CIFSS Open Division Bracket Challenge

Since we’ve been evaluating the teams in the loaded CIFSS Open Division bracket all season long and have seen all 16 teams on more than one occasion, we decided to have some fun and take a stab at predicting the winners of the 15 CIFSS Open Division championship bracket games before the competition kicks off February 19.

Related: CIFSS Open Division Pairings | Differences Between CIFSS and CIF State Open 

The CIFSS Open Division boys basketball playoff bracket will likely produce multiple state champions — even if its winner doesn’t go on to win the CIF Open Division state title. Besides Mater Dei of Santa Ana, a four-time defending state champion, three other state champions emerged from the CIFSS Open Division last season — St. John Bosco of Bellflower (D2), Chaminade of West Hills (D3) and Bishop Montgomery of Torrance (D4). Only Chaminade among the group is not making a return appearance in the state’s toughest section playoff bracket.

Will four of the six boys CIF state champions emerge from the 16 teams below? Time will tell, but it looks like a situation where a semifinalist or finalist (as with the case with Chino Hills last season) in this bracket not participating in the CIF SoCal open regional will be avoided.

The CIF can take a maximum of four schools from the CIFSS for its SoCal open regional and this year if a team makes its section’s open division semifinals, the team is automatically eligible for the open division on the state level.

The Buzz 150Cal-Hi Sports CIFSS Open Division Predictions
(These picks are intended to generate interest and are done with respect to all coaches and players involved. We know the staffs of all 16 teams to some extent and at least 12-13 very well and have always been candid with respect to how well — or not — their teams or individual players are performing. We’d love to hear your comments and see your predictions in the comments section below.)

First Round:

No. 1 Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) vs. No. 16 J.W. North (Riverside)
The Huskies have some experience and a good point guard in Dikymbe Martin who has been in pressure situations, but so far this season Bishop Montgomery has just gotten better the tighter a game has been. The Knights will shoot a better percentage from the field and advance.
The Pick: Bishop Montgomery

No. 8 Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) vs. No. 9 Cathedral (Los Angeles)
This is a tough game to call either way. Redondo Union is battle tested, but Cathedral has also been in some tough battles and is probably a bit more talented. Look for Morgan Means to continue to play well for Redondo Union. Redondo will have just enough rebounding to squeeze by at the end. Having the home court advantage will pay dividends big time in a game that should be close until the end.
The Pick: Redondo Union

No. 5 Damien (La Verne) vs. No. 12 Lutheran (Orange)
This game will feature plenty of talented perimeter players, but Damien has the best with SDSU-bound Jeremy Hemsley. If the Lancers don’t figure out a way to stop Damien’s dribble penetration, it will be a long night. Lutheran needs a big game from Ka’Vaughn Scott around the rim to take some of the pressure off the backcourt, which is going to have it hands full on the defensive end. If sophomore Joseph Riley plays well for Orange Lutheran it will have a chance for the upset, but Damien’s role players will hit enough perimeter shots for it to prevail.
The Pick: Damien

No. 4 Centennial (Corona) vs. No. 13 Alemany (Mission Hills)
If posts Jalen Hill and Ike Anigbogu continue to play well, a long trip from Mission Hills to the 91-15 corridor will be even longer on the way back for Alemany. Junior point guard Shacquille Dawkins must keep the turnover count low for Alemany because Centennial loves to turn guards and create turnovers with its pressure defense. If Centennial doesn’t play with intensity, Alemany will have a puncher’s chance for the road upset, but because the playoffs are here we think its veteran players will get the message coach Josh Giles has been trying to get through to them all season.
The Pick: Centennial

No. 3 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) vs. No. 14 St. John Bosco (Bellflower)
St. John Bosco coach Derrick Taylor is cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances in the open division. Bosco has played top-tier teams tough, but hasn’t been able to get over the hump. The trend will continue as sophomore Cody Riley will go for a double-double and the young backcourt of Sierra Canyon will be a bit too much for the Braves to handle.
The Pick: Sierra Canyon

No. 6 Etiwanda vs. No. 11 Cantwell Sacred Heart (Montebello)
The Cardinals will play anyone, anytime and so will coach Dave Kleckner and the boys in his program. Cantwell likes to slow it down, but Etiwanda thrives in that type of game, too. When it slows down like that, every possession becomes a war and no one has been in more post-season wars in recent seasons than Etiwanda. Cantwell’s strengths play right into Etiwanda’s hands. If Jacob Davison and other perimeter players knock down jumpers, the Cardinals can pull the upset, but it won’t be on this day.
The Pick: Etiwanda

No. 7 Long Beach Poly vs. No. 10 Chino Hills
It’s real tempting to pick a small upset here, because Chino Hill’s Lonzo Ball can nearly single-handily lead his team to victory. Poly, however, is a disciplined defensive team and simply has one (or two) too many horses for the Huskies’ lack of depth to overcome. Chino Hills will take an early lead then Poly will adjust and pull it out with a second half run.
The Pick: Long Beach Poly

No. 2 Mater Dei (Santa Ana) vs. No. 15 Price (Los Angeles)
The Monarchs feel a bit slighted by not being the top seed, but regardless they will be in the friendly confines of the Meruelo Athletic Center for this one and they are nearly unbeatable there. Price has been a state top 20 ranked team for most of the season, but Mater Dei will force Price out of its game plan with its team defense.
The Pick: Mater Dei

Quarterfinals:

No. 1 Bishop Montgomery vs. No. 8 Redondo Union
These two “undersized” South Bay teams know a lot about each other and having already beaten Redondo 71-58, conventional thinking is Montgomery will prevail again. That game at the Take Flight Challenge was the last for Billy Preston in a Seahawks’ uniform and we really don’t know how good Redondo now is because it played most of its tough non-league games before January 3. What we do know is Bishop Montgomery has looked even more impressive than it did on that day (against De La Salle for instance) and that’s hard to get out of our minds. Montgomery has been able to rise to the competition level basically every game.
The Pick: Bishop Montgomery

No. 4 Centennial vs. No. 5 Damien (La Verne)
What a game this could potentially be — a match up of teams that haven’t met in a big-time game and a match up of teams with some big-time guards. Damien has had some trouble taking care of the ball early in games and that scares us because it can’t afford to fall behind against the Huskies. Centennial hasn’t played to its full potential so far this season, but this is the game where everything has to come together or the Huskies will lose. Centennial’s playoff experience will pay dividends in this game and look for Khalil Ahmad to come up with a timely play to turn the tide.
The Pick: Centennial

No. 3 Sierra Canyon vs. No. 6 Etiwanda
The Eagles have already met and lost to Sierra Canyon 72-53 at the Maxpreps Holiday Classic in December. Is Sierra Canyon 19 points better than coach Kleck’s club? No, not at this point of the season, but where will Etiwanda make up the difference at? Etiwanda has the talent to play with the Trailblazers, but its offensive firepower will leave them a bit short at the end of this game. It will be much closer this time around, but Sierra Canyon will pull it out behind some big moments from Adam Seiko.
The Pick: Sierra Canyon

No. 7 Long Beach Poly vs. No. 2 Mater Dei
The Jackrabbits and Monarchs have a traditional playoff rivalry in plenty of sports in both genders and have produced some memorable battles. This has the potential to be another barn-burner — if Poly’s role players step up and make key baskets. Mater Dei’s role players have been stepping up and that was never more evident than in the win over Fairfax. If Mater Dei’s Rex Pflueger has any bang-bang calls to go against him, Poly will be in good shape because the Monarchs are going to have to find a way to slow down K.J. Feagin in order to secure this win and Pfueger’s defense gives the Monarchs their best shot of doing that. Mater Dei will pull this one out by making free throws late.
The Pick: Mater Dei

Improving junior Ike Anigbogu provides inside muscle for Corona Centennial.

Improving junior Ike Anigbogu provides inside muscle for Corona Centennial.

Semifinals:

No. 1 Bishop Montgomery vs. No. 4 Centennial
After squeaking by Damien, will the Huskies have enough in the tank to deal with the most consistent team in the state during the regular season? It will be a tall order, but Centennial is just that — tall. Bishop Montgomery hasn’t played a team with the inside size of Centennial whose guards can match its own. Montgomery is strong, can defend against teams with a bit more size and is mentally tough, but we feel at some point a bigger team will catch them on a day where its shooting won’t be able to make up the difference. This will be the game because Centennial will be oozing with confidence after the Damien win. In a minor upset, we’re going with Centennial. Now this doesn’t mean Bishop Montgomery can’t come back and win the CIF Open Division state title, just more of catching the wrong team on the wrong day.
The Pick: Centennial

No. 3 Sierra Canyon vs. No. 2 Mater Dei
So Mater Dei defeated Fairfax, the same Lions team that had little trouble with Sierra Canyon. So that gives Mater Dei a huge edge, right? Think again! That’s why it’s difficult to go by the “Team A beat Team B, and Team B beat Team C, so Team A is better than Team C” model in many cases. If Sierra Canyon makes it this far, it will be better prepared than it was against Fairfax — and the Trailblazers won’t be warming up for nearly 45 minutes, either. This will be a back-and-forth affair. We can envision Mater Dei taking an early lead and Sierra Canyon storming back. No matter how much Mater Dei can use its experience and poise to build a lead, Sierra Canyon is never really out of a ball game because of its explosiveness. In the end, Bailey Stout and La’Vette Parker will give Mater Dei just enough for the Monarchs to squeak by in a one possession game.
The Pick: Mater Dei

Championship:

No. 2 Mater Dei vs. No. 4 Centennial
Centennial found out in last year’s state final that sometimes outside shooting isn’t your friend in a big arena setting. Centennial cannot overly rely on the shooting and scoring of Sedrick Barefield as it did many times during the regular season. Ahmad or Jordan Griffin are going to have to play consistent ball for the Huskies to get to this point and beat Mater Dei. Michael Cage Jr. doesn’t always impress national scouts, but when is the last time he’s played bad in a big game for Mater Dei? Cage was consistent through last year’s playoff run and he’ll do just enough dirty work against Hill and Anigbogu to keep Centennial’s defense honest enough to allow Parker and Pflueger to hit the big shots down the stretch.

The Pick: Mater Dei will win the CIFSS Open Division state title for the second consecutive year. Keep in mind, outside of Fairfax, most keen prep followers feel the SoCal CIF Open Division representative will come from one of the four teams that make the regional from this bracket. It means the CIFSS Open Division winner will likely have to beat the same team twice at some point to make it to Hass Pavilion on March 28. It’s never easy to beat a good team twice, so even if Centennial or Mater Dei win this bracket, it doesn’t mean either would be an automatic choice to win the regional. One of the teams that loses in the semifinals can easily bounce back to win the SoCal Open Divisional regional.


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9 Comments

  1. DRinSCV
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen most of these teams – reg season and/or summer – and it’s pretty darned even. Most of these teams could beat most of the others on any given night depending on foul trouble, shots dropping and just who is playing well. A most competitive field!

    Having said that, here goes…

    Bishop – just too strong
    Cathedral – going with Kobe & Co. in a close one
    Damien – JH is the difference
    Centennial – excellent backcourt carries them
    Sierra Cyn – too much depth
    Cantwell – in a defensive slugfest
    Chino Hills – can’t go against Lonzo
    Mater Dei – solid favorite just too good

    QFs: Bishop, CC, SC, MD in the semifinals. The Thompsons get it done for Bishop, Centennial’s excellent backcourt wins another one, Sierra Canyon is just a bit too deep for CSH and Mater Dei limits everyone but Lonzo enough to get by.

    SFs: Man these could really go either way. I’m thinking Bishop will slow CC down and pace often wins the race. MD is very seasoned and its excellent coaching staff – see what happened in the 2nd half at Nike? – finds a way.

    Final: Mater Dei 51 Bishop Montgomery 50. Tight all the way and MD wins it at the buzzer on a three by Parker.

  2. Ronnie Flores
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for participating DR. Your picks make sense! LaVette!!!

  3. phil60
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I would have to agree with Cal Hi picks, but not sure about Bishop Montgomery losing that early. Best chance for upset might be Etiwanda over Sierra Canyon, with Etiwanda advancing to semis. If that were to happen, then look out below in the Division V state playoffs, as SC might not be put in the Open.

  4. Ronnie Flores
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    yes, if Sierra Canyon didn’t make the open, having then in the D5 playoffs wouldn’t be good news for the other programs. Sierra Canyon has been a top 15 national team for most of the season.

  5. Ronnie Flores
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    These are the picks of @JOVICHERN:

    1st Rd:
    Top Bracket
    Bisho Mont over JW North
    Cathedral over Redon Union
    OLU over Damien
    Cor Cent over Alemany
    Bottom Bracket
    Sierra Canyon over SJB
    Cantwell SH over Etiwanda
    LB Poly over Chino Hills
    Mater Dei over Price
    ***********************************************
    Qtr Final Rd
    Top Bracket:
    Cathedral over Bishop Mont
    Corona Centennial over OLU
    Bottom Bracket
    Sierra Canyon over Cantwell SH
    Mater Dei over LB Poly
    ***********************************************
    Semi Finals
    Top Bracket;
    Corona Centennial over Cathedral
    Bottom Bracket:
    Mater Dei over Sierra Canyon
    ***********************************************
    FINAL
    Mater Dei over Corona Centennial
    As Ronnie Flores knows I said MD before season started. Stick with them now!

  6. Posted February 18, 2015 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    1st Rd:
    Top Bracket
    JW North over Bishop Mont
    Redondo over Cathedral
    Damien over OLU
    Cor Cent over Alemany
    Bottom Bracket
    Sierra Canyon over SJB
    Cantwell SH over Etiwanda
    LB Poly over Chino Hills
    Mater Dei over Price
    ***********************************************
    Qtr Final Rd
    Top Bracket:
    Redondo over JW North
    Corona Centennial over Damien
    Bottom Bracket
    Sierra Canyon over Cantwell SH
    Mater Dei over LB Poly
    ***********************************************
    Semi Finals
    Top Bracket;
    Corona Centennial over Redondo
    Bottom Bracket:
    Mater Dei over Sierra Canyon
    ***********************************************
    FINAL
    Corona Centennial over Mater Dei

  7. Rico Laurie
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    1st Rd:
    Top Bracket
    Bishop Mont over JW North
    Redondo over Cathedral
    Damien over OLU
    Cor Cent over Alemany
    Bottom Bracket
    Sierra Canyon over SJB
    Etiwanda over Cantwell SH
    Chino Hills over LB Poly
    Mater Dei over Price
    ***********************************************
    Qtr Final Rd
    Top Bracket:
    Redondo over Bishop Mont
    Corona Centennial over Damien
    Bottom Bracket
    Sierra Canyon over Etiwanda
    Mater Dei over Chino Hills
    ***********************************************
    Semi Finals
    Top Bracket;
    Redondo over Corona Centennial
    Bottom Bracket:
    Mater Dei over Sierra Canyon
    ***********************************************
    FINAL
    Mater Dei beats Redondo

  8. Ronnie Flores
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks guys for participating. Alot of similar picks in the later rounds. Do alot of people think Bishop Montgomery will be upset?

  9. Devin Ugland
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    1st Round:

    Top Bracket:
    Bishop Montgomery over J.W. North
    Cathedral over Redondo
    Damien over Orange Lutheran
    Centennial over Alemany

    Bottom Bracket:
    Sierra Canyon over St. John Bosco
    Etiwanda over Cantwell Sacred Heart
    Chino Hills over LB Poly
    Mater Dei over Price

    Quaterfinals:

    Top Bracket:
    Bishop Montgomery over Cathedral
    Corona Centennial over Damien

    Bottom Bracket:
    Sierra Canyon over Etiwanda
    Mater Dei over Chino Hills

    Semifinals:
    Corona Centennial over Bishop Montgomery
    Mater Dei over Sierra Canyon

    Finals:
    Corona Centennial over Mater Dei

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