On the eve of California’s numerous CIF section championship games in boys basketball, we pick one key game from each of the biggest sections and then predict a final score. If anyone wants to watch these games, many also are available on the NFHS Network and for Cal-Hi Sports users only we are continuing to offer a great deal for a yearly subscription that isn’t available anywhere else. Sign up HERE.
Note: We use predicted scores and not point spreads for obvious reasons. Writeups by Ronnie Flores, Harold Abend, Paul Muyskens & Mark Tennis. See schedule by CLICKING HERE to see whether game indicated is on Friday or Saturday.
CIF Southern Section Open Division
Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 59, Etiwanda 54
The No. 6 seeded Eagles (23-7) avenged losses to Sierra Canyon and Mater Dei to advance to the Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. title game versus the top-seeded Knights (29-1). This is a battle of good coaching and excellent defense versus skilled and efficient offense. Etiwanda held Mater Dei to 10 points each in the third and fourth quarters in its 52-49 semifinal victory and if the Eagles can do that in either one of those quarters against Montgomery they will be in great shape to win. The game will come down to the shot making in a large arena setting by Etiwanda’s backcourt of Miles Oliver and Garrett Carter because Etiwanda’s defense and Montgomery’s shooting will be on point. Montgomery generally executes even better when the D steps up and in this game the difference will come down to a low percentage shot or two that the Knights will convert.CIF L.A. City Section Open Division
Fairfax (Los Angeles) 63, Westchester (Los Angeles) 58
Any surprise these two are playing for the City’s first open title? Outside of a couple of nice runs by Woodland Hills’ Taft and El Camino Real, these two programs have been dominating L.A. City ball since the turn of the century. They have talent, tradition and play hard as heck. These players and coaching staffs really know each other well and that makes the games a bit unpredictable and somewhat negates the talent on the floor. Each team won its home game in the Western League and with this game being on a neutral court, the difference will be Fairfax’s talented backcourt. Look for Lindsey Drew of the Lions (29-2) to have a solid all-around game and Donald Gipson to knock down some open wing shots to keep the Comets (21-11) at bay.
CIF Central Section Division I
Bullard (Fresno) 64, Edison (Fresno) 59
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Edison (21-8) is the defending champion in this division and has split with the Knights this season in league games. The reason we like Bullard (20-9) is how the Knights avenged not just the earlier loss to Edison but also an earlier loss to top-seed Clovis West in the semifinals. Swing guard Austin Armstead has been terrific in the postseason for Bullard and he could be difference in this game. Edison, which edged Centennial of Bakersfield in the semifinals and has a quality win on its resume over CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 finalist Sheldon, will counter with some size up front, including 6-foot-8 senior center Jamont Wilson.
CIF North Coast Section Division III
Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 68, Moreau Catholic (Hayward) 59
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Despite this being the game everyone in the Bay Area has been waiting for since defending Northern Regional Division IV champion Moreau moved up to Division III this season, not a lot of folks really give Moreau (23-5) a chance against O’Dowd (23-4) and 6-foot-11, 220-pound Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year leading candidate Ivan Rabb and Boise State-bound guard Paris Austin. Both played sparingly early in the playoffs for ailments and resting purposes but in a 70-48 semifinal win over Campolindo of Moraga, Rabb had 20 points and Austin scored 19 with both playing three quarters. Moreau has some solid young talent led by junior 6-foot-6 Cal-committed forward Oscar Frayer and sophomore guard Damari Milstead. Moreau also has just one in-state loss to Santa Ana Mater Dei, and since the last of its tournament losses to out of state teams, is on a 19-game winning streak. O’Dowd has no in-state losses with all its setbacks to nationally-ranked teams with the last coming on Feb. 7 to Oak Hill Academy of Virginia. Moreau should give O’Dowd a good game but the Dragons have the size advantage and Austin is one of the best point guards in the state. This is also another one of the games where regardless of the outcome both teams are ticketed for the Northern Regional Open Division.
CIF Central Coast Section Boys Open Division
Serra (San Mateo) 60, St. Francis (Mountain View) 57
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Top-seeded St. Francis and No. 2 seed Serra were expected to reach the title game but when teams from the wild-and-wacky West Catholic Athletic League are involved anything is possible. St. Francis has been in and out of the State Top 20 rankings but fell to its current position on the bubble after a league loss in early February to San Jose Bellarmine. The Lancers still won the WCAL with an 11-3 record that included 62-50 and 59-54 victories over Serra. They reached the final with a 64-59 victory over Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton. Serra ended the three-year reign Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) had since the CCS began its Open Division by taking down the No. 3 seeded Monarchs 55-52 in overtime. The question is can St. Francis sweep a Serra team bolstered by the win over Mitty. We smell an upset and it might even be another overtime.
CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II
Sacramento 75, Modesto Christian 69
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It just worked out that the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game should be the most exciting among both the girls and boys brackets and both games will feature Modesto Christian. As the No. 2 seed in the boys section playoffs, the seeds held true as the Crusaders will take on No. 1 seed, and No. 13 in the state Sacramento after the Dragons defeated Cosumnes Oaks of Elk Grove 82-55 on Wednesday night. A big reason Sacramento has now won 15 games in a row and is in its first section championship game since 2011 is the play of 6-foot-7 junior Solomon Young, who had 25 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in the win. The Crusaders have a dominant big man of their own with University of the Pacific-bound senior Anthony Townes as they have won 17 in a row and are looking for their 16th section championship since 1997 after defeating St. Mary’s of Stockton 59-46 in the semifinals. While comparing the two teams’ schedules, they have a common opponent in Campolindo of Moraga as both teams lost to the Cougars, although that doesn’t help. Sac’s loss to Campo was by one point in its first game while the Crusaders lost in overtime. Both teams also have only lost to California teams currently ranked in the top 20 of the Cal-Hi Sports state rankings (other than Campo) with one of the Dragons’ losses coming against No. 1 Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland and Ivan Rabb. Six-foot-9 junior Robinson Idehen will provide another tough task for the Dragons to defend but we will go with the Dragons, who also have 5-10 sophomore guard Sayvon Hines and 6-5 junior guard Christian Terrell playing well.
CIF San Diego Section Open Division
Torrey Pines (San Diego) 58, St. Augustine (San Diego) 51
If it weren’t for a two-point stinker loss to El Camino, the Falcons (29-2) would clearly be among the top 15 overall ranked teams in the state. Their only other loss was nationally ranked Jefferson of Brooklyn (N.Y.). With a balanced attack led by seniors Dominic Hovasse (12.7 ppg), Jack Beach (11.5 ppg) and Timmy Saunders (11.3), Torrey Pines also has been on point in its first two Open Division outings in wins over Vista and Army-Navy. St. Augustine is more of a young group coming of age, including highly-regarded junior point guard Eric Monroe. The Saints (25-6), who won the CIF D3 state title two years ago, knocked off higher seeds San Marcos and La Costa Canyon to reach the final. They also have played Torrey Pines earlier this season, losing 65-59. Yes, it is hard to beat a good team twice, but it’s also too hard to pick the upset here.