After all of the Friday and Saturday section finals, here would be the eight girls basketball teams in Northern California and the eight in Southern California that we’d pick for the Open Divisions. The first five positions in the North and first two in the South should be easy, but even No. 3 in the South may not be as smooth.
For more on Chaminade vs. Long Beach Poly in CIFSS Open Division final, CLICK HERE.
For recaps of CIF Sac-Joaquin Section finals played on Saturday, including the one for No. 1 St. Mary’s of Stockton, CLICK HERE.
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(CIF section commissioners will meet on Sunday to determine the Open Division brackets and the pairings for each of the five divisions. The pairings are expected to be released by 5 p.m. We’ll have reaction tweets @CalHiSports and a reaction story on CalHiSports.com in the evening. CIF state championships will be held on Thursday, March 24 and Saturday, March 26 at Sleep Train Arena).
OPEN DIVISION RECOMMENDED TEAMS
1. Chaminade (West Hills) 27-4
This team’s last two wins over Sierra Canyon and Long Beach Poly in the CIFSS Open Division shows what we thought in the preseason was correct. If both star players, Leaonna Odom and Valerie Higgins, get going, then there’s no SoCal team that compares. The win over the Jackrabbits also avenged one of the Eagles’ early losses.
2. Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 24-4
Two of Poly’s losses are to out-of-state powerhouse teams. Their resume also includes an early-season win over the same Chaminade team they lost to in the CIFSS Open championship. One of Poly’s other wins came against likely NorCal Open Division team Bishop O’Dowd.
3. Mission Hills (San Marcos) 28-3
We’re going with the Grizzlies in the third position after they won the CIF San Diego Section Open Division title 68-64 against La Jolla Country Day. Mission Hills also won earlier in the week against a Bishop’s (La Jolla) squad in which the team had gone 1-1 against in two previous meetings. We’ve actually had both Mission Hills and Country Day in the top 10 of the state rankings for many weeks and just don’t see a reason to switch.
4. Clovis West (Fresno) 29-3
Sarah Bates had 17 points and four assists as the Golden Eagles won their fourth straight CIF Central Section Division I crown by dominating Fresno Edison 69-39. They could be seeded third since two of their three losses are to national No. 1 St. Mary’s (Stockton), but based on strength of schedule we’d have them behind the two CIFSS Open Division teams and the San Diego Open Division team. The CIF also isn’t going to put Mission Hills at 4 and La Jolla Country Day at 5 because they just played. It just makes the most sense to have Country Day travel to Fresno and Mission Hills hosting Windward (which would be our 3 vs. 6 game).
5. La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 24-4
It’s going to be simple for the CIF to place the Torreys ahead of the two CIFSS Open Division semifinalists for a real good reason: they have wins over both of them. The win over Windward was 30-27 while the win over Sierra Canyon was 61-54. We might actually still rank the team higher than Clovis West, but for seeding purposes and not winning in the final it looks to us like it will be a long ride to Fresno.
6. Windward (Los Angeles) 20-6
In looking at the two CIFSS Open Division semifinalists, it’s easy to pick Windward higher than Sierra Canyon since the two are from the same league and the Wildcats were the team that won in the league final. Windward lost in the CIFSS Open semis to Long Beach Poly.
7. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 23-7
Wins over Cajon (San Bernardino) and Brea Olinda (Brea) before losing to Chaminade in the CIFSS Open semis gives the Trailblazers this spot. Brea had moved up to fifth in the state before losing to Sierra Canyon.
8. Palisades (Pacific Palisades) 24-8
Heading into the week, we thought there was a great chance that the CIF might have to pick a fifth CIFSS team for the first time. After Saturday, though, not so much. Palisades took care of business in its game with a 65-44 triumph over El Camino Real of Woodland Hills in the L.A. City Section Open Division final. This came two days after Troy of Fullerton won the CIFSS Open Division consolation title. That effectively put the Warriors into that fifth position, but guess which team owns a head-to-head win over them? That’s right. Palisades. It was way back on Nov. 27 and that result will pull up the Dolphins to a probable matchup vs. Chaminade. There’s a chance that Bishop’s of La Jolla might get into this position as well, but having a third San Diego Section team in the SoCal Open Division has never happened before.
OPEN DIVISION RECOMMENDED TEAMS
1. St. Mary’s (Stockton) 27-0
Head coach Tom Gonsalves knows the competition in the NorCal Open Division is going to be fierce, but in securing the No. 1 seed by winning another Sac-Joaquin Section title on Saturday he also knows that the two teams viewed with the best chances to knock off his squad probably will be playing each other in the semifinals.
2. Miramonte (Orinda) 29-0
All-American Sabrina Ionescu racked up 25 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists as the Matadors stayed perfect and showed their national top 10 credentials with an easy 82-67 win over Bishop O’Dowd, which was No. 8 in this week’s state rankings, in the CIF North Coast Section D3 final. Miramonte’s last loss was to St. Mary’s (Stockton) in last year’s NorCal Open Division final. The Matadors will be the No. 2 seed this year so they have a good chance of getting back to that game and will likely play St. Mary’s again, although likely having to get past state No. 3 overall Archbishop Mitty in the NorCal semifinals is going to be difficult.
3. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 23-3
The Monarchs, who have only one senior on their roster, beat Pinewood 79-60 on Friday night to win the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division title. It is Mitty’s 25th section title, which is an ongoing Cal-Hi Sports state record. Pinewood was No. 9 in the state last week and led by 13 points early, but couldn’t contend with Mitty’s size, which includes 6-foot soph point guard Karisma Ortiz (15 assists). “Their length bothered us,” Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler told the San Jose Mercury-News. “We don’t play against any 6-2 girls in practice. I don’t think there’s a better team in the country than Mitty if they play like that.” That may be true, but this year in Northern California it only gets the Monarchs a No. 3 seed in the Open Division behind two undefeated teams.
4. Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) 22-5
Although the Panthers have a recent overtime loss to a Brookside Christian team that then lost to Bishop O’Dowd 71-43 (and that’s why we have O’Dowd ranked higher), we do expect them to be the fourth seed. That’s due to an overtime head-to-head win over the Dragons from early in the season. In a potential 4 vs 5 game involving O’Dowd, Pinewood’s previous win also should be rewarded with that game at home. Freshmen Klara Alstrom and Hannah Jump had 13 and 11 points, respectively, against Mitty.
The Dragons have suffered lopsided losses to both Stockton St. Mary’s and Miramonte and certainly could be ranked higher than Pinewood. That head-to-head loss, though, in a CIF seeding meeting probably will put them fifth. The Dragons also have had losses to St. Mary’s of Stockton and Long Beach Poly.
6. Salesian (Richmond) 26-5
The Pride rolled past Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 64-47 on Saturday to win their third NCS Division IV title. At one point this year, the team was down in the rankings due to a bad loss to Sacramento, but that has been overcome. The win over San Diego Open Division runner-up La Jolla Country Day in January plus other scores shows this is an Open Division team and it’s a team that’s eligible to be picked for the Open Division, too.
7. Carondelet (Concord) 23-6
Head coach Elgin Leslie’s team wiped out all memories from last year’s NCS D2 upset loss to Dublin by rolling over Acalanes (Lafayette) 68-42 in Friday night’s championship. By virtue of having two wins over Vanden plus 12-point and 15-point losses to Archbishop Mitty and Miramonte that aren’t looking that bad, the Cougars should be and will be a NorCal Open Division team. Other than two losses to out-of-state foes, the other two within the state also are to higher-ranked teams.
8. Brookside Christian (Stockton) 23-8
This last spot also could go to CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D2 champion Vanden (23-8). The Knights will be ranked higher because of their win over Pinewood in January. Vanden doesn’t have a win like that, but in general has played a tougher schedule than Brookside. Both teams have wins over Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco (which is ranked higher than both by computers). It wouldn’t be a surprise if Vanden was selected for this last position or if the CIF broke precedent and gave top seed St. Mary’s a bye. If there’s one boys team and one girls team that should be strongly considered for first-round Open Division byes, then being the consensus No. 1 team in the nation is perhaps all that needs to be said.