One week after the boys preseason state rankings were announced, here are the girls. To no one’s surprise, Mater Dei of Santa Ana, with one of the top players in the nation and many other standout returnees, is the team to beat at the start. It’s more difficult after that, however, with St. Mary’s of Stockton getting the second position in a close call involving several other teams. Go inside here for teams No. 1 through No. 15 in our preseason State 35.
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2014-15 CAL-HI SPORTS PRESEASON
GIRLS BASKETBALL STATE RANKINGS
(With partners at Hoops4Girls.com, this is the 33rd consecutive season that CalHiSports.com will provide state rankings; Last year’s final rating in parentheses with 2013-14 won-loss record; *Indicates forfeit losses not included.)
With the regularity of transfers now impacting four of the top five teams, it means after girls get settled in with their new teams, we may very well see some changes near the top. The rankings among the first 10 or 15 teams this season also should change a lot due to the kind of tough preseason schedules most teams have lined up.
1. (3) MATER DEI (SANTA ANA) 36-3
Despite not being a lead pipe cinch as a totally dominating top team to begin the season, with seniors such as 6-foot-3 All-American and Connecticut-committed reigning State Junior and Division I Player of the Year Katie Lou Samuelson and Loyola Marymount-bound Andee Velasco, her Loyola Marymount-bound sister Bianca, and just about everyone else returning except Neah Odom, the Monarchs are still the top team coming into the season until someone knocks them from the perch. Even if head coach Kevin Kiernan uses “Lou” outside/in like she likes to play, he still has 6-3 post Ally Rosenblum inside and she will be joined by 5-10 sophomore Jayda Adams, 6-foot incoming freshman Madison Johnson and 6-2 incoming freshman Emma Torbert, who was very impressive as an incoming eighth-grader in the 2013 Girls of Summer Rankings. Mater Dei opens at the Palisades Tournament on November 24 against Long Beach Jordan and on the opposite side of the bracket is Chaminade and Windward.
2. (9) ST. MARY’S (STOCKTON) 25-5*
The Rams return almost everyone and also have added incoming freshman Aquira DeCosta, the highest rated 2018 in the 2014 Girls of Summer Player Rankings and one of the best freshmen in the nation. The decision between St. Mary’s, Sierra Canyon and Chaminade for No. 2, 3 and 4 was razor thin and could change. Head coach Tom Gonsalves’ team lost in the NorCal Open Division semifinals last year and it was a group of almost all sophomores and freshmen. Leading returnees include junior sharp-shooting guard Kat Tudor plus athletic wings MiCole Cayton and Angel Johnson. Point guards Sierra Smith and Naje Murray are still just sophomores and both project to be D1 college recruits. St. Mary’s will be the top seed in the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
3. (11) SIERRA CANYON (CHATSWORTH) 29-4
The defending Division IV state champions return everyone except Zoe Goss and will be fully loaded to make a run at a potential Open Division title since it’s likely the Trailblazers will get moved up. All State and USA U17 team member 6-foot UCLA-bound senior wing Kennedy Burke headlines the returners along with 6-foot-1 Loyola-Marymount-committed senior forward Cheyanne Wallace. Incoming sophomore point guard Alexis Grigsby also made an impression this summer in Las Vegas and head coach Alicia Komaki still has more in her arsenal.
4. (13) CHAMINADE (WEST HILLS) 29-4
The defending Division II state champions lose leading scorer and rebounder Devin Stanback plus starter Kaylie Fandino but return Valerie Higgins and solid senior point guard Paige Fecske and has now added Neah Odom, a transfer from Mater Dei. Higgins was an all-state sophomore who averaged 13 points per game. Odom, an all-state freshman two years ago but mostly sidelined by injury last season, led Team Taurasi to national prominence this summer and was tied at No. 3 in the Girls of Summer Player Rankings. The Eagles open with Etiwanda and will also be on the same side of the bracket as Windward at the Palisades Tournament before moving on to the West Coast Jamboree where head coach Kelli Dimuro and her girls will be the No. 2 seed.
5. (1) LONG BEACH POLY (LONG BCH) 27-3
The Jackrabbits lose all of their top D1 graduating seniors and State Freshman of the Year runner-up Ayanna Clark (transferred to Long Beach St. Anthony where she may or may not play this season) is gone as well, but the defending CIF Open Division champions still have a roster of almost 20 girls with a lot of talent at the guard positions. For the first time in a few years, head coach Carl Buggs didn’t bring the girls to the San Diego Classic but several of the girls were still observed over the summer. Senior guard Tania Lamb and junior Danae Miller looked good as did junior guard Cierra Belvin. Inside it will be 6-foot-2 junior post Eliza Matthews and her play improving since the summer may be a key to whether the Jackrabbits will be a serious contender this year.
6. (23) ST. IGNATIUS (SAN FRANCISCO) 26-5
The consensus top team in the West Catholic Athletic League and the CIF Central Coast Section among the experts returns seven players that have signed to play at the next level led by the front line senior duo of 6-foot-3 Columbia-committed Josie Little and St. Mary’s-bound Sydney Raggio. CSU-Bakersfield-bound guard Addi Walters will be the backcourt general together with Hawaii-Pacific-commit Janessa Manzano, who looked pretty decent this summer. The Wildcats also have scheduled tough this season and play in the La Jolla Country Day Sweet 16 with an opener against La Mesa Helix, and then they play Bishop O’Dowd before moving on with O’Dowd to the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
7. (10) BISHOP O’DOWD (OAKLAND) 23-4
Whether or not the West Coast’s top-rated point and Cal-bound Asha Thomas (knee injury) will play this season is a big question mark. If she was playing, the Dragons would have been in that 2-3-4-5 mix. Even without her, they return another solid point guard in Kansas-bound Asia Robertson who is vastly improved and much stronger and quicker. Another solid returner that may end up as the one of O’Dowd’s best ever is sophomore 6-foot wing Myah Pace. She’s already rated as the No. 5 wing from the 2017 class and was a star for Team Taurasi this past summer. Head coach and 2012 State Coach of the Year Malik McCord has size inside but it’s all underclass, including Amara Chidom, the younger sister of Oderah Chidom now at Duke. As for Thomas playing this season, McCord texted Cal-Hi Sports: “If she stays at the pace she is at, yes she could be ready for the playoffs but we’re thinking about her career at the next level so we won’t put her on the floor unless we have a doctor’s confirmation.”
8. (2) WINDWARD (LOS ANGELES) 25-3
With Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year Jordin Canada and fellow First Team All-State Kris Simon graduated, some folks have written off the Wildcats. They may be young and needing some time together to gel but they have one of the state’s best young coaches, Vanessa Nygaard, at the helm and girls like sophomore point guards Chelsea Gipson and junior Danielle Samuel have been getting groomed by and learning from Canada and itching for the spotlight. Windward also has a legitimate three-point threat with Columbia-bound Emily Surloff, and the biggest addition will be big and rugged 6-foot-1 freshman post Myrrah Joseph. She was the second-highest rated player behind Aquira DeCosta of St. Mary’s from the Class of 2018 and even impressed boys basketball analyst Ronnie Flores.
9. (14) CANYON SPRINGS (MORENO VALLEY) 25-6
Leading scorer Cheyenne Greenhouse is gone but the defending Division I state champions return the remaining leading scorers and the two top leading rebounders from last season — senior 6-foot-3 post Charnea Johnson-Chapman (10.4 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 2.7 blocks), senior Chariaha Scott (9.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and junior point guard Kimari Hollis (10.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.6 assists). Another point guard, Jordynn Penniman (12.6 ppg), will return after getting injured in mid-season. Even without Greenhouse, head coach Gail Hale still has the top team in the Inland Empire entering the season. The Cougars open December 3 with Modesto Christian in the La Jolla Country Day Sweet 16.
10. (7) MIRAMONTE (ORINDA) 30-2
Five seniors graduated with only one senior on this year’s roster, but reigning State Sophomore and Division III Player of the Year, and USA U17 team member Sabrina Ionescu is the real deal and the Matadors have some good talent coming up on what will be a young team that may very well be a year away from making real noise again. The Mats will have a freshman starting at point guard and will be relying a lot on Ionescu for scoring. Other key returners are Keana Delos Santos and 5-foot-11 senior forward Uriah Howard. The early season schedule also is light so we won’t see the Mats tested right off the bat.
11. (26) SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL (SAN FRANCISCO) 21-8
The Irish will be very competitive this year even with losing GeAnna Summers-Luaulu to graduation, with the reality being they lost her to injury two-thirds through a season that saw them beat Mitty and Pinewood and split with St. Ignatius, losing the West Catholic Athletic League title to their cross-town rivals after she was lost for the season. Incoming 6-foot-1 senior A’Shanti Coleman (10.9 ppg) leads the returners, including senior guard Gabrielle Vigil. Incoming 5-11 sophomore power forward Iimar’i Thomas (8.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg) also should have a breakout season. Sacred Heart Cathedral also will be playing in the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
12. (NR) VISTA MURRIETA (MURRIETA) 23-7
The Broncos lost to Brea-Olinda to end their season but incoming junior Jaelyn Brown was very impressive this summer as the No. 2 ranked girl in the state behind Mater Dei’s Katie Lou Samuelson. With fellow junior Brittney Reed also returning, this team should not lose games it should have won, which happened a few times last season. Vista Murrieta may end up as the top team in the Inland Empire but to start they have to come in behind state champion Canyon Springs.
13. (24) PINEWOOD (LOS ALTOS HILLS) 30-3
The defending Division V state champions looked great playing together at the San Diego Classic and State Coach of the Year Doc Scheppler has everyone back. The Panthers lost to Oregon’s No. 2 ranked Oregon City 60-49 in the semifinals and then came back to win the third-place game 43-33 over a very solid and up-and-coming Corona Centennial. Reigning Division V Player of the Year Marissa Hing had the San Diego Classic host UC San Diego coaches glowing with the way their senior commit played. University of Buffalo-committed senior Gabe Bade was exceptional as was junior Chloe Eackles. Transfer Nia Craig also is eligible after coming over from Mitty and look for incoming 5-10 freshman Stella Kailahi to be part of the doctor’s attack. With Pinewood almost assuredly in the Open Division this year, a high start in pre-season should not be a shock.
14. (NR) LA JOLLA COUNTRY DAY (LA JOLLA) 20-12
The Torreys start off as the top team in the CIF San Diego Section and after the way the girls played this summer as Wiggins Waves and also as a team at the San Diego Classic is the reason why. Washington-committed junior Mai-Loni Henson is bigger, stronger and much improved and incoming 6-2 sophomore Alaysia Styles is still a work in progress but at times showed why some analysts like her potential for the next level. After losing a close game to Oregon City in the San Diego Classic, coach Terri Bamford’s girls went on to trounce Long Beach Millikan and then edged Troy in the fifth-place game.
15. (18) TROY (FULLERTON) 24-8
Veteran head coach Roger Anderson, who was nearly killed after being sideswiped on his motorcycle last spring, loses a couple of seniors but the two major contributors return, including Cal-Hi Sports all-state sophomore Barbara Sitanggan, and leading rebounder and second-leading scorer 6-1 Rebecca Lazuka (12.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.2 blocks). Both players looked good at the San Diego Classic. The big addition is 6-1 sophomore Naomi Hunt, now eligible after transferring last season. She will help make Troy very formidable this season.
For Part 2 of the Cal-Hi Sports Preseason State 35 Rankings, CLICK HERE.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend