The somewhat awkward aspect of Santa Ana Mater Dei being in a “down” season from where the team usually finds itself (in the Open Division) to perhaps winning a Division II state title is one of the most interesting angles of this weekend’s CIF state finals. For SoCal’s sake, Mater Dei better win the D2 title game, too. We think the NorCal teams are going to take it in D3, D4 and D5.
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(All selections done with utmost respect to all players and coaches who have reached a state championship game.)
(Stockton office assistant editor Paul Muyskens wrote two of these four breakdowns)
Vanden (Fairfield) 30-5 vs. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 25-8, Saturday, 2 p.m.
It will be a matchup of the top two teams in our Division II state rankings and it is hard to pick against head coach Kevin Kiernan and the Monarchs, who just two seasons ago were playing in the Open Division state finals while the Vikings are making their first state final in program history.
Playing in the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs, the Monarchs had two close losses which ironically may have set them up for an easier run to a state title. They have won three of their last four games by double digits with a deep talented squad.
Vanden will be a legit threat to capture its first state title and may have the best player on the court with senior Julia Blackshell-Fair as this four star recruit will be headed to Houston and it could be a fun matchup to see her against Duke-bound guard Jayda Adams. Mater Dei also has a second three-star senior recruit with Cydni Lewis, who is going to San Jose State and had 15 points in the SoCal finals win. Emma Torbert, who along with Adams played in that Open Division final two years ago, is another Mater Dei player to watch.
Prediction: Mater Dei 51, Vanden 46
Campolindo (Moraga) 27-6 vs. Rosary (Fullerton) 29-5, Friday, 2 pm
We see Campolindo with the edge in this one. Although the current crop of players wasn’t born the last time the Cougars won a CIF state title, they do have four of them from the 1990s and they had wins during the season against CIF NorCal Open Division team Salesian of Richmond as well as against 2016 CIF NorCal Open Division champion Miramonte. Campo also rolled to the NorCal regional crown last week against Berkeley St. Mary’s (78-56) behind standout Haley Van Dyke, who scored a NorCal regional finals record 46 points. That’s also the record for all divisions combined.
Rosary doesn’t have a scorer like Van Dyke, but the Royals have a top-ranked freshman in point guard Kate Goosney. She provides the outside punch to an offense that also features the inside punch of 6-foot-1 Rebekah Obinma. Both of those players will need to have big game if Rosary is going to win. While we like Campo’s schedule and recent scores better, Rosary did get a 48-42 win against SoCal D1 finalist Ventura early in the season.
Prediction: Campolindo 70, Rosary 62
West Campus (Sacramento) 29-4 vs. Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga) 26-3, Saturday, 10 a.m.
Both of these teams were top seeds in the north and south regionals and both cruised to easy wins in their regional finals. That makes it more of a tossup to pick a winner.
For West Campus, it has some outstanding guards who can all shine in different ways. Namiko Adams is the leading scorer at 12.4 ppg but point guard Kiara Jefferson really knows how to run a team. Junior Nia Johnson (10.3 ppg) also has shined since coming over from Antelope after last season. While the team’s 47-41 win over Arcata in the NorCal semis wasn’t great, that huge 70-30 win against St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda in the final was just a complete clobbering. The Warriors only lost by 62-58 to St. Mary’s of Stockton and 51-47 to CIF D1 state finalist McClatchy. The St. Mary’s game, though, came on one of those nights when two top star players for the Rams didn’t suit up.
Two of Los Osos’ three losses came to CIF Southern California Open Division participant Etiwanda. Other than that, though, there aren’t any other games against elite-level opponents. One of the reasons that the Grizzlies have been so successful has been the emergence of freshman forward Breanne Ha. She’s been a double-double producer and has been their second-leading scorer. Top scorer Dynnah Buckner also has been great and checks in with 18.4 ppg.
Prediction: West Campus 51, Los Osos 50
Eastside College Prep (E. Palo Alto) 22-8 vs. Rolling Hills Prep (San Pedro) 32-3, Friday, 10 a.m.
One team will be making its first state championship game appearance in program history while the other will be back for a third year in a row and looking to defend a state championship. That is just one reason why we will give the nod to head coach Donovan Blythe and the Panthers.
Led by freshman Alyssa Maxey and her 20 points, the Huskies knocked off Bellarmine-Jefferson of Burbank 68-56 as the No. 5 team in our Division V rankings last week knocked off the No. 2 ranked Guards after knocking off No. 4 Heritage Christian of Northridge in the SoCal semifinals. RHP will now take on the No. 1 ranked Panthers, who played a much tougher schedule all season long and were a team that played in the CIF CCS Open Division playoffs.
Both of these teams have some young talented players and it could be a matchup to see for many years to come. The Panthers are led by junior Kayla Tahaafe and sophomore Zion Gabriel, who both average 14 points per game.
Prediction: Eastside College Prep 55, Rolling Hills Prep 50
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