Pleasant Grove vs. Santa Monica is one of those battles that political pundits declare “too close to call.” We make a call and do the same for the Division V and Division III finals.
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By Ronnie Flores
Contributing: Mark Tennis
All games being played at Sleep Train Arena (formerly known as ARCO Arena and Power Balance Arena) in Sacramento, home (for now) of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. Note that Cal-Hi Sports’ predictions went 8-2 last year but were only 6-4 in 2011. Other recent years were 7-3 in 2010 and 9-1 in 2009.
Boys Division V — 12 p.m.
St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 25-11 vs. Horizon (San Diego) 20-11
State Championship History: After losing to Village Christian of Sun Valley in last year’s Division V game, St. Joseph is now 4-4 all-time in state championship contests. St. Joe’s won the title in 2011 and is 1-2 in its CIF Division V state final appearances over the last three seasons. In 1991 and 1992, the program won Division I state titles when it was led by all-time great Jason Kidd. Horizon is 3-1 all-time in CIF state championship games. All of their previous victories (2006, 2003, 2002) came in Division IV with the loss (1997) in Division V. It has an NBA alum as well in Jared Dudley and counts University of Kansas center Jeff Withey as another alum.
Analysis: The top seeds in each Division V regional bracket face off in what should be a competitive game. Both teams have experience against bigger, talented schools from higher divisions (St. Joseph Notre Dame actually plays in the same league as NorCal power Salesian) and athletes that will play at the next level. Horizon has more senior leadership, but it’s actually St. Joseph with the experience of playing in the CIF state title game. Many of the key players off last year’s team are back and hungry to avenge the loss to Village Christian. St. Joe’s got off to a slow start this season, but is playing its best ball of the season now. Temidayo Yussuf is a matchup problem and Marcus Harris made 4-of-5 on 3-pointers in the regional final. If he shoots like that again, St. Joseph will be in position to win this game.
Predicted Score: St. Joseph Notre Dame 58, Horizon 55
Boys Division III — 4 p.m.
Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 22-11 vs. St. Augustine (San Diego) 28-4
State Championship History: The Fightin’ Irish are 1-2 all-time in CIF state title games. SHC lost in Division IV to Horizon of San Diego in 2006 and won in Division III in 2009 over Ocean View of Huntington Beach (62-56). Just last season, SHC dropped a heart-breaker to Alemany of Mission Hills, 71-67. St. Augustine is 0-1 in CIF state championship games. In 2005, the Saints lost to undefeated Santa Cruz, 67-56, after an impressive SoCal regional title game victory over Artesia of Lakewood.
Analysis: Considering Sacred Heart Cathedral needed overtime to defeat a Campolindo of Moraga team that wasn’t among the Bay Area top 20 and St. Augustine is one of the state’s 15 best teams overall, the SoCal champions are considered a solid favorite in this game. One key common foe of these two teams is SoCal Div. II finalist J.W. North of Riverside. Sacred Heart Cathedral lost to the Huskies 63-57 and St. Augustine beat J.W. North 63-54. St. Augustine also owns a win over NorCal Open Division participant Salesian of Richmond and really doesn’t have a bad loss all season. Eight of Sacred Heart Cathedral’s losses came in the rugged West Catholic Athletic League (which produced three NorCal regional finalists including Open Division champ Mitty). The Fightin’ Irish are scrappy, battle-tested and will likely keep the game close. SHC was also a decided underdog in last year’s Div. III state title game against Alemany of Mission Hills and was in a one-possession game in the last minute, but doesn’t have the overall size it did last year. If St. Aug’s Brynton Lemar and Trey Kell both have big games, St. Aug will be tough to beat, while undersized SHC will need a reserve to step up and one of its star guards to have a big game offensively to stay in the game.
Predicted Score: St. Augustine 72, Sacred Heart Cathedral 59
Boys Division I — 8 p.m.
Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove) 27-6 vs. Santa Monica 29-6
State Championship History: Pleasant Grove defeated a higher-ranked and higher-seeded team (Deer Valley of Antioch) in its regional final to advance to the school’s first CIF state final. This will be SaMoHi’s first CIF state title game in the modern era. In 1928, Santa Monica was the last SoCal regional champion before the CIF did away with state championships in boys’ basketball. Santa Monica lost in that state title game to NorCal regional champ Stockton, 26-12. Stockton was known as the Tarzans.
Analysis: Both these teams are state-ranked and looking for a first ever CIF state title. This game is a matchup of teams with dominant perimeter players, so whichever one has the advantage inside should be in good shape. Watch out for whoever wins the matchup between Chris Smith and Cole Nordquist, both great defenders and bangers. It will be important for those two players to stay out of foul trouble, too, so watch for that. Santa Monica has a quiet confidence in its approach to the game and a solid trio of outside shooters with Cal recruit Jordan Mathews, Trevis Jackson and Troy Maloney, who made 5-of-7 on 3-pointers in the regional final victory over Loyola. Pleasant Grove is battle-tested and is also confident coming into this game after knocking off top seed Deer Valley of Antioch in the NorCal regional final. The Eagles have two dynamic guards who can lead them to victory in Malik Thames and Matthew Hayes. If both play well like they did against Deer Valley, the Eagles have to like their chances in this one.
Predicted Score: Pleasant Grove 63, Santa Monica 60
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