A public school is guaranteed to win the Division I title at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento and it’s likely going to be Long Beach Poly. Other favorites are Sierra Canyon in Division V and Alemany in Division III, which could make the San Fernando Valley happy.
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By Ronnie Flores & Harold Abend
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.
Girls Division V — 10 a.m.
Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) 23-8 vs. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 25-9
State Championship History: Under veteran coach Doc Scheppler, Pinewood is 5-1 in state title games. Twice, in 2005 and 2006 and again in 2010 and 2011, Pinewood won back-to-back Division V state titles. This will be the first appearance for Sierra Canyon’s program to appear in a CIF state title game. The football team won a Division IV state title in 2011.
Analysis: Scheppler has been to six CIF state championship games and has been an underdog before but not quite like this. If his Pinewood girls can play good defense and get real hot from the outside, meaning hotter than the 30 percent they shot as a team this season, the game could be close. Pinewood was an underdog in the NorCal title game after losing three times this season to Eastside Prep by 15, 13 and 24 points. Pinewood won the game that counted most by 12 points. A bad sign and a telling game is a 24-point loss to Mater Dei of Chula Vista at the Nike TOC because that team is of equal talent in the CIF San Diego Section as the Horizon team Sierra Canyon just defeated in the SoCal regional final. An opposite contrast is Sierra Canyon, making its first-ever appearance in a state title game behind first-year coach Alicia Komaki. She has one of the state’s top sophomores in Kennedy Burke, and together with Cheyenne Wallace present a formidable duo that Scheppler must devise a game plan to defend with little height.
Predicted Score: Sierra Canyon 67, Pinewood 52
Girls Division III — 2 p.m.
Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 26-6 vs. Alemany (Mission Hills) 31-5
State Championship History: With its 46-28 victory over St. Ignatius of San Francisco, the Irish advanced to their seventh state title game and first under Russell. The other six were with former head coach Brian Harrigan, who this season has led St. Francis of Mountain View to the Division II state title game. SHC won three consecutive state titles between 2006-2008 and its 33-0 team from 2008 was No. 1 in the nation. Alemany will be making its second appearance in a CIF state title game. In 1998, Alemany lost to Sacred Heart Cathedral 67-54 in Sacramento.
Analysis: The veteran group from Alemany is hoping to even the score for its program, which lost to SHC in the Division III state title game back in 1998. The one-two combination of guard Leslie Lopez-Wood and post Hannah Johnson usually gives teams fits. Sacred Heart Cathedral must find a way to slow down at least one of them in order to have a chance to win. SHC’s best bet is to come up with the same overall game execution it produced in the wins over state-ranked Mitty and get a big game from leading scorer Ge’anna Summers-Luaula. She has been the catalyst this season for the Irish, and was key in the two wins over Mitty and even shined in the one 54-50 loss to the Monarchs. Even if SHC is able to execute its game plan, it will have to find a way to keep Johnson and Adaora Obi off the boards and keep the bigger club from scoring on too many second chance opportunities. With only two players taller than 5-foot-8 and both being sophomores, it may be asking too much. Don’t be surprised, however, if SHC’s experience playing in a tough league helps to keep the game close.
Predicted Score: Alemany 59, Sacred Heart Cathedral 49
Girls Division I — 6 p.m.
Berkeley 22-11 vs. Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 29-5
State Championship History: The Yellowjackets have been perennial NorCal representatives in the CIF state finals. Once they have gotten there is where they’ve run into trouble. Berkeley is 2-9 all-time in state title games, which doesn’t include a 1998 loss to Narbonne of Los Angeles that was later eradicated. Last season, the Yellowjackets lost to Mater Dei of Santa Ana, 57-40, its second consecutive loss to the Monarchs in Division I. Berkeley already had lost to Long Beach Poly three consecutive years: 2006-08. After easily dispatching Canyon Springs of Moreno Valley in the SoCal regional final, Poly is now 5-2 in regional finals. The Jackrabbits have only lost once in five state title appearances. In 2010, coach Carl Buggs’ girls were gunning for a fifth consecutive Division I state title, but in a big upset Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills pulled out a 55-42 shocker.
Analysis: One of the intents of the open division was to create opportunities for more public schools to win CIF state championships. This year, private schools won’t sweep in both boys and girls, but it’s ironic the two most successful large public school programs in each region will meet once again for a girls’ state title. And once again, Long Beach Poly is the prohibitive favorite after beating the Yellowjackets three consecutive times during a recent four-peat. Poly’s dynamite backcourt of Keyla Morgan and Arica Carter combined for 17 points in the SoCal regional title game victory over Canyon Springs and if the duo hits in that range again Poly will be in good shape. Berkeley’s backcourt, which includes talented sophomore point guard Jaimonie Welch-Coleman, will have to play its best game of the season to give its team a chance. Berkeley’ frontcourt, led by recent USF-commit Rachel Howard and the talented but inconsistent Desire Finnie, is the strength of the team and will have to stay out of foul trouble because of Poly’s depth. If Howard has another big game like she did in the NorCal regional final (23 points, 9 rebounds) Berkeley could stay close heading into the final period.
Predicted Score: Long Beach Poly 66, Berkeley 54
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