophomore point guard Andee Velasco, and 6-foot junior forward Peyton Langston, a transfer from San Pedro Rolling Hills Prep. “We’re very young and don’t have as many D1 level players but this is the deepest team I’ve ever had,” Kiernan said. The Monarchs play in the Nike TOC but Kiernan is not yet sure if they’re in the first or second division.

4. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 28-5 (5)
The CIF Division II state champions lose their big size inside, Amanda Loveley and Courtney Lisowski, but they do return very highly regarded 6-foot-1 junior Kelli Hayes, and solid point guard Vanessa Garner returns from an injury that knocked her out in the middle of the playoff run last season. Sharpshooting Emily Dinger is another solid returning contributor. That combination gives them the nod for the No. 2 spot in Northern California over St. Mary’s of Berkeley until the two meet on December 5 in Berkeley, and that is after a December 1 game at home with O’Dowd. After that, we’ll find out how the Monarchs match up against other top talent when they play at the Nike TOC. Coach Sue Phillips always schedules tough early on to prepare for a March run in the playoffs.

5. St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 24-8* (26)
Coach Nate Fripp lost leading scorer Shannon Mauldin from his last season’s NorCal Division IV runner-ups, but he returns much and adds another piece with a very talented transfer. Junior phenom 6-foot-1 Gabby Green is back and fully recovered from an ankle injury that she returned from for last season’s playoffs, but was visibly not at full strength when the Panthers lost to Salesian of Richmond 47-44 in the NorCal D4 final. Highly regarded and early Cal-committed 6-1 junior wing Mikayla Cowling gives Fripp a powerful one-two punch that now becomes 1-2-3 with the addition of 5-foot-10 forward and Salesian transfer sophomore Ma’Ane Mosely. Amongst a handful of other returners are two solid contributors from last season, senior forward Elexis Goodwin and junior forward Taylor Berry. The Panthers will play in the Marin Catholic LadyCat Classic and also the Nike TOC as their pre-season tournament and also have a match-up with their namesakes from Stockton at home in early January.

6. Santiago (Corona) 31-2 (12)
The Sharks have Oregon-bound guard Chrishae Rowe and highly-regarded 6-foot-3 junior Monique Billings back, and almost everyone else returns as well from a team that was upset 45-44 by Fontana Summit in the second round of the SoCal Division I Regional playoffs last season. New coach David Wolfe and the top preseason team from the Inland Empire would seem to be much improved with Rowe (19.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.5 assists last season) and Billings (10.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg and 2.3 blocks) both looking improved and stronger over the summer and fall. Another standout returner is Rowe’s senior backcourt mate Shiana Carrington and her 11.9 ppg average from last season.

7. St. Mary’s (Stockton) 30-4 (6)
Over the summer, the Rams beat Central Catholic of Portland with their two big D1 stars for the San Diego Classic title without Courtney Range, who has now transferred to Manteca, or Onome Jemerigbe, who was unavailable. Even without Range, veteran head coach Tom Gonsalves is still loaded with UC Santa Barbara-committed Jemerigbe, University of Pacific-bound Unique Coleman, junior Charise Holloway and rising sophomore Bre Moore, and they have an incoming freshman, Angel Johnson, who could be one of the best ninth graders in the state. “We’re young and a little small, and that hurts us, but we play hard together and it’s fun to watch,” said Gonsalves, who adds that there will be five freshmen and three sophomores on his 14-player roster.

8. Windward (Los Angeles) 29-5 (10)
The Wildcats lose 6-foot-7 Imani Stafford and others, but they have a big-time backcourt featuring last year’s State Sophomore of the Year Jordin Canada and USC-bound Courtney Jaco. Talented Kris Miller also is back, but they’re not very deep with only eight girls on the roster. Although former coach Steve Smith is now focusing on his athletic director’s job, first-year coach Vanessa Nygaard is not new to the program. Plus, she is a very capable Stanford alum and Tara VanDerveer disciple.

9. La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 32-1 (2)
Last Year’s State Coach of the Year, Terri Bamford, loses the Hood twins, Maya and Malina, and that’s a ton of offense and rebounding, and point guard Tia Kanoa has moved back to Hawaii. Eight girls, however, do return, including Washington-bound Kelsey Plum, the winner of both the Cal-Hi Sports State Junior and Division IV Player of the Year honors. Bamford is looking at significant improvement from junior 6-foot-1 center Sabrina Callahan. A newcomer that has Bamford excited is Mai-loni Henson, a 5-foot-10 freshman with point guard skills that can shoot the 3-pointer.

10. J.W. North (Riverside) 23-4 (13)
The defending CIF Southern California Division II champ loses leading scorer Brittany Crain, but just about everyone else returns from a team that lost 56-54 to Mitty in the D2 title game. Coach Leonard DeCoud’s daughter, point guard and D1 prospect Simone DeCoud returns, as does last year’s second leading scorer (15.4 ppg) and leading rebounder (7.8 rpg) Priscilla Brooks. Two other solid returners are senior guard Kamille Diaz and junior point guard Tatyana Calhoun. The Huskies have a lot of speedy guards that can handle the ball and shoot, but size could be a problem for this team with the 5-foot-10 Brooks the tallest starter.

11. Serra (Gardena) 30-4 (9)
While the Cavaliers might not be as deep as last year’s team that knocked off Windward in the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA final when Windward was No. 1 in the state, they have star power in the backcourt. Returning point guard Siera Thompson averaged 11 points and 4.9 assists as a junior and has signed with Michigan. Guard Deandrea Toler can also play the point and also scored in double figures in most games. She is headed to Oregon. Also back is 5-foot-10 junior wing Caila Hailey, who sank the two game-winning free throws against Windward, and 6-foot-3 center Tatiana Howard, who has signed with Seattle University.

12. Troy (Fullerton) 19-8 (30)
Two players headed to the Pac 12 Conference should lead the Warriors to a strong season. Those two are 5-foot-10 senior guard Gabriella Hanson, who has signed with Oregon State, and 5-foot-7 senior guard Briana Roberson, who is joining the program at Stanford as an invited walk-on. Coach Roger Anderson (126-25 at the school) also has some size with 6-foot-1 senior Alecia Dimas, who has Division I offers as well. Those three returning starters will be joined by upcoming players from a 23-2 JV and there are four others letterwinners coming back. The team will again play a challenging schedule, including a trip to the Naples Holiday Shootout in Florida.

(See Part II for teams from No. 13 to No. 35)
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  1. steve
    Posted November 24, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Thanks Mark, how will Ridgeview be with our own Erica McCall?

    • Posted November 24, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

      Ridgeview could be even better than where we started them at No. 21.
      Last year, though, the girls never really won a big game and will need to do that plus dominate in Kern County.

  2. steve
    Posted November 25, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Thanks Mark:)

  3. Jermy201
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    It’s Kristen SIMON from Windward, not Kris Miller.

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