Preseason Girls BB Top 35 (Part 2)

Guard Jazmine Johnson from Lynwood looks for teammates cutting to basket during last year's CIF Division II state championship won by her team. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Guard Jazmine Johnson from Lynwood looks for teammates cutting to basket during last year’s CIF Division II state championship won by her team. Photo: Willie Eashman.

There might be some surprising teams among this group, including No. 22 Vanden of Travis AFB and No. 28 Mt. Miguel of Spring Valley. Check here for writeups of teams from No. 16 to No. 35 plus more teams listed on the bubble.

Note: During the season, all of our writeups and analysis and predictions of what’s coming next will be posts for our Gold Club members only. To become a member of our Gold Club so you can check out all of our boys basketball content, CLICK HERE. An updated all-time state record book will soon be part of that content.

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For Part 1 of these rankings, CLICK HERE.

(This is the 33rd consecutive season that CalHiSports.com will provide state rankings for California girls basketball; Last year’s final rating in parentheses with 2012-13 win-loss record)

16. (13) Lynwood 29-5
Last season’s CIF State Division II state champions will lose three of their top five scorers from last season but they do return senior Priscilla Lopez who led the team with 11.6 points and it was a deep, talented lineup. Head coach Ellis Barfield also has shown over the years how to get teams primed to play at a peak level in the playoffs. Senior Jazmine Johnson also returns after averaging 9.2 points and a team-best 2.7 steals per game.

17. (14) Serra (Gardena) 27-6
The defending Division IV state champions only have two starters back, but both are Pac-12 recruits and there are several transfers coming that could make the Cavaliers just as strong or even better than last season. Caila Hailey, a 5-foot-9 senior bound for Washington State, is back to play in a small forward/shooting guard role. USC-bound Chyanne Butler (5-7 Sr. G) also returns and is considered a top-level preseason all-state candidate. Cydney Bolton, Desa Stallworth (who played previously at Salesian of Richmond, the team Serra defeated in last season’s D4 state final) and Amanda Alexander are the major impact transfers. Returning letterwinner Brooke Bayman and newcomer Jenny Albano are other players to watch.

Imani Littleton from Bishop's of La Jolla will play in college on the East Coast at St. John's. Photo: Harold Abend.

Imani Littleton from Bishop’s of La Jolla will play in college on the East Coast at St. John’s. Photo: Harold Abend.

18. (38) Bishop’s (La Jolla) 20-13
With Imani Littleton back for the Knights and Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year Kelsey Plum gone at arch-rival La Jolla Country Day, coach Marlon Wells’ team should be a lot closer – and maybe better – than LJCD this season. Littleton is a 6-foot-3 senior center signed by St. John’s who averaged 21.8 points and 10.7 rebounds last season. Sierra Ducey, a 6-foot-1 senior forward, also returns along with three others who had major minutes. Bishop’s also will be adding one of the top Class of 2017 prospects in the nation, 5-foot-9 guard Destiny Littleton, along with 5-foot-7 sophomore transfer point guard Layla Cunningham, who was an all-league level player as a freshman last season at Helix of La Mesa.

19. (NA) St. Ignatius (San Francisco) 21-11
The Wildcats are the No. 2 team from the West Catholic Athletic League behind Mitty in the preseason rankings, and rightfully so, since all but 6.5 points per game of their scoring from last year is back. Leading scorer and Lehigh-committed senior guard Quinci Mann leads a solid group of mostly underclass talent. Two juniors who impressed the Girls of Summer Caravan were Sydney Raggio and Josie Little. The 6-foot-1 Raggio was the second-leading scorer and leading rebounder last year. The 6-foot-2 Little, who was impressive as a freshman and looked great over the summer, missed last season. With her back, SI could gave Mitty and the rest of the league major problems.

20. (15) La Jolla Country Day 18-12
Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year Kelsey Plum has taken her game to Washington, and the Torreys also lost their second-leading scorer, but 2012 State Coach of the Year Terri Bamford still has a pretty deep arsenal at her disposal. Playing together over the summer as the (Candice) Wiggins Waves, the group looked good and held its own against other all-star club teams. The top returners are 6-foot sophomore wing Mai-loni Henson and 6-foot F/C Sabrina Callahan. Henson played well this past summer, and according to Bamford, Callahan has put on some muscle and is playing more aggressively. Newcomers to watch for are sophomore guard Mariana Ecija and junior point guard Melanie Quijano. One thing of note is Country Day will be in Division V this season.

21. (21) JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 25-8
The Lions figure to be the No. 2 team in the Trinity League behind Mater Dei and could be a team to watch in Division IV statewide, assuming they don’t get into the Open Division at the regional level. Three-year starters Coco Miller (5-11 Jr.) and Megan House (6-4 Jr.) headline a group of three returning starters and 10 returning letterwinners.

22. (NA) Vanden (Fairfield) 28-5
It should be a great season for the Vikings as they return their top three scorers, and six of their top seven, from last year’s team that went undefeated in the Solano County League and reached the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship game. Back for her senior year is Solano County Athletic Conference MVP Mariah Williams with averages of 11.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Junior Kayla Blair averaged 10 points and 4.2 rebounds. Senior captain Aleseana Whitney should also be a key contributor.

23. (10) Bishop Alemany (Mission Hills) 32-5
Coach Bryan Camacho’s Warriors won the CIF Division III state championship last season for the first time in program history though repeating without Leslie Lopez-Wood will be tough. They do return Washington-bound senior Hannah Johnson, who had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds in their 46-40 win over Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco in the state final.

24. (19) Canyon Springs (Moreno Valley) 23-10
Coach Gail Hale went over 350 career wins last season and will have another strong squad. She counts three returning starters with seven returning players in all who saw significant minutes. Senior Cheyenne Greathouse, a 5-foot-10 senior who is headed to San Diego State, leads the way. She can score as a wing player and can play the point. Also back are junior Charnea Johnson-Chapman (6-3 C) and sophomore Kimari Hollis (5-5 G). As usual, we’ll find out about the Cougars quickly as they will once again be in the field at the early December La Jolla Country Day Sweet Sixteen tourney.

25. (27) Berkeley 22-12
The Yellowjackets were written off last year, yet they surprised everyone by making it all the way to the CIF Division I title game were they lost to Long Beach Poly. Rachel Howard and three other seniors are gone, but a solid core returns headed by senior forward Desire Finnie, who has several D1 offers and started to play very well at the end of the summer, and lightning quick guard Jaimonie Welch-Coleman, a junior who also had a solid summer. Head coach Cheryl Draper still has the top D1 team in Northern California until proven otherwise.

Lauren Sakai from Keppel of Alhambra could be one of the top point guards in Southern California.

Lauren Sakai from Keppel of Alhambra could be one of the top point guards in Southern California.

26. (34) Mark Keppel (Alhambra) 27-6
The Aztecs lose a lot of seniors from a team that had little height, but still had wins over CIF Division III state champion Bishop Alemany, Vista Murrieta and Etiwanda during two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s. They also return their best player in junior point guard Lauren Sakai, who was also the starting point guard for Team Taurasi this past summer. Not only does Sakai return, but 5-foot-10 sophomore Sophia Song has transferred and will be eligible in January, and brings with her the height head coach Joe Kikuchi has needed, and a team-high 12.7 ppg in her freshman year at a 22-9 Bishop Montgomery of Torrance team that qualified for the D4 Southern Regional playoffs.

27. (NA) McNair (Stockton) 26-5
As we mentioned two weeks ago, one of the big transfers this off season was Tiara Tucker staying in Stockton but no longer going to Brookside Christian. Tucker, a USF signer, will play for the crosstown Eagles this season. One of the state’s leading scorers last season at over 28 points a game, she will be teamed up with Oklahoma State-bound Mandy Coleman once eligible in January. Coleman is a 6-foot-2 post who should greatly benefit from Tucker’s arrival.

28. (NA) Mount Miguel (Spring Valley) 17-10
All five starters are back for head coach Robbie Sandoval, who starts the season with a 324-82 all-time mark. The Mt. Miguel backcourt should be especially good with point guard Zaria Branch (5-8 Jr.) and shooting guard Deijah Blanks (5-10 Sr.), the Grossmont League Player of the Year. Two freshmen to watch, according to Sandoval, are guard SaTera Bates and guard Taylor Young.

29. (33) Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 25-7
The No. 3 team from the West Catholic Athletic League had three wins last season against arch-rival St. Ignatius (ranked above), and only lost 46-40 to Bishop Alemany in the Division III state title game. The Irish, however, don’t return as much firepower as their cross-town arch rivals. They do have 5-foot-9 senior guard GeAnna Summers-Luaulu back. The University of Pacific recruit looked very good at some summer events.

30. (25) St. Bernard (Playa del Ray) 26-7
This team lost four quality players to transfer or it would probably be close to a top five team. What the Vikings do have is a top-notch post in 6-foot-2 senior Chenelle Pelle and an experienced point guard in Demoria White, who led the team in scoring last season. They also have other girls returning who were contributors, and they have a new coach, 1998 Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year Michelle Greco.

31. (24) Millikan (Long Beach) 27-5
The Rams will be looking for an even better season this year than last year, which saw them reach the CIFSS Division IAA quarterfinals and pick up a win in the CIF Division I state playoffs. While losing two of the top three scorers, Millikan returns senior Alyssa Benton, who averaged a second-best 10 points per game while returning three other players who averaged at least six points a game.

32. (31) Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 28-5
Led by Sacramento State-bound guard Ali Bettencourt and senior center Michelle Barkley, the Trojans will look for a deeper playoff run this season. They went undefeated in the Delta River League last season before losing in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinals. They were also just one win away from playing for a state championship as they lost to Berkeley in the CIF Division I NorCal finals.

33. (26) Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 21-7
Losing standout guard Beth Mounier to graduation will hurt, but the Lions do have some talent to make up for that loss, including senior Kailee Severt, who is a 6-foot center. Last season, Oaks Christian went undefeated in the Tri-Valley League before reaching the CIFSS Division 4AA quarterfinals.

34. (NA) Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth 26-9*
The defending Division V state champions got blown away in a scrimmage against Mater Dei last week but their top player, 6-foot-1 junior Kennedy Burke, who’s listed at guard but plays multi-positions, still looked good even being double and triple-teamed. Cheyanne Wallace struggled, but the 6-foot post won’t be seeing anything like Mater Dei in Division V competition. Although the Trail Blazers won’t start out as the top team in D5 now that La Jolla Country Day has dropped down due to enrollment, they are still a legit top-level team in the state regardless of enrollment.

35. (NA) Camarillo 20-10
Several teams were vying for the final spot of these rankings, including Division II state runner-up St. Francis of Mountain View, but in the end the number of returners from a team that lost to Keppel in the CIF Southern Section playoffs gets the nod. Another big reason is that two of the top returners have signed with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, senior 5-foot-9 twin sisters Geraldynn and Geralynn Leaupepe. They accounted for 17.5 and 16.7 points per game, respectively.

TEAMS ON THE PRESEASON BUBBLE

Bishop Amat (La Puente) 26-10
Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 22-9
Canyon (Canyon Country) 24-5
Centennial (Corona) 23-6
Chaminade (West Hills) 31-4
Christian Brothers (Sacramento) 25-8
Eastside College Prep (East Palo Alto) 22-9
Enterprise (Redding) 29-2

Garces (Bakersfield) 27-4
Hanford 23-5
La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 32-3
Mater Dei (Chula Vista) 20-7
Monte Vista (Danville) 24-6
Newbury Park 23-5
Orange Lutheran (Orange) 24-7
Palisades (Pacific Palisades) 15-20
St. Francis (Mountain View) 24-9
St. Francis (Sacramento) 15-13
San Clemente 19-7
Troy (Fullerton) 25-5
Valencia 21-8
Wilcox (Santa Clara) 23-5

(*not including forfeits)

Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at marketingharoldabend@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend


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