We breakdown the 16 teams in boys basketball that should be selected (and yes, we think 16 should be chosen) for the massive CIF Southern Section’s new open division. It’s a loaded field that includes 14 teams ranked in this week’s Cal-Hi Sports State Top 20. Fourteen of the 16 slots seem like no-brainers and it’s no doubt the toughest 16-team section bracket in state history.
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Below is our predictions for how the CIFSS Open Division should look:
(Listed with final regular season record, section division and overall state ranking)
No. 1 Santa Ana Mater Dei (27-0, I-AA, No. 1) vs. No. 16 Montebello Cantwell Sacred Heart (20-6, IV-A, BB)
No. 8 Riverside J.W. North (24-0, I-A, No. 11) vs. No. 9 Torrance Bishop Montgomery (22-4, IV-AA, No. 13)
No. 5 Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (25-2, IV-A, No. 6) vs. No. 12 L.A. Cathedral (22-3,III-A, No. 20)
No. 4 L.A. Loyola (24-2, I-AA, No. 2) vs. No. 13 Gardena Serra (20-7, IV-AA, No. 17)
No. 3 Corona Centennial (24-2, I-AA, No. 3) vs. No. 14 West Hills Chaminade (21-4, III-A, No. 16)
No. 6 Redondo Beach Redondo Union (22-4, II-AA, No. 7) vs. No. 11 Compton (22-5, II-A, No. 15)
No. 7 Chino Hills (23-4, I-AA, No. 8) vs. No. 10 Long Beach Poly (20-7, I-AA, No. 14)
No. 2 Etiwanda (25-3, I-AA, No. 5) vs. No. 15 Bellflower St. John Bosco (17-9, II-A, BB)
Cal-Hi Sports Breakdown
No. 1 Mater Dei: Easy, the Monarchs are the three-time defending state champion in the highest classification and are unbeaten. They are looking to be the first CIF Southern Section club to win the section’s and state’s highest classification with an unbeaten record. It would be quite an accomplishment.
2. Etiwanda: The Eagles own a head-to-head win over No. 3 Centennial and are unbeaten at full strength. Remember, they only dropped behind Corona Centennial in our state rankings after losing three games without Jordan McLaughlin. As we previously stated, if Etiwanda gets the higher seed in the bracket (and it should) it will jump back in front of Corona Centennial in next week’s rankings.
3. Corona Centennial: This is the first spot where an argument can be made. Centennial lost to Loyola in the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic title game, but that’s the last time it has tasted defeat. Loyola could have earned the No. 2 seed had it finished Mission League play with only one loss, but it lost this week to unranked Alemany so Centennial avoids Mater Dei’s side of the bracket.
4. Loyola: Had the Cubs finished their regular season with only the loss to Chaminade, they would have earned the No. 2 seed, Parker Jackson-Cartwright notwithstanding. We had a couple of our chief scouts at the Alemany-Loyola game and both state it’s going to be tough to duplicate what they did when Jackson-Cartwright was in the lineup. The Cubs are still a really good team, but lose a dimension without PJC. Loyola gets credit for its overall body of work, but a deep playoff run won’t be easy.
5. Sierra Canyon: The Trailblazers have been in the Student Sports FAB 50 for about a month and for a team lacking varsity experience, their regular season was quite impressive. Notice we said inexperience, not young in age. Sophomore Devearl Ramsey is a catalyst and there are plenty of good wins to offset the stinker loss to L.A. Price. Wins over Chino Hills and FAB 50 ranked Bishop O’Dowd of Loyola quickly come to mind. A full-deck Loyola beat them head-to-head.
6. Redondo Union: The Sea Hawks only have the one bad loss to No. 1 Mater Dei (84-38) and are much better than that score indicates. They lost to the Bishop Gorman team that Bishop O’Dowd handily beat so it makes sense to put them behind Sierra Canyon, which has two less losses and beat O’Dowd.
7. Chino Hills: The Huskies are a young team like Sierra Canyon, but Bishop Mency provides senior leadership and toughness. Chino Hills also lost to Sierra Canyon and lost to Etiwanda and Corona Centennial by only two points each. In fact, this team doesn’t have a bad loss with the fourth to Cantwell Sacred Heart and an impressive run in league. Like Corona Centennial, the Huskies haven’t lost since December.
8. J.W. North: The Huskies are unbeaten on the court and that accounts for something. It makes perfect sense to put them in this spot because they own a head-to-head win over Bishop Montgomery. And it doesn’t matter either way because they should face the Knights in a CIFSS Open Division rematch. It could be argued Long Beach Poly has played a much tougher slate of teams, but it lost to the Bishop Montgomery team J.W. North beat.
9. Bishop Montgomery: This team started off 17-1, but then it took a bit of a dip in January when it played a bunch of games in a two-week span. Its outside shots weren’t falling as frequently, but the Knights recovered to defeat Serra in the second round of league play. That saved their seed as co-league champions. We talked to the coaching staffs on both clubs and a member of the selection committee and, to our knowledge, there was no coin flip to decide the Del Rey League’s No. 1 seed on Thursday. The committee member mentioned he would recommend the team that had the better overall resume and that would be Bishop Montgomery.
10. Long Beach Poly: The Jackrabbits started the season a bit slow, but still won another outright Moore League title. They split against Compton, but Compton lost a league game to Long Beach Millikan, which Poly swept. Had both teams finished league with one loss, Compton’s resume would have been a bit stronger because Poly had more two more regular season losses. Poly lost to Bishop Montgomery so it slides into this spot perfectly.
11. Compton: The league loss to Millikan ended up costing Compton a split of the Moore League title and a three or four spots in this bracket. Redondo Union or whomever the Tarbabes play will have their hands full. Had it made a few more free throws, Compton would have defeated a full-strength Loyola and walloped Bishop Montgomery. The Tarbabes did not win their league hence they must be behind Long Beach Poly. It would make some sense to flip Bishop Montgomery and Poly to avoid having two teams from the side league on the same side of the bracket, but in this scenario they wouldn’t meet until the semifinals anyway. If they make it that far, they deserve to meet again!
12. Cathedral: The Phantoms broke into the state top 20 this week and grab this seed by virtue of two resounding victories over Cantwell Sacred Heart. Coach William Middlebrooks’ schedule was back-heavy, but in the second half of the season Cathedral showed it can compete at the CIFSS Open Division level.
13. Gardena Serra: The Cavs lost head-to-head to Chaminade, but it wouldn’t make sense to have Chaminade face league foe Loyola in the first round, so Serra moves up one spot. The Cavs started a bit slow, but when their guards gained some experience they showed what they could do with back-to-back wins over Cantwell Sacred Heart and Bishop Montgomery.
14. Chaminade: The Eagles beat a full-strength Loyola team one out of three times and like Compton, are worthy of an Open Division berth even though they didn’t win their respective league. Chaminade also beat Serra handily, so we can actually see them getting the No. 12 seed, but didn’t want a mock where it could potentially meet Loyola for the fourth time in the second round.
15. St. John Bosco: Let’s face it, if Redondo Union is in (which it is), there is not a good chance the Braves will be left out to beat up on the teams remaining in the CIFSS Div. II-AA bracket. Bosco started the season ranked in the top 15 nationally. It didn’t live up to expectations, but is still a dangerous club with Daniel Hamilton and Tyler Dorsey able to carry the team for stretches at a time. The Braves have nine losses, but it doesn’t make sense to put them in a Trinity League rematch with Mater Dei to open the bracket so they fall here.
16. Cantwell Sacred Heart: The Cardinals did not close the season strong, but they own a head-to-head win over Mayfair and that should be the difference between them and the Monsoons. Cantwell also doesn’t have any bad, glaring losses and only lost to CIFSS Open Division teams. It played a tough schedule and a victory over Chino Hills stands out.
Lakewood Mayfair (I-AA): Lost to Cantwell Sacred Heart head-to-head and adds another strong public school squad to the CIFSS I-AA bracket that is loaded with publics who enjoyed strong regular seasons.
Rancho Cucamonga ( I-AA): Probably needed to split with Etiwanda in league to merit more serious consideration.
El Toro (I-A): Strong resume with only losses to an out-of-state club and Compton, but no noteworthy wins over potential CIFSS Open Division foes.