We are continuing to launch our winter basketball content on CalHiSports.com and we are doing it this week with a preseason State 35 ranking of the top girls teams from north to south. This group is led by McClatchy of Sacramento and Centennial of Corona at No. 16 and No. 17 and includes the rest of teams down to No. 35 Centennial of Bakersfield plus a list of 25 more who just missed.
Note: During the season, all of our writeups, analysis and predictions of what’s coming next will be content for our Gold Club VIPs only. To become a member of our Gold Club so you can check out all of our girls basketball content, including the Girls of Summer series, CLICK HERE.
16. (NR) MCCLATCHY (SACRAMENTO) 26-5
Everyone returns from a team that lost by six points to Berkeley in the CIF Division I NorCal regional playoffs. The biggest returning contributors will be 6-foot-2 senior post and Nevada Las Vegas-committed Destiny Lee (11.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg), 6-1 forward Gigi Garcia (11.0ppg, 7.2 rpg) and sophomore guard Jordan Cruz. Until the transfer situation works itself out in Sacramento, the Lions start out as the top team from the Sacramento Metro area and No. 2 in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section behind St. Mary’s.
17. (NR) CENTENNIAL (CORONA) 22-10
This is the new sleeper from the Inland Empire. With the success of the Huskies’ program in other sports, being Centennial Corona doesn’t exactly qualify as a sleeper, but in girls basketball the team has consistently produced 20-win seasons in the seven years head coach Martin Woods has had the helm. Still, the girls have never advanced past the first round of the CIF Southern California regional playoffs. At the San Diego Classic, the senior duo of unrelated 6-1 Arianna Knox and 5-11 Brijanae Knox looked very good, particularly in a 37-32 victory over a Bingham (Utah) team fresh off an upset of Bishop’s.
18. (30) BISHOP MONTGOMERY (TORRANCE) 24-9
An up and down team last year had a win over Canyon Springs in the regular season, split with Serra of Gardena in league and avenged an earlier loss to JSerra by beating the Lions in the CIFSS playoffs. The Knights return three of their top four scorers with leading scorer and senior Chelsea Lidy leading the group. Senior Christine Delapina was the team’s floor leader as a junior and also is back.
19. (NR) VANDEN (FAIRFIELD) 25-7
The No. 3 team from the CIFSJS has a 78-19 record the last three years despite being devastated by injuries. Coming into this season, the Vikings are now healthy with four solid players returning — West Coast Jamboree Jim Capoot Award winner and sophomore Julia Blackshell-Fair, Kayla Blair, Kiana Moore and point guard Toni Kaylor, who missed last year with injury. The Vikings lost to Modesto Christian to end last season but they have a lot more this year and head coach Allison Johnson (a former assistant to Capoot at Vallejo) is one of the CIFSJS top coaches, according to more than one analyst’s opinion.
20. (31) MILLIKAN (LONG BEACH) 26-4
Despite losing her two leading scorers, head coach and 2008 State Coach of the Year Lorene Morgan has a ton of talent and gave Pinewood all it could handle at the San Diego Classic before falling in a game that was close all the way. Second and third leading scorers and juniors Esther Franks (8.2ppg) and Mia Belvin (7.9 ppg) will be a solid backcourt and junior 6-foot-1 Aja Wilcox looks like she will develop. Morgan has even more back on a 15-plus girl roster.
21. (NR) CARDINAL NEWMAN (SANTA ROSA) 24-8
The top team from the Redwood Empire portion of the CIF North Coast Section and the surprising No. 3 team from the NCS overall beat Bishop’s of La Jolla in Pool 2 at the San Diego Classic for starting Pool runners up and then went on to win Pool 2 with a solid victory over Santa Ana Foothill. Tiffany Salinas, a 6-foot junior forward and the senior guard duo of Julia Bertolero and Kylie Kiech are the top returners. Sophomore center Hailey Vice-Neat also will be a presence against the competition the Cardinals will face and head coach Monica Mertle has a bevy of other underclass players that are ready to blossom. Newman opens with its own Cardinal Classic, and then moves on to the Paris Twins Classic at Piedmont before playing in the Diamond Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
22. (15) BISHOP’S (LA JOLLA) 27-6
State Freshman of the Year Destiny Littleton returns and she is a one-girl team against most opponents but the surrounding cast came up short during the summer and with no size to speak of and a short roster this team will have to prove itself against top-notch opponents. Junior guard Layla Cunningham had a decent summer but will need to step it up as will junior guard Allesandra Aguirre. Still, Bishop’s will start as the No. 2 team from the CIF San Diego Section.
23. (NR) BREA-OLINDA (BREA) 20-8
Head coach and 1998 Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year Jeff Sink is in year two of his second stint after a two-year hiatus to coach the school’s boys and this year he’s loaded with seven to eight underclass players that are very good, making the Ladycats a definite force this season. Sink told Cal-Hi Sports when he returned last year that it would take a couple of years to get back to where the program was in years past but after a decent season last year Brea is ready to make some noise, although it still may be a year away. The girls were exceptional at the San Diego Classic. Incoming senior wing Shaylissa Jarrett will be the senior floor leader with junior Reili Richardson, who plays bigger than 5-foot-10, playing inside-out.
24. (NR) HORIZON CHRISTIAN (SAN DIEGO) 11-20
Yes, it’s true we are ranking a team that was 11-20 last year but there’s a good reason for that. After missing all but a handful of games at the end of last season due to rehab from a knee injury, to say 2012 State Freshman of the Year Dijonai Carrington is back is a bit of an understatement after the way she looked this summer. Her knee looks fine and she’s bigger, stronger, faster, matured and looks hungry. Plus, she’s joined by point guard transfer Melanie Quijano from La Jolla Country Day on what should be one of the top teams in San Diego.
25. (22) MODESTO CHRISTIAN (MODESTO) 27-8
Last year’s CIF Division III state champions lost all-state Lexi Tubbs to graduation and Stephanie Moore to transfer, but several of the Crusaders’ role players from last year, like Lailoni Gaines, are back. Plus, the incoming sophomore Warwick twins, Meagan and Nicole, played well this summer. Another top player, Candice White, is back from injury.
26. (27) ARCHBISHOP MITTY (SAN JOSE) 21-12
The Kelli Hayes era is over and Mitty will be making some big adjustments that started over the summer when the team struggled a bit playing as the San Jose Cagers. Still, USA U17 and Monarchs’ head coach Sue Phillips is one of the best and with a solid nucleus led by incoming senior wing Taylor Todd, junior Jahnay Anderson and sophomore Maddie Holland, don’t be surprised if Mitty is making noise in February and March.
27. (35) SACRAMENTO 23-9
The Dragons lost a ton of talent to graduation from a team that lost 48-32 to Berkeley St. Mary’s in the Open Division last season. Head coach Michele Massari did have a handful of girls that looked good this summer led by junior Alicia Hernandez and sophomore guard Courtesy Clark. Six reported transfers also will be eligible in the first week of January so we will wait to see what shakes out with the Dragons after they play in the Diamond Division of the West Coast Jamboree where they open with Cardinal Newman.
28. (34) BERKELEY 24-9
Desire Finnie is gone to University of Pacific but the Yellowjackets are still going to be a NorCal Division I force as they have always perennially been. High-flying and speedy Weber State-committed point guard Jaiamoni Welch-Coleman can ignite any team and she will need to create an inferno with the underclass talent on the squad of veteran head coach Cheryl Draper.
29. (8) CARONDELET (CONCORD) 28-4
Katie Rathbun is the top returner along with Loyola Marymount-commit Marcella Hughes, however after that it’s a big question mark. Still, the Cougars have nine girls that can play according to Hoops4Girls and FullCourt analyst and rankings contributor Clay Kallam. There is a question as to whether two-sport athlete (track) Christina Chenault (11.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg) will play this season. Coincidentally, the Cougars meet Berkeley in the first round of the Diamond Division at the West Coast Jamboree.
30. (NA) BRADSHAW CHRISTIAN (SACRAMENTO) 20-7
Utah-committed guard Erica Bean and Nevada Las Vegas-bound power forward Jordan Bell looked excellent this summer and there was strong consideration to starting them higher because of how good those two are, but other than sophomore Jolene Delany the remaining girls are a question mark. It’s a team, though, that wouldn’t surprise at all to be one of the very best in the SJS.
31. (16) BISHOP ALEMANY (MISSION HILLS) 24-8*
The arch-rivals of No. 3 Chaminade in the CIF Southern Section’s Mission League loses all-state Hannah Johnson and most of the rest of their size. Two of the returners, junior Kate Tokuhara and sophomore Alyssa Fisher, looked good this summer and head coach Bryan Camacho has built a solid program. Another plus is the return of all-league guard Breanna Calhoun.
32. (38) FAIRFAX (LOS ANGELES) 29-7
Coach Judi Edwards has 6-foot-3 Marguerite Effa back and that’s enough for the defending CIF L.A. City Section champions to be No. 1 among teams from that section to start the season. Effa, who is headed to USC, averaged 20.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game as a junior and was named the L.A. City Section Player of the Year. Only two seniors were lost but those two – Karina Moreno and Illiana Blanc – both were double-digit scorers.
33. (6) ST. MARY’S (BERKELEY) 27-8
Ma’Ane Mosley is back and Zavanna Negron looked all right during the summer but after that there is little tested depth. Even so, St. Mary’s head coach Nate Fripp is not taking any shortcuts in scheduling this season despite losing All-State Mikayla Cowling and Gabby Green to Cal. The Panthers are in the Marin Catholic Ladycat Classic and then meet Bradshaw Christian, Berkeley and Miramonte in the Mats Classic and then open the Diamond Division of the West Coast Jamboree with Brea-Olinda.
34. (4) SALESIAN (RICHMOND) 30-7
Guards Kian McNair and Minyon Moore return from the NorCal Open Division champions but the drop off after that, especially with Moore’s big sis, Mariya, now at Louisville, is fairly steep. The Pride also has no tested size and will need to show they are worthy of a higher ranking. Salesian opens with Middletown after a Foundation Game against Antioch Deer Valley.
35. (NR) CENTENNIAL (BAKERSFIELD) 23-6
The top seven scorers from a team that ended the season with a 12-point loss to eventual CIF D1 state champ Canyon Springs return. It’s why we chose to make the Golden Hawks higher than either Clovis West or Hanford from the CIF Central Section and insert them at the end of the State 35. Five-foot-11 junior Taylor Madden averaged a double-double (10.5 pts, 10.2 rebs) while others back include senior point guard Alyssa Gonzales and junior guard Zarhia McCollum.
25 TEAMS THAT JUST MISSED
Brookside Christian (Stockton) 28-5
Cajon (San Bernardino) 27-2
Clovis West (Fresno) 27-4
Del Oro (Loomis) 23-10
Deer Valley (Antioch) 24-6
El Dorado (Placentia) 28-6
Enterprise (Redding) 28-3
Foothill (Tustin) 25-4
Garces (Bakersfield) 31-4
JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 23-11
La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 26-5
Mark Keppel (Alhambra) 26-4
Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista) 25-8
Mt. Miguel (Spring Valley) 27-6
Narbonne (Harbor City) 26-7*
Oak Hills (Hesperia) 25-4
Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 20-12
Peninsula (RH Estates) 2-19
Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove) 25-10
Serra (Gardena) 25-5
Torrey Pines (San Diego) 24-6
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend