Select Section Finals Picks (Girls)

Valerie Higgins from Chaminade of West Hills runs show in last year's CIF D2 state final. She and teammates have bigger plans for this season in the Open Division. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Valerie Higgins of West Hills Chaminade runs show in last year’s CIF D2 state final. She and teammates have bigger plans this season in Open Division. Photo: Willie Eashman.

On the eve of California’s numerous CIF section championship games in girls 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 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
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 68, Chaminade (West Hills) 61

The most anticipated girls’ playoff game in the state at this stage also has national implications with Mater Dei (28-1) No. 1 in every major national rankings and Chaminade (24-3) now also No. 11 in the Xcellent 25. What makes the matchup even more interesting is Chaminade is the only team to pin a loss on Mater Dei when the Eagles defeated the Monarchs 60-59 in the Palisades Invitational title game in late November. Since then, defending CIF Division II state champion Chaminade has had its ups and downs, losing to Long Beach Poly, St. Ignatius of San Francisco and Bishop Alemany (Mission Hills) before avenging the Poly loss in the semifinals. Meanwhile, Mater Dei comes into the game having mowed down a quality schedule to the tune of 25 straight victories behind what has been an unstoppable 6-foot-3 Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year leading candidate and Connecticut-bound Katie Lou Samuelson. In the first game, the highly-regarded Chaminade junior duo of Valerie Higgins (20 points) and Leonna “Neah” Odom (14 points) overcame the 27-point effort of 2014 State Junior of the Year and USA U17 star Samuelson. Mater Dei is the deeper team and playing much better now, as is Chaminade, but it actually might have been easier for Chaminade to win had it not won the first time.

CIF San Diego SectionCIF San Diego Section Open Division
Mission Hills (San Marcos) 73, Mt. Carmel (San Diego) 71

Here’s a matchup that should be high-scoring and close all the way, but we’re going with the No. 2 seed to edge the No. 1. While Mt. Carmel (28-2) deserves to be the San Diego Section’s No. 1 overall team coming into the game and Mission Hills (25-5) is still overcoming a pair of regular season losses to La Jolla Country Day to jump higher in the rankings itself, the Sundevils don’t have an out-of-section resume as strong as the Grizzlies. One of Mt. Carmel’s two losses – to Garces of Bakersfield – now doesn’t look as good since that team got bounced out of the Central Section D1 bracket. Mission Hills, on the other hand, has beaten Vista Murrieta and Archbishop Mitty of San Jose with just a six-point loss to Carondelet of Concord. The Grizzlies also have wins over both Bishop’s of La Jolla and Torrey Pines by much wider margins than Mt. Carmel has. Of course, this could easily by wrong since the Sundevils have both Ali Engelhardt (27 ppg) and Casey McWilliams (20.2 ppg) operating at full capacity. Mission Hills has one of the state’s top young teams led by 6-0 sophomore Khayla Rooks and 5-10 junior Madison Adams.

CIF Southern Section Division 1AA
Windward (Los Angeles) 61, Etiwanda 55

Two teams that were in the CIFSS Open Division last year and then the Southern Regional Open Division did not make the Southern Section Open this year and regardless of the outcome of this game both will be in the SoCal Division I playoffs. They met last year in the SoCal Open semifinals with Etiwanda pulling off a 49-48 upset over what was then the state’s top-ranked team. Both teams are vastly different with a combined eight girls having graduated and gone off to play at Division I colleges. When they met this year in early January, Windward (17-9) was a 64-54 winner at Etiwanda (20-6) after erasing a seven-point deficit to start the fourth quarter. Look for a game that will be a little closer.

Emily Anderson led Clovis West to last year's CIF Central Section D1 title. Her sister, Megan, is one of this year's top players as the Golden Eagles go for a repeat.

Emily Anderson led Clovis West to last year’s CIF Central Section D1 title. Her sister, Megan, is one of this year’s top players as the Golden Eagles go for a repeat.

CIF Central Section Division I
Clovis West (Fresno) 75, Edison (Fresno) 67

This section bracket got shook up in Tuesday’s semifinals when state-ranked Garces of Bakersfield was upset 48-36 by the Tigers. It was a coming out party for a young Edison team with junior guard Jerrene Richardson scoring 12 points. Sophomore Makeya Kendrick and junior Rodjanae Wade also stood out. Garces fell to 27-2, losing for just the second time this season. And while the Tigers are now 26-3, they’ll have to pull off an upset again to dethrone the defending champion Golden Eagles. Clovis West (24-4) has been rolling since returning to Central Section competition following two trips north to play state-ranked Vanden and almost state-ranked St. Mary’s of Berkeley. Coach Craig Campbell’s girls are young, too. In the final two league games – the program has now won 10 straight league titles – sophomores Megan Anderson and Bre’yanna Sanders combined for 31 and 32 points. In last year’s playoffs, a projected showdown between Clovis West and Hanford materialized with CW winning. The projected showdown didn’t happen this time, which makes the Golden Eagles more of a favorite. The only downer is that if CW wins, it’s headed back to the CIF SoCal Open Division. At least the first-round opponent probably won’t be Mater Dei, but may be Long Beach Poly.

CIF North Coast Section Division III
Miramonte (Orinda) 58, Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 56

The marquee girls matchup in the CIF North Coast Section playoffs pits a young Miramonte team (27-2) led by 2014 State Sophomore of the Year and USA U17 team member Sabrina Ionescu against an O’Dowd team (20-8) that is not the same as when it took most of its losses, including six of the first eight games. Since a loss to a Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) team in the CCS Open Division title game after a win over previous No. 4 St. Ignatius (San Francisco), O’Dowd has won 18-of-19 including avenging the Sacred Heart Cathedral loss. The lone setback is to No. 2 Stockton St. Mary’s. Now with Cal-bound Asha Thomas back from injury and running the point, the combination of Thomas and Kansas-bound guard Aisia Robertson coupled with some young talent of their own, the Dragons will present a formidable task for Ionescu and crew. O’Dowd would appear to be the deeper team but the only team to really stop Ionescu this season has been No. 1 Mater Dei.

CIF logo 216CIF Central Coast Section Girls Open Division
Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) 61, Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 53

There were those that questioned Sacred Heart Cathedral (16-10) being allowed to hang around in the rankings with so many losses, but when you look at the Irish girls’ overall resume and what they’ve done, frankly it should be no huge surprise they’ve advanced to the title game. The problem has been consistency. They have a few stinker losses but one of them was not the 74-68 home defeat to No. 2 St. Mary’s of Stockton. Besides knocking off a previous No. 4 St. Ignatius (San Francisco) team they went 2-1 against this season, they also split with Archbishop Mitty this season. One thing to look at is the 61-48 loss at Pinewood but that was almost three months ago. Pinewood (24-2), on the other hand, has been a model of consistency. The defending CIF Division V state champion Panthers’ only losses are by 13 points on the road at Miramonte, and by seven points to St. Ignatius at the La Jolla Country Day Sweet 16 tournament in early December. Since the Miramonte loss, they’ve had three wins over arch-rival and CCS Open semifinalist Eastside Prep (East Palo Alto) with two being real close, but mixed in amongst 18 straight wins is a 15-point win over CIFNCS Division II top-seed and finalist Carondelet (Concord) and a 78-55 pasting of CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I finalist Sacramento McClatchy. Pinewood is definitely ticketed for the Open Division win or lose but SHC is now probably going as well, particularly if it wins. This game will be closer than last time with SHC Arizona-bound Ashanti Coleman playing real well right now. But the Pinewood senior duo of UC San Diego-bound Marissa Hing and Buffalo-committed Gabi Bade, plus junior Chloe Eackles and freshman sensation Stella Kailahi, is a little too deep.
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CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II
Modesto Christian 60, Kimball (Tracy) 55

Before the Modesto Christian boys take the floor for SJS D2 final, it will be the Lady Crusaders (26-4) who will be looking for a section championship and despite facing an undefeated Kimball of Tracy team (30-0) in the finals we will predict that the Crusaders will hand the Jaguars their first loss of the season. Seeded No. 1, the section and state D3 champions from last year trailed by six points at halftime in their semifinal game against Del Oro of Loomis before senior Candice White led the comeback with 13 of her 20 points in the second half of the 63-48 win. Despite an undefeated regular season, the Jaguars lacked the big-time opponents during the season which is why they were the No. 3 seed in the playoffs but they knocked off No. 2 seed Antelope with a 59-49 win that made history. Kimball became the first girls basketball team from Tracy to advance to the section championship game. 5-foot-10 freshman Raziya Potter has the size and ability to give the Crusaders some trouble but playing in the big-time setting of Sleep Train we will give the nod to the more experienced Crusaders.

CIF L.A. City Section Open Division
Palisades (Pacific Palisades) 64, Narbonne (Harbor City) 61

This game took on added interest due to Narbonne first being kicked out of the playoffs and then put back in for wearing unauthorized jerseys with pink lettering in the semifinals. The Gauchos (24-4), who may not have been punished at all if not for a previous infraction involving a player playing the next game after receiving two technical fouls in a game, will still be without head coach Victoria Sanders in this game. We saw Narbonne back in January up in Stockton and with Seton Hall-bound point guard Latecia Smith running the show, it’s a team that can play at any pace. Palisades may not have an impressive record (22-10), but almost all of the losses were early in a brutal schedule and came before standout sophomore Chelsey Gipson gained eligibility due to her transfer from Windward of Los Angeles. If Narbonne plays like it did against St. Mary’s of Berkeley, it will win this game. But that may be harder without Sanders there and Palisades has shown us a lot by beating 2014 L.A. City D1 champ Fairfax four times.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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  1. Laura Clark
    Posted March 5, 2015 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Kimball Lady Jaguars (Tracy) vs Modesto Christian Lady Crusaders

    NO disrespect to anyone… But, I must comment.
    I didn’t hear the following names in the above article, I only heard Razi’s. What about Allison Schmidt, Sarah Nunes, Isabella Lawrence, Alexis Clark, Bradyn Schander & Ayida Peters. These girls as well as the rest of the Kimball Lady Jag’s are the most remarkable young women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing! All we read about is how we don’t play anyone worth while. Well, that’s not the case! We going the Sleep Train Arena, Saturday, March 7th to play in the CIF DIV II Championship game. I have the pleasure of knowing 2 girls on the Lady Crusaders, one calling me “Mom”. This game will be a nail biter. The Lady Jag’s are wanting this, and they will play with such determination and respect for the game, their true athletism will shine. I love you girls❤Good Luck❤Go Lady Jags

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted March 6, 2015 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      Good luck to Kimball. Great story and great team. We weren’t trying to disrespect them by not picking them against a state champ from last season. I met Doc Kimball many times back in the day when I was sports editor of the Tracy Press in early 1980s. Great to see his namesake school in the state rankings.

      • Debru30
        Posted March 7, 2015 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

        Way to go Lady Crusaders, I’m sure that your 37 point wiimball had nothing to do with you lady’s being really good basketball players. It can only be, because 3 of you guys played on that same court last year. Not taking anything away from Kimball, they played and won games to get where they are, but so did MC. When the brackets were announced, and my husband and I listened to the broadcast, there was no mention of our coach and very little mention of our #1 seed girls. So, I guess it’s nice that one of Kimball’s players get mentioned. Because, none of our girls do.

      • B2R SPORTS
        Posted March 8, 2015 at 11:42 am | Permalink

        @ Mark Tennis and team, Awesome Job on the article and match up analysis. It appears that a few feathers have been ruffled by your predictions, in the Division 2 sector regarding Kimball High Schooland Modesto Christian.
        Here is a different perspective from a Parent and Professional Sports Person. Note: Unless there is blatant slander of an individual or group, it is fair to say that 99% of sports kournalist are giving some fact based on data, “outcome possibilities” according to current play – recent history and predictions that often include individual and team match up analysis.

        Note to Parents, A journalists statements are not final authority over any team nor does any writer have a crystal ball to tell the future they are calling it as they see it, thatbis their job. No parent should be offended by any sportswriters comments unless that writer is slandering a player or which individual which I did not read in this article.

        As a Sports Professional, and a parent of boys that play in a totally different league, I am totally unbiased to either of these teams. However as a parent and a pure fan of the game and supporter of all children I am alarmed & disturbed by the comments written by Laura Clarke above tegarding The Kimball Jaguars. After reading the entire article, a standard pattern falls in suit that an average reader may not recognize.

        A teams performance and rankings are noted with mention of 1 or possibly a few other category leaders. Rarely would any sports writer list the names of several players on one team. This is not to discredit any of the additional teammates contribution to the team, as it is obvious that no one player can win a game by themself. However, the mention of one or another player whos had significant contribution to a teams performance is standard practice in ALL sports. For parent LAURA CLARK to make such a negative public comment about the player named Razi being named in this article and no mention of the 6 other players she named, it seems to scream envy. How pathetic to make such a comment with a disclaimer of NO disrespect to anyone, and then suggest unfair acknowledgement of other players, yet calling out the one player who was acknlwledged?

        This year has been awesome in many divisions, in contrast to Lauras opinion, in division 2 semifinals we have seen the names of the players Allison Schmidt and Sarah Nunes in several other articles in various Major News publications and media outlets who were awesome in their efforts! The negative opinion of this parent about the player Razi should have been kept to herself, in private. Making comments like this as an Adult and furthermore a parent Parent of players on the same team that suggests one player is favored over others creates dissension, turmoil and problems that the children absolutely do not need. It is blatantly ugly.

        LAURA CLARK your comment speaks to the character of the other teammates not mentioned, your fondness of them and your relationship with them. No one can contest these facts, the Lady Kimball Jaguars showed remarkable character in yesterdays game in their loss to Modesto Christian Lady Crusaders. It is obvious by your statement you are a supporter of this team and wanted to acknowledge the unmentioned. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, however, you took a cheap shot at one player to acknowledge others. (THERE IS A PROBLEM WTH THAT.) Sports writers write about sports, not personal characteristics. Sadly this type of behavior displayed by yourself is a critical part of a some of the serious problems we see everyday in sports as professionals.

        Emotional parents speaking out loud to support their children is great, suggesting favoritism by the “the media” of a player on the (SAME TEAM) as your children in a public format that the world and the children on the team can see shows that you have absolutely no concept of the word Team support. As an Adult and parent you should be ashamed of yourself! I must me blunt in also calling out that your comment has a very negative undertone considering the dynamics of this wonderful group of girls. This type of behavior by adults who should know better, causes a myriad of social problems in youth sports across America.

        I would hope that in the future LAURA CLARK you would think a while longer, if at all possible before you speak.

        Great Job to all of the contestants in yesterdays finals, it was AWESOME to see the children compete in a safe, fun and exciting contests.

        • Mark Tennis
          Posted March 8, 2015 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

          Laura’s comment was just that we didn’t mention any other players’ names other than the one. We took no offense at all to what she wrote and have seen far worse from many other parents/fans over the years. Hope the Kimball parents/fans stay together. Should be a great ride with young players they have but going 30-0 just set them up for yesterday. West Coast Jamboree next year for them is a must and in a very competitive division. Go play Lincoln of Stockton next year, too, but obviously forget about St. Mary’s (will be preseason No. 1 in nation probably).

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