A group of three newcomers this week are led by red-hot La Verne Lutheran, and also include Deer Valley and La Costa Canyon. Corona Centennial, L.A. Loyola and L.A. Windward are out after losing in respective section quarterfinals.
By Ronnie Flores
Contributing: Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens
(Updated through games played Saturday, Feb. 23; previous ranking in parentheses)
1. (1) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 27-2
Even if we had rewarded Bishop Montgomery earlier in the season for its unbeaten record and ranked that team No. 1 in the state despite Poly and Mater Dei losing to out-of-state top-ranked opponents, the Jackrabbits would be right back to the top this week after Bishop Montgomery was upset in the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA semifinals. We mentioned on many occasions Poly hadn’t lost within the state and played a tough national schedule as our justification for not making the switch, but nevertheless if was still surprising to see how high Bishop Montgomery had risen in various national ratings. As for Poly, the Jackrabbits advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA semifinals with wins over Mayfair of Lakewood (73-28) and previous No. 11 Loyola of Los Angeles (75-69). In the big quarterfinal win over Loyola, the Jackrabbits built a big lead over the Cubs early before holding them off with clutch free throw shooting. In the semifinals on Tuesday night. Poly hosts No. 5 Etiwanda. If Poly scores 75 points it would be a near miracle, but the ‘Rabbits probably are the best defensive team the Eagles will have faced all season as well.
2. (2) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 29-1
The top seed in the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA playoffs breezed to the semifinals as expected. On Tuesday night the Monarchs should face their first real test of the postseason against a talented and dangerous Inglewood team that just missed breaking into the top 20 this week. Most of the media we’ve talked to in the past few days think this game will be much closer than the average high school hoops fan might anticipate. Mater Dei downed Warren of Downey (74-47) and Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley (56-40) to earn a trip to the semis. Rancho Verde was a bubble squad during most of the regular season, but saw its bubble burst as Mater Dei’s Mr. Basketball candidate Stanley Johnson, a junior, had 22 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
3. (4) Salesian (Richmond) 28-3
Jabari Bird and company move up one spot this week after Bishop Montgomery fell from the ranks of the unbeaten. Bishop Montgomery’s loss likely means it will be placed in the SoCal Div. IV regional playoffs. With Salesian steadily climbing in the rankings, it’s nearly certain the SoCal Div. IV champion will be a huge favorite over its NorCal counterpart because the Pride could be the top seed in the new NorCal open division playoffs. Salesian advanced to the CIFNCS Division IV semifinals with victories over Gateway of San Francisco (65-33) and Moreau Catholic of Hayward (75-42). The Bird Man, who will play in the McDonald’s All-American Game but wasn’t picked for the Jordan Brand Classic, netted a game-high 25 points against Moreau Catholic. Salesian will look to extend its winning streak to 18 games (and 74 against NorCal foes) on Wednesday when it takes on 24-6 Arcata.
4. (5) Sheldon (Sacramento) 23-5
Local TV stations in Sacramento continue to show highlights of Sheldon in every round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs even though it’s obvious the Huskies are likely going to win by 30 points or more. The team’s arsenal of stars is fun to watch, but there are more competitive games to showcase. Sheldon’s wins last week were over Bear Creek of Stockton (94-40) and Kennedy of Sacramento (91-62). D’Erryl Williams had a triple-double against the Cougars with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Washington-bound Darin Johnson had 21 points. The Huskies are big favorites again in this week’s semifinals against Bethel of Vallejo and will probably play Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove in the final. Even if Sheldon beats the Eagles again, the irony of the new CIF Open Division is that Pleasant Grove’s chances to getting to a state final might be just as good as Sheldon’s because one team will be trying to get there in the open and the other will be trying to get there in Division I.
5. (6) Etiwanda 25-2
The Eagles were set to face Centennial of Corona for the third time this season in the CIFSS Division I-AA quarterfinals, but the Huskies were upset in the second round by Silverado of Victorville, 77-75. Since Centennial defeated Silverado 80-46 earlier in the season and because Etiwanda beat Silverado handily in the quarters (43-28), the decision was made to drop Centennial all the way out of this week’s ratings. We also decided to drop another talented I-AA quarterfinalist (Loyola of Los Angeles) all the way out, too. There is a chance the season could be over for Centennial and Loyola and we need to make room for teams still playing. Should Centennial and/or Loyola get placed in the SoCal Division I regional playoffs (we would chose the Cubs head-to-head because of its overall strength of schedule and the difference between losing to Poly and Silverado), the chosen team or teams would return to the top 20 next week. As for Etiwanda, top-ranked Poly will get in idea of what kind of team its up against when it sees Silverado scored 81 points against Los Alamitos, 77 against Centennial and then 28 against the Eagles. Poly also plays tough man-to-man defense so the difference in this highly-anticipated semifinal might be foul trouble to any key players.
6. (8) Bullard (Fresno) 25-2
After a first-round bye, the Knights hammered Liberty of Bakersfield (76-46) in the second round of the CIF Central Section Division I playoffs. The leading scorer for head coach Tony Amundsen’s club was senior Corey Silverstrom with 21 points. Up next in this week’s semifinals is Clovis North of Clovis, which won in its quarterfinal 68-64 over Fresno Edison. The last time Bullard beat Edison the score was 66-61. It could be a close game. Despite those scores, Bullard is still seen as a strong favorite to win its third straight title in the division. A trip to the CIF SoCal Open Division playoffs would then be likely.
7. (9) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 24-3
There are some seasons in which it looks like the Dragons are going to have to scratch to win the CIF North Coast Section Division III title. This so far isn’t looking like one of those seasons. O’Dowd crushed Encinal of Alameda 86-48 in last week’s quarterfinals behind 21 points from super sophomore Ivan Rabb plus 18 from sharp-shooting Michael Perri. The Dragons will next face Drake of San Anselmo in Wednesday’s semifinals. If O’Dowd wins its section title later this week, it appears to be a cinch to be placed into the CIF NorCal Open Division playoffs.
8. (3) Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 29-1
This is where the Knights tumble after losing to La Verne Lutheran in the CIFSS Division IV-AA semifinals in a game in which they saw their post players in early foul trouble and their shooters cold from the outside. Bishop Montgomery still had a chance to potentially win the game at the end, but couldn’t get over the hump. We did consider dropping the Knights further and behind La Verne Lutheran, but it is just one loss and their season isn’t over. They also have three wins over No. 16 Gardena Serra, one over No. 9 St. John Bosco and another over No. 15 Westchester. Therefore, a drop to just in front of the Braves makes the most sense. The Knights won’t be eligible to be taken up into the new CIF SoCal Open Division and now won’t ask to be placed in those playoffs. Their next game probably will be in the CIF SoCal Division IV playoffs.
9. (10) St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 23-6
The Braves beat Cathedral of Los Angeles (82-55), held on to beat Ocean View of Huntington Beach (89-87) and will now face Chaminade of West Hills for the CIFSS Div. III-A title. Having a head-to-head loss to Bishop Montgomery prevented a higher climb, but Corona Centennial losing means the team still goes up this week regardless. Against Ocean View, Isaac Hamilton continued his playoff surge with an off-the-charts outing of 43 points and eight rebounds. Tyler Dorsey also played well and had 15 points. With a win against Chaminade, Bosco could be ticketed for a top seed in the CIF SoCal Division III playoffs. The only way the Braves can be pulled up into the open division is if they ask for it.
10. (12) El Camino Real (Woodland Hills) 28-2
ECR moves up two spots this week because of a combination of its impressive wins and losses by Corona Centennial and Loyola. The Conquistadors advanced to their first ever L.A. City Section Division I title game with wins over Narbonne of Harbor City (69-34) and Crenshaw of Los Angeles (81-57). The semifinal win over The Shaw was especially impressive after the Conquistadors blew open a close game with a 17-2 run to begin the fourth quarter. Hawaii-bound Michael Thomas and Julian Richardson (son of former NBA guard Pooh Richardson) combined for 39 points against Crenshaw. If ECR defeats No. 15 Westchester to win the city title, its reward will likely be a berth in the new SoCal open division playoffs.
11. (13) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 23-5
The top seed in the first CCS Open Division playoffs held on to defeat Soquel 59-57 in last week’s quarterfinals. A loss would have sent shock waves around the potential NorCal Open Division playoff bracket, but the Monarchs prevailed behind Aaron Gordon with 27 points, including a three-point play with just over one minute left that gave them a 58-57 lead. Mitty will play a more familiar foe – Archbishop Riordan of San Francisco – in the semifinals and would then face another West Catholic Athletic League team – either No. 16 Serra of San Mateo or Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco – in the first CCS Open Division final. Since Mitty already has qualified for the NorCal playoffs, it’s status as an open division team in the north also is likely assured even if the team gets upset this week.
12. (14) Brentwood (Los Angeles) 27-3
The Eagles have a rubber match with No. 13 Pacific Hills in the CIFSS Division IV-A title game. We considered leaving Loyola at No. 11 in front of the Brentwood team it beat and also considered the Cubs at No. 15, but since their season could be over we ultimately decided to drop them out for now. In Brentwood’s 54-46 victory over St. Joseph of Santa Maria in the semis, the team came back from a 43-42 deficit with three minutes left in the game. Tra Holder saved the day by scoring six of the Eagles’ final 11 points.
13. (16) Pacific Hills (Los Angeles) 23-4
The Bruins move up three spots and take on No. 12 Brentwood for the third time this season in the CIFSS Division IV-A final. In the team’s 52-51 win last week against Cantwell Sacred Heart of Montebello in the semis, Jonathan Mills made a pair of free throws with 1.9 seconds left to account for the winning points. Washington-bound Jahmel Taylor also shined for Pac Hills in that game with 21 points. If the Bruins win the title, they are eligible to be taken up to the new CIF SoCal Open Division because they will have won two section titles in a row. If Brentwood wins, it would not be eligible to be taken up because it did not qualify for the regional playoffs in either 2011 or 2012.
14. (NR) La Verne Lutheran (La Verne) 25-6
With their huge upset win over previous No. 3 and nationally-ranked Bishop Montgomery in the CIFSS Division IV-AA semifinals, the Trojans make a big splash into this week’s state rankings. Keep in mind, some of La Verne Lutheran’s early losses came when the team had to adjust to playing without center Alpha Ndaw (academics) and Southern Utah-bound playmaker McKay Anderson (broken leg). With Anderson now back and ingrained into the Trojan’s perimeter-oriented lineup, they simply are a different team. Joseph Rushing and Jay Miller also came up big against Bishop Montgomery, combining for 32 points. Earlier in the week, coach Brandon Lee’s squad, which will face No. 19 Serra in its section title game, beat previous No. 15 Windward 73-68 after squeaking by Muir of Pasadena in the second round by a point. The only bad news in all this is that the Trojans are eligible to be grabbed by the CIF selection committee and taken up into the new open division for the regional playoffs.
15. (17) Westchester (Los Angeles) 27-6
The top seed in the L.A. City Section Division I playoffs and 11-time champion moves up two spots this week after advancing to the city title game. In that game, the Comets will face No. 10 (and second seeded) El Camino Real. The Comets definitely have tradition on their side and a veteran coaching staff that has been in this situation many times, but ECR will definitely be one of the most talented teams Westchester has faced all season. The Comets advanced to the title game courtesy of their wins over Taft of Woodland Hills (71-41) and Western League rival Palisades (62-49). In Saturday’s semifinal win over Pali, Matthew Grant, one of the state’s top unsigned seniors, led the way with 18 points.
16. (18) Serra (San Mateo) 24-4
Unlike league rival Archbishop Mitty, the Padres had an easier time in their first CCS Open Division playoff game although El Camino of South San Francisco was competitive in a 74-66 loss. Princeton-bound forward Henry Caruso was charismatic in his play and wound up with 30 points. He was aided by Jacqui Biggins hitting for 23 points. Up next for Serra is a semifinal contest against league rival Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco. Another matchup with Mitty might then follow in the championship. Serra is one of those teams that upon further review would be eligible for the open division in the north. This is because the team will be in the regional playoffs for the fourth straight season.
17. (19) De La Salle (Concord) 24-3
The Spartans had their trademark defense in prime form as they topped Berkeley 42-25 in last week’s CIF NCS Division I quarterfinals. Senior Elliott Pitts found the range for 16 points and also pulled down nine rebounds. De La Salle moved on to a semifinal contest this week against Deer Valley of Antioch. It was a 55-38 loss the last time these two met, but should be much closer this time due to the many young players (freshmen and sophomores) that have gotten a lot of experience in recent weeks perfecting the system of head coach Frank Allocco. In the other NCS Division I semi, bubble teams San Leandro (the top seed) and Freedom of Oakley will do battle.
18. (NR) Deer Valley (Antioch) 22-5
The Wolverines jump back into the top 20 after falling out following a 93-80 loss to Heritage of Brentwood during the second round of league play. It’s a cinch decision to bring them back in for three reasons. McDonald’s All-American Marcus Lee wasn’t at 100 percent in that 13-point loss, Deer Valley just beat Heritage for the second time this season in the CIFNCS Division I quarterfinals and has No. 17 De La Salle next in the semifinals. Deer Valley did beat De La Salle during the regular season 55-38, but in the end the ranking will take care of itself and our gut feeling tells us this section playoff semifinal will be a lot closer than that game on December 8. If Deer Valley beats the Spartans again and goes on to win the NCS title, the team then needs to decide if it wants to take a shot at the NorCal open division bracket. The Wolverines will not have won two section titles in a row, they were not a top 10 team last season and they were not in the NorCal playoffs two seasons ago or in 2009-10. This means they are not eligible for the open division according to criteria.
19. (20) Serra (Gardena) 24-6
After jumping into the top 20 last week, the Cavaliers secured a date with No. 14 La Verne Lutheran in the CIFSS Division IV-AA final with wins over JSerra of San Juan Capistrano (69-66) and Crespi of Encino (74-62). The play of Ellis Salahuddin was crucial in the win over the Celts. He made 12 of 16 free throws in the last four minutes of the game and ended with 22 points. Serra also played La Verne Lutheran in last year’s championship in that division and won. Because of that win and being a potential back-to-back section champion, the Cavaliers are eligible to taken by the CIF up into the open division.
20. (NR) La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 26-4
There were plenty of decisions to ponder with this final spot in the ratings. Did CIF Southern Section Div. I-AA quarterfinalists Loyola and Centennial of Corona deserve to stay in the top 20? Did Inglewood deserve to go in after its impressive win over Mission Viejo and with No. 2 Mater Dei coming up? In the end, it was decided both Loyola and Centennial have to drop out for now. Among teams still alive in the section playoffs, we were tempted to go with Inglewood, but a closer inspection of the logs reveals LCC also owns a victory over Mission Viejo (70-58) and has five less losses than the Sentinels. Following wins over Rancho Bernardo of San Diego (77-54) and Westview of San Diego (66-61), the defending SoCal Division II champions and the San Diego Section’s top-ranked team will face Lincoln of San Diego in the Division II section semis. Lincoln is no ordinary No. 12 seed with twins Tyree and Tyrell Robinson back in the fold after not being part of the team for nearly two months.
Teams That Dropped Out:
Previous No. 7 Centennial (Corona), No. 11 Loyola (Los Angeles), No. 15 Windward (Los Angeles).
Teams on the Bubble:
Army-Navy (Carlsbad) 25-4
Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) 26-3
Centennial (Corona) 26-3
Chaminade (West Hills) 24-6
Crespi (Encino) 22-9
Freedom (Oakley) 19-8
Independence (Bakersfield) 30-1
J.W. North (Riverside) 26-3
Loyola (Los Angeles) 22-7
Mission Hills (San Marcos) 25-4
Mission Viejo 26-4
Modesto Christian 26-3
Newark Memorial (Newark) 21-7
Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove) 23-5
Price (Los Angeles) 24-4
Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) 21-8
San Leandro 22-5
St. Augustine (San Diego) 23-4
Windward (Los Angeles) 20-9
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