We wish the CIF would continue to separate the Open Division games with the other divisions in its regional/state playoffs, but everybody played in Tuesday’s semifinals (other than two teams) and we break down what happened in the Open Division and in Division I.
Note: We will be updating all of our divisional state rankings after Wednesday’s Open Division boys game in the south between Bishop Montgomery of Torrance and Mater Dei of Santa Ana. That post will be for Gold Club members only. Check out joining our team today. For details, CLICK HERE.
OPEN DIVISION (BOYS)
•Despite an injury that sent standout junior guard Donald Gipson to the hospital, state No. 5 Fairfax of Los Angeles won at home over state No. 3 Etiwanda 58-50 in the SoCal semifinal. According to Eric Sondheimer of the L.A. Times, Gipson injured his left knee in the first quarter. At the time, the Lions fell behind and trailed by six points at halftime. Lorne Currie picked up the slack and ended with 23 points. Lindsey Drew also shined with 13 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. In the third quarter, Fairfax turned the deficit into a seven-point lead. Sondheimer tweeted that it was one of the best coaching performances in the career of Fairfax head coach Harvey Kitani.
•The Lions (32-2) don’t know which team they are facing in Saturday’s SoCal final at The Pyramid because the other semifinal had to be moved to Wednesday at Redondo between state No. 2 Bishop Montgomery (31-1) and state No. 4 Mater Dei (27-4).
•McDonald’s All-American Ivan Rabb had 22 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks as state No. 1 Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland cruised past Folsom 75-57 in the NorCal semifinals. Paris Austin also scored 22 for the Dragons (26-4), who it was thought would get a tougher test from the Bulldogs (28-5), who had moved up to No. 14 overall in the state.
•Modesto Christian, which will be O’Dowd’s opponent in Saturday’s NorCal final at Sleep Train Arena, will be the underdog again but does have some size up front to at least provide some competition for Rabb. The Crusaders (30-3), ranked No. 10 overall in the state, were down by 33-23 early in the third quarter of their semifinal matchup at Serra of San Mateo, but wore down the Padres (23-6) the rest of the way for a 53-48 triumph. During one 15-4 run in the second half, 6-foot-9 Robinson Idehen and 6-foot-6 Anthony Townes combined for 12 points. Serra had moved up to No. 18 in this week’s state rankings.
OPEN DIVISION (GIRLS)
•The two SoCal semifinals were both easy wins, but it’s safe to say that Mater Dei’s 60-44 win over Long Beach Poly didn’t project to be one of those one-sided contests. The Jackrabbits, after all, have a win over that same Chaminade team that has beaten the Monarchs twice. They also were 26-3 and were No. 4 overall in the state. Mater Dei (ranked No. 3 overall in the state but was No. 1 before that second loss to Chaminade) will now get a third game against the Eagles in Saturday’s final. The Monarchs also are now 30-2.
•Teams from Fresno playing at home sometimes get quite a boost against a top SoCal foe such as what happened with Clovis West when it knocked out Alemany of Mission Hills in last Friday’s opening round. Unfortunately, the reverse is true and that’s what often happens when Fresno teams have to take the long trek over the Grapevine to play on the road against a top SoCal opponent. The Golden Eagles (24-5) were never in it against Chaminade and lost on Tuesday 79-40. The Eagles will be 27-3 and sitting at No. 2 in the state going into the next Mater Dei game.
•The NorCal championship, as expected, is coming down to state No. 1 St. Mary’s of Stockton (32-1) against No. 5 Miramonte of Orinda (30-2). Both also were seeded No. 1 and No. 2 in the NorCal Open Division bracket. Neither one, however, had it easy in getting to Sleep Train Arena.
•While St. Mary’s rolled in its first game, 90-65, over Modesto Christian, the Rams had to get some big buckets and free throws from two of their youngest stars –- sophomore Sierra Smith and freshman Aquira DeCosta – to advance with a 70-65 win over Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco on Tuesday. The Irish almost danced a jig on St. Patrick’s Day and had a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Mi’Cole Cayton, the junior point guard, had 19 points for the Rams. DeCosta had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Despite its final 18-11 record, Sacred Heart Cathedral is not expected to fall far from its No. 7 overall state ranking.
•The reverse was true with Miramonte. The Matadors (30-2) had an easier time of it on Tuesday with a 67-55 victory against St. Ignatius of San Francisco, but they needed overtime in the first round to dispatch Pinewood of Los Altos Hills 57-52. Big-time junior Sabrina Ionescu topped Miramonte against St. Ignatius with 26 points and 14 rebounds.
DIVISION I (BOYS)
•It’s not looking good for Northern California as one of two teams that didn’t make it to their respective section finals are going to match up in the state final against either Centennial of Corona (has been in national rankings this season) or Chino Hills (boasts two of the best young players in the nation in junior Lonzo Ball and sophomore LiAngelo Ball).
•Woodcreek of Roseville does have another top young player in 6-foot-9 freshman Jordan Brown and beat No. 1 seed De La Salle of Concord 43-39 on Tuesday in one NorCal semifinal. The Timberwolves (27-5) will play San Ramon Valley of Danville on Saturday. The Wolves (25-6) defeated Berkeley 68-53. Berkeley was the team that knocked out No. 2 seed Sheldon of Sacramento.
•Centennial (25-5) avenged one of its losses with an 85-64 victory over Redondo Union of Redondo Beach. Since their upset loss to Orange Lutheran in the CIF Southern Section Open Division quarterfinals, the Huskies have won by 30, 34 and now 21 points over some solid opponents.
•It will be a battle of Huskies in Saturday’s SoCal final as Chino Hills will be opposite Centennial and for the second straight season. Chino Hills topped Torrey Pines of San Diego 64-57 in its Tuesday semifinal contest behind 28 points and eight assists from Lonzo Ball. Centennial enters the game at No. 8 overall in the state while Chino Hills is No. 9.
DIVISION I (GIRLS)
•There appears to be a big gap between top seed McClatchy of Sacramento and rest of the field in the NorCal bracket. The Lions (25-7), who lost in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 final to state No. 1 St. Mary’s of Stockton, won in their Tuesday semifinal 54-25 over Pittsburg, which followed a 77-54 win over Davis. They also already have a 16-point win over the same Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills team they are facing in Saturday’s NorCal final. Oak Ridge (27-4) prevented Berkeley from getting to another regional final by beating the Yellowjackets in the other semi 58-49. Berkeley, the North Coast Section D1 champion, finished 23-10.
•Perhaps the most surprising girls score of Tuesday night was Serra of Gardena knocking off SoCal No. 2 seed and state No. 13 Vista Murrieta and beating the Broncos (23-8) by 71-56. While Serra also bounced defending D1 state champ Canyon Springs in its previous game, the Cavaliers have been up-and-down all season and only improved to 23-10. Top seed Ventura will be Serra’s opponent in Saturday’s championship. The Cougars (25-6 and up to No. 18 in this week’s state rankings) had to go into overtime to turn back Cajon of San Bernardino 46-40. Riley Mew had 13 points and six rebounds for Ventura while Aubrey Knight had eight points and 13 rebounds.
•In last year’s CIF state finals, many will recall the mis-matches in some of the divisional games between the north and south on the girls side. This year, that doesn’t appear likely. We see the north perhaps being favored or just slight underdogs in D1, D2, D3 and D5 with the South only looking like it will be a big favorite in D4.