Ridgeview of Bakersfield leads group of three newcomers as section championship week starts on Wednesday. One of the most intriguing questions heading into next week is which four CIF Southern Section teams will end up in the new CIF SoCal Open Division playoffs.
By Harold Abend
Contributing: Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens
The chatter coming out of the Inland Empire on various social media is about the big matchup on Wednesday night between national and state No. 1 Mater Dei traveling 50-miles northeast to put their CIF Southern Section Division 1AA top seed on the line against No. 5 seed and new No. 9 ranked Etiwanda.
The pride of the IE supposedly is at stake and the place will probably be rocking with locals looking for the huge upset.
The real question that should be answered is why the CIFSS has in place a policy that has a flip of a coin considered more important than seedings. Why have the seedings?
“It didn’t come out of this office,” said CIF Southern Section Director of Communications Thom Simmons. “It’s something that’s been around for 30 years because the schools wanted it, and they voted it in as a ‘blue book’ rule.”
Supposedly the logic was it would give every team a chance to host a game. The key word here is “chance.” Should the kids’ performances on the court be dictated by a “chance” that a top seed might only have a home game in the first round as the rule provides.
Giving every team an “opportunity” to host a home game doesn’t have to be left to chance. A different system could be worked out.
Whether it’s a home or not, Etiwanda is in an interesting position as it relates to next week’s regional playoffs. The Eagles are not eligible for the new open division but with a strong showing against the Monarchs could decide to request to be in it. Their decision also ironically could help determine whether the team they just beat to set up the big game against Mater Dei – Long Beach Poly – goes to the open or is placed in the Division I regional bracket.
Here are this week’s rankings plus more explanations for the new open division:
(Updated through games played Saturday, Feb. 23; previous ranking in parentheses)
1. (1) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 28-0
Corona Centennial actually gave the Monarchs a game in a 56-39 victory, but although the girls were below their usual offensive output, it was still a 17-point victory, and their defense didn’t allow 40 points for the fifth straight game and 15th time this season. The CIFSS Division 1AA second-round game against Victorville Silverado earlier in the week was a 78-25 rout. Next up is a formidable Etiwanda team (ranked No. 9 in the state) on the road in the Inland Empire where the girls can expect a raucous and hostile crowd itching for an upset.
2. (2) Windward (Los Angeles) 29-0
After a trip to Morro Bay resulted in a 71-23 blowout, the girls returned home and faced a St. Bernard of Playa del Rey team many felt might give the Wildcats a tussle. Instead, it was all Windward in a 77-46 victory over an injury-plagued St. Bernard that gets them into the CIFSS Division IV title game against No. 16 Serra of Gardena. Kristen Simon had her way inside and finished with a double-double 23 points and 12 rebounds. USC-bound Courtney Jaco had 21 points and Jordin Canada added 19 points and seven assists. Playing Serra in the section final will certainly be motivating since the Cavaliers beat the Wildcats last year in the same game in three overtimes and later ended their season in the Division IV regional playoffs.
3. (3) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 24-3
Unlike the CIF Southern Section, where top teams are already meeting and knocking each other off, it’s not anywhere near that level of play yet in the CIF North Coast Section. Evidence is the Dragons being a 61-15 winner in the D3 quarterfinals over Eureka. Next up is No. 4 seed Richmond Kennedy, a 1-point winner over Hercules. For Coach Malik McCord and the girls, it’s hard to not look past Kennedy at Miramonte for a likely matchup in the section final, and even beyond that to the upcoming CIF Northern California Open Division.
4. (4) St. Mary’s (Stockton) 27-2
Coach Tom Gonsalves and his girls appear well on their way to an 11th CIF Sac-Joaquin Section title although they are gunning this weekend for the first in Division I. After beating Bear Creek of Stockton 92-24 in their first postseason outing, the Rams moved on into this week’s semifinals with a 91-54 victory over Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove. Senior guard Unique Coleman had one of her best outings of the season with 26 points while freshman outside shooter Kat Tudor had five 3-pointers and 17 points. St. Mary’s plays Armijo of Fairfield in the semis and will get either defending champion Kennedy of Sacramento or Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills (both bubble teams) if they advance to the final.
5. (5) St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 26-4
The CIFNCS D4 playoffs still aren’t really very competitive, either, as the Panthers outscored their first two opponents, Middletown and Napa Justin-Siena, 162-39 combined. Next up is semifinal opponent Piedmont, a team the girls are very familiar with despite not having played this year, having been in the same league for the early years of their careers before they were split up this season and moved into new separate leagues. For the Panthers to not be looking past the Highlanders at a fourth meeting with Salesian in the section final, however, will be pretty difficult. St. Mary’s, along with O’Dowd, St. Mary’s of Stockton and Salesian, is eligible to be taken up into the new NorCal open division playoffs.
6. (6) Santiago (Corona) 27-2
Chrishae Rowe and Monique Billings put on a show to lead the Sharks past No. 15 Millikan of Long Beach 78-63 in the CIFSS Division I-AA quarterfinals. Rowe’s rampage of 40 points might help her gain first team all-state status. Billings’ triple-double of 22 points, 25 rebounds and 10 blocks was equally impressive. Santiago, which also beat San Clemente 89-61 in its other playoff game last week, will play No. 7 Troy in Tuesday’s semifinals. The Sharks already own a 65-57 win over the Warriors from earlier in the season, which is why we have them higher in our rankings. The winner of the game would advance to the final of the toughest girls playoff division in the state. If it’s Santiago, that also just might cinch it for the girls to get moved up into the CIF SoCal Open Division playoffs. Santiago appears eligible for being in the regional playoffs last year and in 2010. For most of the season, we thought teams had to make it to the regional championship game for three of the last four years (including the current season) but the correct interpretation is just to be in the regional playoffs.
7. (7) Troy (Fullerton) 25-3
There are several interesting angles to the Troy-Santiago semifinal matchup for a berth in the CIFSS Division I-AA championship game. It’s not just the rankings, either. Coach Roger Anderson’s girls will not only be trying to avenge an earlier loss to the Sharks, but Santiago also is the team that beat them in last year’s quarterfinals 55-41 that ended the season. In addition, Santiago beat Troy 56-51 in the 2010 playoffs. In addition, it may be fair to point out that the loser of this game could be in better shape to win a state title (which would be in Division I) than the winner (which has a better chance of getting moved up into the open division). Like Santiago, Troy also meets the CIF’s criteria for the open division in that this year’s regional playoff qualification would be the third in four seasons. Last week’s playoff wins were 59-18 over Arcadia and 69-26 over Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley, which was No. 16 in last week’s rankings.
8. (8) Miramonte (Orinda) 26-1
As previously stated, it’s sort of ho-hum time in the CIFNCS playoffs, and after a 104-61 win over Alameda Encinal in the Division III quarterfinals, it probably won’t be much more difficult in the semis against arch-rival Campolindo. The Mats saw the Cougars twice in Diablo Foothill League play and won by 31 points on the road and 37 at home earlier this month. The game everyone is looking forward to is a showdown in the title game with No. 3 Bishop O’Dowd, although both teams will probably be pulled into the NorCal Open Division. Although it might not be fair to move up Miramonte as a possible section runner-up into the open division, the CIF will be able to point to the team probably being in the top 10 overall in the state as more evidence to back up that selection.
9. (10) Etiwanda 27-2
It would be deserved to move up the Eagles more than just up in front of the previous No. 9 team from Long Beach Poly that they ousted 60-50 in the CIFSS Division I-AA quarterfinals. That didn’t happen because the first eight teams in last week’s rankings held serve. Amy Okonkwo shined for Etiwanda with 18 points and 12 rebounds against the Jackrabbits’ athletic front line. The win also avenged a loss to Poly in last year’s quarterfinals and advanced Etiwanda past that round since they lost to Poly in the 2010 semifinals. By not making it into the regional playoffs both last year and in 2011, however, that does make the Eagles not eligible to be moved up to the open division for the regional playoffs. The only way Etiwanda goes to the open division is for the team to request it. In this week’s semifinals, the Eagles get to host No. 1 Mater Dei. If it’s close or it’s an upset, Etiwanda should petition for the open division. It it’s not too close, the girls can take a breath and get ready for a legitimate run at a D1 state crown.
10. (9) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 24-5
Junior guard Arica Carter tried to keep the Jackrabbits close in their 60-50 playoff loss to Etiwanda. She scored all of her 13 points in the fourth quarter but it wasn’t enough. Keyla Morgan added 11 points and eight rebounds. Despite the loss, Poly did not drop in this week’s rankings because all five losses are still to higher-ranked teams. Plus, both No. 11 Chaminade and No. 12 Carondelet have at least one loss to a lower-ranked team. Losing in the quarterfinals also doesn’t necessarily end the season for the Jackrabbits. It’s likely that the CIFSS Division I-AA champion and runner-up will both be going up to the open division. Two other CIFSS teams also will likely be brought up (with No. 2 Windward probably being one of them). The fourth team could still conceivably be the Jackrabbits (especially if Etiwanda doesn’t decide it wants to take a crack at it). If not the open, then the Division I regional bracket could and probably would include the Jackrabbits.
11. (11) Chaminade (West Hills) 26-3
The top seed in CIFSS Division 3A playoffs had no problems against Costa Mesa Estancia, doubling them up in an 80-40 victory, and San Luis Obispo (64-40), to advance to the championship game versus Lakewood St. Joseph. Despite one of the losses being by only three points to Windward, and another close loss in a rival game at Alemany, this is where the Eagles have to pay for a loss to an Oaks Christian team by staying behind a Poly team that has five losses all to top 10 teams. If Chaminade wins in its section final, it would then go to the Division III regional playoffs since the team is not eligible for the open division in the south and is not likely to petition to be considered.
12. (12) Carondelet (Concord) 24-3
The CIFNCS Division II playoffs are at a similar stage as the other NCS divisions so a 91-27 rout of Fremont American by the top seed is about par for the course. The Cougars next opponent, the No. 5 seed Dublin team they face in the semis on Wednesday, shouldn’t be much of a problem, either. After that, we’re looking at a championship game matchup with the winner of No. 2 seed Concord Clayton Valley hosting No. 3 seed Santa Rosa Montgomery. From there, the Cougars are ticketed for the Open Division. Their eligibility for open division is based on being a defending section champion and for being in the NorCal playoffs for numerous years in a row.
13. (13) Salesian (Richmond) 25-6
Blowouts of San Francisco Lick Wilmerding and St. Patrick St. Vincent of Vallejo sets up a semifinal match for the CIFNCS Division IV No. 2 seed with visiting No. 5 seed Kentfield Marin Catholic. If the first time they met in December is indicative of things to come, it could be ugly, as the Pride won that game 65-24, also in Richmond. The game everyone expects will be a fourth meeting this season in the championship between Salesian and top-seeded St. Mary’s. The Pride won the first game by three points in overtime, but dropped the last two by six and eight points. By virtue of being a NorCal regional playoff regular in recent seasons, even if the Pride loses to St. Mary’s again, they are still eligible for the NorCal open division. The NCS has a limit of four, however, and if those four are Bishop O’Dowd, Miramonte, Carondelet and St. Mary’s, then Salesian wouldn’t be in the open but instead would play in the Division IV regional bracket.
14. (14) Bishop Alemany (Mission Hills) 26-5
Coach Bryan Camacho’s squad advanced to the CIFSS Division III-AA championship game with victories against Irvine (62-36) and Lakeside of Lake Elsinore (79-54). Leslie Lopez-Wood knocked down 18 points against Lakeside with Clarissa Larios adding 16. Alemany plays Calabasas in this week’s championship. With a win, the team would advance to the CIF SoCal Division III playoffs and looks like a top seed. Alemany isn’t eligible for the open division because the team isn’t a defending section champion, was not in the overall top 10 at the end of last season and did not make the regional playoffs in either 2010 or 2011.
15. (15) Millikan (Long Beach) 26-4
Depending on how many CIFSS Division I-AA teams end up in the open division of next week’s regional playoffs, the Rams’ season may be over after last week’s 78-63 loss to No. 6 Santiago in the quarterfinals. If it isn’t, it would continue in the Division I regional bracket. Basha Brulee-Wills had a solid outing in defeat with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Earlier in the week, Millikan won a 78-43 playoff game over scoring whiz Ashley Kelsick and her team at Highland of Palmdale. Since Santiago is so high and since the Rams still own a head-to-head win over Serra of Gardena (the next team up in our pecking order), they hold steady at No. 15 for this week. Other teams, including Serra, would go higher if their seasons continue after this week and Millikan’s does not.
16. (19) Serra (Gardena) 25-5
The Cavaliers move up three positions this week after downing previous No. 17 JSerra of San Juan Capistrano 48-37 in the CIFSS Division IV-AA semifinals. Deandrea Toler netted 19 points while Tatiana Howard had 18 rebounds and three blocks to lead the way. They also beat McDonald’s All-American Kendall Cooper and her team at St. Anthony of Long Beach last week 58-45 in the quarterfinals. Serra will play No. 2 Windward in the final on Wednesday, which is a championship rematch of a three-overtime thriller from last season that Serra won 82-77. The Cavaliers also ended Windward’s season last year in the regionals. If Serra wins again, it would be eligible to be taken up to the open division of next week’s regional playoffs. There is a limit of four teams from CIFSS that can be taken and if Serra is a runner-up in Division IV-AA those slots might be for Windward and three other teams from Division I-AA. That would keep Serra playing next week in the Division IV regionals.
17. (NR) Ridgeview (Bakersfield) 24-3
The top seed in the CIF Central Section Division II playoffs jumps back into the overall rankings as the top newcomer and will be moved up to No. 2 in this week’s Cal-Hi Sports D2 divisional rankings. The Wolf Pack enter for the first time since a loss to crosstown Stockdale knocked them out in early January. After a first round bye, they opened last week with an 83-36 rout of Lemoore. Stanford-bound McDonald’s All-American Erica McCall led the way with 24 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks. Ridgeview actually has a close head-to-head win over No. 18 Serra at the Narbonne tournament but also has that stinker loss to Stockdale. Ridgeview is eligible, however, to be jumped by the CIF into the open division in the south. This is because the program has been in the regional playoffs for each of the last three seasons.
18. (18) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 22-6
Mitty’s struggles against Sacred Heart Cathedral now look suspect after CCS Open Division No. 8 seed San Jose Lynbrook knocked off the top-seeded Irish. Meanwhile the No. 2 seed Monarchs didn’t have much trouble with Pinewood of Los Altos Hills in a 47-26 victory. Next up is No. 6 seed Santa Clara Wilcox, a winner over No. 3 seed St. Ignatius, while Lynbrook faces upstart Brian Harrigan-coached Mountain View St. Francis, a 45-36 winner over Palo Alto Eastside College Prep. Mitty holds fast in this week’s rankings with its resume now not looking quite as good as it did previously. Winning the first CCS Open Division title, though, could give the team some good momentum heading into the NorCal open division playoffs.
19. (NR) Hanford 23-4
Somehow the Bullpups were only awarded the No. 3 seed in the CIF Central Section playoffs behind Stockdale and Fresno Clovis West, possibly because of the margin of a 73-47 loss to D2 Ridgeview and Ridgeview having that loss to Stockton. However, their other losses are to quality teams, by a combined seven points, plus they’ve won 14 straight since a close loss to New York City Nazareth, and they also avenged one of the losses to Sacramento – and they own a win over NCS Division I top-seeded Heritage. The other loss was by a point to El Dorado Hills Oak Ridge eons ago. After a bye, Hanford opened the section playoffs with a hard-fought 83-74 win over a solid Fresno Bullard team. Now we’ll see how the seedings fare when they face Clovis West in the semis. Remember, regardless of seedings or where they finish at this point, Hanford is still eligible to be chosen by the CIF for the new SoCal Open Division. If the team doesn’t win a section title, though, and the committee can take a different Central Section team (possibly Ridgeview) then Hanford might then be playing next week in the Division I South regional bracket.
20. (NR) Heritage (Brentwood) 23-4
The CIFNCS Division I top seed has a week two one-point stinker loss to NCS D1 No. 3 seed Danville Monte Vista that was later avenged, a loss to No. 5 St. Mary’s and another to No. 12 Carondelet, and the loss to Hanford. Since then, the St. Mary’s College-bound Sabrina Engelstadt-led Patriots have won 15 straight including a solid win over the Oak Ridge team that edged Hanford by one point. At this point, the girls have earned their way into these rankings, and may very well make some real noise in the Northern Regional Division I playoffs. Up next, however, is a semifinal matchup with a Berkeley team they handled 53-42 just before Christmas, and winning again will not be a cakewalk. The Yellowjackets, after all, know a thing or two about winning NCS titles.
Teams That Dropped Out:
Previous No. 16 Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley); No. 17 JSerra (San Juan Capistrano); No. 20 Oaks Christian (Westlake Village).
On the Bubble
Berkeley 18-10, Bishop Amat (La Puente) 22-8, Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 22-8, Bishop’s (La Jolla) 18-11, Bonita (La Verne) 25-5, Bullard (Fresno) 21-6**, Brea Olinda (Brea) 18-7**, Brookside Christian (Stockton) 24-4, Cajon (San Bernardino) 27-1**, Canyon (Canyon Country) 24-5**, Centennial (Corona) 23-5, Clovis West (Fresno) 21-5, Eastside College Prep (East Palo Alto) 21-7, Edison (Fresno) 26-6, Enterprise (Redding) 25-1, Horizon (San Diego) 22-7, JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 23-7,J.W. North (Riverside) 20-5, Kennedy (Sacramento) 21-5, Keppel (Alhambra) 26-4, La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 15-11, La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 28-2, Lynwood 22-5, Lynbrook (San Jose) 21-4, McNair (Stockton) 26-3, Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 24-3*, Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 21-7, Oakland Tech (Oakland) 19-5, Orange Lutheran (Orange) 24-5, Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley) 25-3, Sacramento 25-4, Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 20-6, St. Bernard (Playa del Rey) 25-8, St. Francis (Mountain View) 20-7, San Clemente 19-6**, Stockdale (Bakersfield) 23-4, Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) 25-5, Wilcox (Santa Clara) 23-2.
(*not including forfeits) (**season complete)
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