By Harold Abend
Contributing: Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens
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With the New Year and the conclusion of the Nike TOC, West Coast Jamboree and Oaks Christian Holiday Classic tournaments, there have been some major shakeups in the Cal-Hi Sports Top 20 state girls basketball rankings since the last rankings were released three weeks ago.
The thing that hasn’t changed from last year is which team is back on top — 3-point shooting phenoms and three-time defending CIF Division I state champion Mater Dei of Santa Ana.
One team that has had a bit of resurgence since a 57-54 loss to Dillard (Florida) in the first round of the Nike TOC is St. Mary’s of Stockton.
Like Mater Dei, the Rams sometimes live and die from outside the arc, and against Dillard they were 7-of-42 from 3-point range but still only lost by three points.
Coach Tom Gonsalves doesn’t have a girl over 5-foot-10, but his players are unafraid to attack bigger girls on both ends of the court.
That was exactly the case when the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan witnessed the Rams dismantling of host St. Mary’s of Berkeley in a 67-52 victory over the Panthers last Saturday afternoon.
Brijanee Moore, the Rams’ 5-foot-6 sophomore point guard who was the Cal-Hi Sports Most Valuable Player of the San Diego Classic this past summer, registered a double-double 24 points and 11 rebounds with seven steals and three assists.
Her slashing to the basket for easy scores minimized the need for long-range shooting. The result was the Rams only made four 3-pointers, all in a first half that saw them with a 33-29 lead.
With Cal-committed 6-foot junior Mikayla Cowling (23 points, 12 rebounds, four assists) keeping the Panthers close at 53-51 midway through the fourth quarter, Moore took over. She scored 12 of the Rams’ final 14 points with legs the other girls didn’t have after a two week layoff for both teams.
Onome Jemerigbe had the other four points in the period for the Rams. She finished with 14 points, six rebounds and four steals. Plus, the senior guard’s defense on Berkeley St. Mary’s star Gabby Green had a big impact on the game. She forced Green to give up the ball. The result was the 6-foot-1 Panthers’ junior was held to eight points and eight rebounds with five assists.
Another player that performed like a girl 3-4 inches taller was 5-foot-9 senior forward Unique Coleman. Like Moore, she too had easy slashing baskets and cleaned the glass to finish with 16 points and nine rebounds.
“Our relentless pressure wore them down and Bri(janee) and Onome made the big plays down the stretch,” said Gonsalves.
The game also marked the return from a knee injury of junior Charise Holloway. In her first game this season she played sparingly and finished with four points, five rebounds, and three of the Rams’ 18 total steals.
Gonsalves will lose Coleman and Jemerigbe next season, but other than that the team is young, including four freshmen and three sophomores on the roster.
“That’s a good team we just beat,” Gonsalves remarked. “I’m excited and pleased because we’re so young and competing with the top teams.”
Here are this week’s new rankings:
(Updated through games played Saturday, Jan. 5; previous ranking in parentheses)
1. (3) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 14-0
There’s really little doubt as to which is the best team in the state and nation — not after the Monarchs mowed down the field in the top division of the Nike TOC, culminating in a 96-74 dismantling of a Riverdale Baptist (Maryland) team that beat previous No. 1 Bishop O’Dowd by 11 points. The only game all season that hasn’t been a minimum 18-point win is when Mater Dei had a little trouble with Phoenix St. Mary’s in 57-54 win, a team that ended up beating O’Dowd 63-60 in the TOC’s third-place game. The Samuelson sisters, sophomore Katie Lou (27 ppg) and Karlie (19 ppg) are doing most of the heavy lifting, but with 21 girls on the roster everyone is getting a chance to launch. “We’re waiting for the game when the three-point shots don’t fall but so far it hasn’t come,” head coach Kevin Kiernan told Cal-Hi Sports. “The kids are just playing really well and shooting the ball well, and even with all the extra attention they’re getting, the Samuelson sisters are starting to do other things, and some of our other younger players like (sophomore Cheyenne) Allen and (sophomore Bianca) Velasco are making shots.”
Rumors of the demise of Windward have been exaggerated. In fact, this team, under first-year coach and former Carlsbad, Stanford and professional star Vanessa Nygaard, may be better then last year’s or the team two years ago that won a D4 state championship, although a potential Achilles heal may be there are only really only six girls on the roster that play. Of those six, one of them, junior phenom Jordin Canada (17 ppg, 5 apg), is considered by many as possibly the best point guard not only in the Class of 2014 but in the nation. Leading scorer Courtney Jaco (19 ppg) is committed to USC this fall, and junior 6-foot-1 center/power forward Kristen Simon (15 ppg, 15 rpg) is turning heads with her improved play. The Wildcats won the TOC Division G with 25-point win over Miramonte of Orinda in the finals of a division that included Santiago of Corona, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, Arizona Pinnacle and Salesian of Richmond. From there, the Wildcats went to the Oaks Christian tourney where they smoked the field with easy wins over Gardena Serra, Long Beach Poly and O’Dowd.
3. (1) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 7-3
The Dragons are 5-3 since the last rankings with two losses in the top division of the Nike TOC (in a fourth-place finish) to nationally-ranked out of state teams Riverdale Baptist and Phoenix St. Mary’s. The other loss is a 15-point setback in the finals of the Oaks Christian tourney to No. 2 Windward. Coach Malik McCord and his girls are still the top team in Northern California until someone from NorCal beats the defending Division III state champions this year. The team’s top wins are over Archbishop Mitty of San Jose and La Jolla Country Day.
4. (4) St. Mary’s (Stockton) 9-1
After all was said and done during holiday tournament time and the three weeks since the last rankings, it was looking like the Rams would have to drop below Berkeley St. Mary’s and Long Beach Poly, since they lost to a Dillard (Florida) team that lost by 23 points to Poly in the next round of the TOC Joe Smith Division won by Berkeley St. Mary’s. But then came the decisive road victory against Berkeley St. Mary’s last Saturday. That pushed the Rams back up to where they were in the previous state rankings. Coach Tom Gonsalves and his girls also have wins over Portland Central Catholic and Christ the King of New York City.
5. (8) St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 8-2
Coach Nate Fripp makes no excuses for the six-point loss to Carondelet of Concord from early in the season other than to say the matchups ended up in Carondelet’s favor, but the Panthers rebounded to win the Joe Smith Division of the Nike TOC with a 47-45 win over previous No. 2 Long Beach Poly in a bracket that was strong with top teams from multiple states. We could have dropped the Panthers further after the loss to St. Mary’s of Stockton, but owning a head-to-head win over the Jackrabbits still carries a lot of weight. Poly could move back in front if it were to beat No. 2 Windward later in the season.
6. (2) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 11-2
The Jackrabbits are 5-2 since the last ranking with a loss to St. Mary’s of Berkeley in the title game of the Nike TOC Joe Smith Division. The team’s only other loss is to No. 2 Windward. With Keyla Morgan scoring 13 points, coach Carl Buggs’ girls defeated No. 8 La Jolla Country Day 42-38 to win the third-place game last week at the Oaks Christian tourney. The Jackrabbits play two Moore League games this week and still have non-league showdowns coming up before the playoffs against Windward and No. 11 Troy of Fullerton.
7. (10) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 9-3
The Monarchs have a lone loss since the last rankings after losing 63-61 in the TOC L Division title game to a Louisville Sacred Heart team that beat the Maryland St. Mary’s Ryken team that beat Carondelet in the first round. Carondelet then won the consolation title. The other two losses are to O’Dowd and Berkeley St. Mary’s. Coach Sue Phillips’ girls also are already 2-0 in the West Catholic Athletic League, including a 63-47 win at San Francisco St. Ignatius, a game in which junior phenom Kelli Hayes led four girls in double-figure scoring with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
8. (6) La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 6-6
Even though the Torreys have gone 2-6 since the last ranking, they also have been playing some of the nation’s top programs. Their losses were to Archbishop Wood (Pennsylvania), Christ the King (New York), Portland Central Catholic, No. 3 Bishop O’Dowd (by four points), No. 6 Long Beach Poly and last Saturday by 18 points to No. 1 Mater Dei, a game that Monarchs’ coach Kiernan said shows that with Kelsey Plum on the court that LJCD deserves a high state ranking. The Torreys also have a solid win over Alemany of Mission Hills and a 23-point win over the Oaks Christian team that just upset Chaminade.
9. (16) Chaminade (West Hills) 14-2
Talk about a meteoric rise before a slight fall that still results in a rise. The Eagles weren’t even in the top 35 for the preseason rankings but moved in three weeks ago after what at the time was a lone three-point loss to Windward. Then, coach Kelly Dimuro and her girls were poised to move to No. 3 in the state after what Windward has done and their own 81-71 victory over Carondelet in the Platinum Division title game of the West Coast Jamboree. Since coming back from the Bay Area, however, Chaminade hit a bump in the road with a 55-52 loss to Westlake Village Oaks Christian last Saturday. Almost all the top teams other then Mater Dei and Windward have at least one stinker loss so we can’t penalize them too much after looking at their entire body of work to start the season.
10. (7) Carondelet (Concord) 10-2
Coach Margaret Gartner’s girls had the road win over Berkeley St. Mary’s, but have gone 5-2 since the start of Nike TOC and it was hard to figure where they fall after a first-round loss in the TOC to a team that lost in the next round to a team that beat Mitty by two in title game. A good showing in the Jamboree allow the Cougars to stay pretty high, but they have to fall behind St. Mary’s and directly behind the team that beat them in the Jamboree Platinum title game.
11. (11) Troy (Fullerton) 11-2
The Warriors wrapped up a strong showing at the Naples Holiday Classic in Florida with a 49-29 triumph over Cardinal O’Hara (Springfield, Pa.) in the third-place game. Their only loss in the event came to Science Hill (Johnson City, Tenn.) 40-33, which was the team that finished first. Oregon State-bound Gabriella Hanson had 11 points vs. Cardinal O’Hara and has helped a defense that is allowing an average of 28.5 points per game. Troy’s No. 11 state ranking will get a test Saturday against No. 12 Santiago of Corona.
12. (12) Santiago (Corona) 11-2
Chrishae Rowe knocked in 24 points (she’s averaging 20.4 ppg) to lead the Sharks past Eisenhower of Rialto 68-30 last Saturday at the Eisenhower Showcase. The team’s only loss since the last rankings came to Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas in a division of the Nike TOC that was won by No. 2 Windward. The only other loss was to Etiwanda very early on and the reason Santiago can now be higher is because Etiwanda lost twice last week. The Sharks could go up next week due to facing No. 11 Troy of Fullerton on Saturday.
13. (13) Millikan (Long Beach) 16-1
This team’s only loss has come to No. 11 Troy. And although there weren’t any trips to major tournaments, the Rams do have a notable win over No. 14 Serra of Gardena. In a 63-43 win last week over Gahr of Cerritos, senior guard Erin Hagan had 15 points. Another key has been the inside presence of junior center Alyssa Benton, who is averaging double-doubles of 10.9 points and 10.5 rebounds.
14. (14) Serra (Gardena) 13-2
Senior guard Siera Thompson netted 23 points while junior Caila Hailey shined with 11 points, 12 rebounds, seven steals and five assists in a 65-45 quality win last week over St. Anthony of Long Beach. The Cavaliers’ only losses are to No. 2 Windward and No. 13 Millikan of Long Beach. They open Del Rey League play this week with a matchup against No. 20 Bishop Amat of La Puente.
15. (NR) Miramonte (Orinda) 11-1
Most California girls basketball analysts felt the Matadors were legit to begin the season, and although they have a 25-point loss to Windward at the Nike TOC, they did score 43 points in the game, which is one of the highest point totals scored, and the same as O’Dowd scored in their loss to the No. 2 team. Coach Kelly Sopak’s girls had solid wins over Colorado ThunnderRidge and Bishop Gorman before meeting Windward, and they ran through the Diamond Division of the West Coast Jamboree, culminating in a convincing 72-57 win over Salesian of Richmond in the championship game.
16. (9) Etiwanda 12-2
Suffering back-to-back losses last week to Alemany of Mission Hills and a Mark Keppel of Alhambra team that’s knocking on the door of the Top 20 drops the Eagles out of the top 10. Before that, they had a win over Oaks Christian of Westlake Village (team that just upset Chaminade), won the Mike Desper Division of the Nike TOC and then won the West Coast Holiday Festival with a win over Alemany. This week’s games are against Upland, Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga and No. 8 La Jolla Country Day.
17. (17) Salesian (Richmond) 10-3
The Pride’s losses have all come in tournament action. The first two were to Pinnacle (Arizona) and No.12 Santiago at the Nike TOC, and then the third was to No. 15 Miramonte in the title game of the Diamond Division of the West Coast Jamboree. Mariya Moore is playing well, but foul trouble in the loss to Miramonte rendered her virtually ineffective, and although the Pride has some size inside, the team doesn’t have the depth to beat top teams if Moore is not doing the heavy lifting.
18. (19) Bishop Alemany (Mission Hills) 13-4
Owning a split with No. 16 Etiwanda keeps the Warriors in the Top 20. The avenging win came by 70-69 last week and featured standout Leslie Lopez-Wood scoring 27 points. Alemany then beat Bishop’s of La Jolla 62-49, which is one of the top teams in the CIF San Diego Section. This week’s games are against Flintridge Sacred Heart of La Canada and Louisville of Woodland Hills.
19. (NR) Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley) 13-2
The Mustangs crack this week’s Top 20 for the state because of their win over Corona Centennial to win the title in the Nike TOC’s N Division. Their losses also are to No. 11 Troy (by just six points) and Rock Canyon of Colorado. Rancho Verde capped last week with a 66-41 triumph over Great Oak of Temecula. The team already is 3-0 in Inland Valley League play and takes on J.W. North of Riverside (defending CIF SoCal D2 champ) and Arlington of Riverside in this week’s games.
20. (NR) Bishop Amat (La Puente) 15-2
After examining who beat who, the win that gets the Lancers the 20th rung in this week’s pecking order is the one over league rival St. Bernard of Playa del Rey. Those teams play again this week. Bishop Amat also is playing No. 14 Serra of Gardena in a different Del Rey League matchup later this week.
Teams That Dropped Out:
Previous No. 15 Ridgeview (Bakersfield); No. 18 Lynwood; No. 20 J.W. North (Riverside).
Teams On the Bubble
Berkeley 5-6, Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 15-3, Bishop’s (La Jolla) 11-4, Bonita (La Verne) 12-4, Bullard (Fresno) 11-3, Brea-Olinda (Brea) 11-3, Brookside Christian (Stockton) 13-2, Canyon (Canyon Country) 13-3, Centennial (Corona) 12-1, Clovis West (Fresno) 9-4, Eastside College Prep (East Palo Alto) 8-4, Enterprise (Redding) 14-1, Foothill (Santa Ana) 13-4, Hanford 11-4, Horizon (San Diego) 12-4, JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 11-4, J.W. North (Riverside) 9-3, Kennedy (Sacramento) 10-3, Keppel (Alhambra) 13-3, La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 14-2, Laguna Hills 13-4, Lynbrook (San Jose) 11-2, Lynwood 6-5, McNair (Stockton) 14-0, Miller (Fontana) 13-2, Modesto Christian (Modesto) 8-4, Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 11-2, Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 8-5, Orange Lutheran (Orange) 14-1, Oroville 13-1, Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove) 10-3, Ridgeview (Bakersfield) 12-3, Sacramento 10-2, St. Bernard (Playa del Rey) 12-4, St. Ignatius (San Francisco) 10-2, Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) 11-5, Wilcox (Santa Clara) 13-1, Woodbridge (Irvine) 14-2.
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