Saturday CIF Girls Basketball Picks & Previews

Veteran head coach Ellis Barfield of Lynwood is flanked by seniors Amber Blockmon and Alize Lofton after the Knights won the 2013 CIF Southern California Division II title last Saturday. Photo: Ronnie Flores.

Veteran head coach Ellis Barfield of Lynwood is flanked by seniors Amber Blockmon and Alize Lofton after the Knights won the 2013 CIF Southern California Division II title last Saturday. Photo: Ronnie Flores.

Windward vs. Bishop O’Dowd in the open division matches Windward’s pizazz vs. O’Dowd’s big, deep front line. Salesian vs. Serra looks like another tossup in D4, but Lynwood a strong favorite in D2.

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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 IV — 10 a.m.
Salesian (Richmond) 29-7 vs. Serra (Gardena) 28-6

State Championship History: Last year with only two seniors on its roster, Salesian advanced to the Division IV state title game where it lost to La Jolla Country Day. The Pride is back and it is a surprise to no one, especially after St. Mary’s of Berkeley in NorCal and Windward and La Jolla Country Day in SoCal were moved up to the Open Division. Serra has been right on the cusp of a state final, but came up just short in 2011 and 2012, losing in the SoCal regional final. The Lady Cavs finally broke through with a 63-54 victory over St. Bernard of Playa del Rey, which was previously 7-0 in SoCal regional finals. As a school, Serra won two CIF state titles just two years ago in football and boys basketball and that year just missed on a third in boys track.
Analysis: Salesian star Mariya Moore, who can play any position on the court and is a potential state player of the year candidate, doesn’t have the supporting cast around her that Serra’s star player, Siera Thompson, has. Salesian, however, has been ranked higher overall in the Cal-Hi Sports rankings all season, mostly due to when its losses have occurred. Moore may go to some big-time college next year, but Serra has three Division I seniors, Michigan-bound Thompson, Oregon-committed Deandrea Toler and Seattle-bound Tatiana Howard, plus other girls on its roster that can play. Moore is going to get her looks, although she was held in check by Piedmont in the NorCal title game, and Piedmont is nothing like Serra. In the end, the depth of Serra is probably going to send Salesian home as a runner-up for the second consecutive year.
Predicted Score: Serra 66, Salesian 59

Girls Division II — 2 p.m.
St. Francis (Mountain View) 24-8 vs. Lynwood 28-5

State Championship History: St. Francis will be making its first trip to a CIF state final in girls basketball, but has been this far before on the boys side and certainly in girls volleyball. For its coach, however, the experience will be nothing new. The Lancers’ easy win over Lynbrook of San Jose gave head coach Brian Harrigan his sixth regional title with the first five coming at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Lynwood will be favorites to capture a fourth CIF state title and its first since 2003. Lynwood, all under coach Ellis Barfield, is 3-1 in state championship games, with its only loss coming in 1994 to Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton.
Analysis: The Lancers are a battle-tested and gritty team that likes to keep the score low. In fact, only one opponent has scored more than 40 points in any of St. Francis’ last 12 games. Lynwood, however, is going to be the most athletic and potent team it has faced in that time frame by far. St. Francis held Lynbrook of San Jose to 19 points in its NorCal regional final victory, but it’ll be lucky if Lynwood’s top scorer doesn’t have close to that total. Guard Priscilla Lopez is a catalyst for Lynwood and center Amber Blockmon is a physical presence who doesn’t let post players get comfortable offensively. Lynwood shot 41 percent from the field in its 60-42 SoCal Regional final victory over Ridgeview of Bakersfield and if it shoots anywhere near that percentage against St. Francis, “The Wood” will be tough to beat. Lynwood’s athleticism and depth doesn’t take a day off, even if its shooting does.
Predicted Score: Lynwood 58, St. Francis 43

Girls Open Division — 6 p.m.
Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 29-3 vs. Windward (Los Angeles) 32-0

State Championship History: The Dragons are making their third CIF state title game appearance — all in the past four seasons. The first one came in 2011 when they lost to St. Joseph of Santa Maria. Last season, they dominated Laguna Hills to capture their first CIF state title and much of O’Dowd’s roster is back looking for the repeat. Windward will be making its third appearance in a CIF state title game. In 2011, the Wildcats celebrated a victory along with the boys’ team in Division IV. In 2006, Windward lost an overtime heart-breaker to Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco.
Analysis: The marquee girls’ game does pit the No. 1 ranked vs. No. 3 ranked team in the state, but also represents a matchup of teams that already played. Top-ranked Windward (Mater Dei of Santa Ana is currently sitting at No. 2) defeated No. 3 O’Dowd in the championship game of the Oaks Christian tournament, 58-43, as super junior guard Jordin Canada dominated with 25 points. Canada was also dominant distributing the ball in the SoCal regional title victory over Mater Dei with 14 assists (plus 17 points). Obviously, for O’Dowd to win, it must slow Canada down. A lot of the responsibility will fall to Asha Thomas and 5-foot-4 senior Ariell Bostick, who led the way with 17 points in the first meeting. O’Dowd must get bigger offensive performances from twin towers Oderah Chidom and K.C. Waters, both who are capable of big outings against a smaller Windward team. If that duo can get Kristen Simon in foul trouble, the Dragons could have the edge because Windward doesn’t have much depth. On the larger court, however, Windward’s guards might be even more deadly.
Predicted Score: Windward 64, Bishop O’Dowd 60

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