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.
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.
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.
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.
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.