As the major holiday tournaments heat up, we are updating our boys basketball rankings from the preseason order. Our next update will be January 2 after those tournaments provide us key results. Mater Dei of Santa Ana holds on to the top spot but has a slew of tough upcoming games. Rancho Christian also makes a major move and is now in the top five for the first time.
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UPDATED BOYS BASKETBALL
(Through games of Saturday, December 9)
(Preseason ranking in parentheses)
1. (1) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 5-0
The Monarchs had no problem in capturing the Diablo Inferno Tournament, winning five games as a tune up for the upcoming City of Palms Tournament in Ft. Myers, Fla. (Dec. 18-23) and the Les Schwab Invitational in Portland, Ore. (Dec. 27-30). Coach Gary McKnight’s club opens the City of Palms on the tournament’s second day likely versus FAB 50 ranked Mountain Brook (Ala.) and every opponent on its side of the bracket is nationally-ranked.
2. (2) Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 4-0
The L.A. Times and others have the Knights higher than Mater Dei, but those preseason rankings came out after Bol Bol left Mater Dei. For us, results matter more than player personnel so we’ll see how the results play out over the next few weeks. Besides, Mater Dei plays a more difficult schedule during the holidays. Montgomery opened its season by capturing the Westchester Tip-Off Classic with a 51-50 win over No. 9 Westchester in the title game.
3. (3) Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 1-1
The Trailblazers are the highest-ranked team to lose thus far, but it’s easy call to leave them in the third spot. After opening the season with a nail-biting win over Jamie Jaquez and Camarillo (57-55), head coach Andre Chavalier’s club fell to Shadow Mountain of Phoenix in overtime, 80-78, in an emotionally-charged game at the Hoophall West in Scottsdale, Ariz. After L Simpson tied the game at the buzzer on a follow-up bucket, the Trailblazers took a 77-72 lead but couldn’t hold it. Shadow Mountain is ranked No. 9 in the latest FAB 50 national rankings.
4. (12) Rancho Christian (Temecula) 6-0
We mentioned in the preseason the Eagles would have to make a significant jump up in their level of play in order to live up to expectations and Ray Barefield’s team has done exactly that. The Eagles jumped into the latest FAB 50 by virtue of winning the Battlezone Tournament with wins over preseason No. 8 Chino Hills (81-60) and preseason No. 21 Etiwanda (78-54). Rancho Christian, which next plays at the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas (Dec. 20-23), also beat Capital Christian of Sacramento at the NorCal-Tip-Off Classic.
5. (5) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 2-0
Our top-ranked NorCal team entered the latest FAB 50 at No. 50 and the reason Rancho Christian hopped the Dragons is that club rolled through Capital Christian 84-63 while Lou Richie’s club beat the Cougars, 80-73. The big win so far, of course, was O’Dowd’s 58-56 win over preseason No. 4 Fairfax at the NorCal Tip-Off Classic on November 25. O’Dowd next hits the hardwood in Hawaii at the prestigious Iolani Classic.
6. (4) Fairfax (Los Angeles) 5-1
Jamal Hartwell felt he should have pulled up in stride instead of making a move at the end of the game against Bishop O’Dowd. His last-second 3-pointer ended up being off-target as the Lions lost 58-56 despite his 22 points. Fairfax bounced back to win the Beverly Hills Tourney (while battling the Skirball Fire) by beating Long Beach Poly in the title game as Kirk Smith dominated inside with 21 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks. Fairfax next plays in two tournaments that include O’Dowd: the Iolani Classic and the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic after Christmas.
7. (6) Modesto Christian 1-0
The Crusaders drop a spot to make room for Rancho Christian, which likely has the best set of wins in the state so far. Modesto Christian opened its season with a 72-65 victory over St. Francis of Mountain View at its own Gary Porter Showcase. Up next is the Clovis West Invitational beginning Dec. 12.
8. (14) Salesian (Richmond) 5-0
The Pride routed Capital Christian (69-43) to capture the 64th Annual Gridley Invitational over the weekend as UConn-bound point guard James Akinjwo netted 18 points to earn MVP honors. Capital won two big games earlier at the tournament, besting preseason No. 9 Folsom (72-70) to open the tourney and preseason No. 34 Sheldon (74-59). Salesian faces Palo Alto on December 16 before heading to play in the Tarkanian Classic where it opens with nationally-ranked Morgan Park of Chicago.
9. (20) Westchester (Los Angeles) 7-1
Head coach Ed Azzam’s squad has yet again exceeded preseason expectations and are one of the state’s elite teams with an excellent backcourt and tremendous defense. The Comets will only get better when 6-foot-8 Kaveon Batiste is eligible after the New Year. Westchester opened its season by capturing the Ryse Williams Pac Shores title with a 64-49 victory over No. 10 Santa Margarita and lost in the title game of its own Trevor Ariza Tip-Off by one point (51-50) to Bishop Montgomery.
10. (10) Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita) 7-1
The Eagles stay put as it relates to their preseason position after dropping one game to No. 9 Westchester (64-49) in the title game of the Pac Shores Tourney. They had trouble slowing down Westchester guard Jordan Brinson (19 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) after junior Jake Kyman had a big game in the semifinal win over host Redondo Union (27 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists). The Eagles bounced back to win the CDM Beach Bash with a title game win over Leuzinger of Lawndale as Kyman averaged 17.8 ppg and 6.3 rpg in four wins.
11. (9) Folsom 6-1
Yes, we know the Bulldogs suffered a 72-70 loss to preseason No. 40 Capital Christian at the Gridley Invitational. But they bounced back to win the consolation title and also get rankings credit for a quality win over Nevada power Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas. Folsom also has big holiday tournament games coming up.
12. (15) Damien (La Verne) 6-0
The Spartans are ranked high locally and move up three spots from the preseason. Head coach Mike LeDuc’s squad hasn’t played stiff competition yet, but will be tested at its own The Classic after Christmas.
13. (21) Etiwanda 5-1
Coach Dave Kleckner is back stressing defense and he does have some talented offensive players this season as well. Similar to No. 18 Chino Hills, the Eagles lost big to No. 4 Rancho Christian (78-54), but own a 80-72 victory over No. 14 Centennial. Etiwanda will play in the Inland Empire Tourney and at The Classic at Damien where it opens with No. 20 Taft.
14. (13) Centennial (Corona) 4-1
The Huskies are not big, but there aren’t too many elite teams with true big men this season so coach Josh Giles is confident his team can compete with anyone in the state. The Huskies, whose stable of guards include high-scoring D.J. Davis, talented Jaylen Clarke and newcomer Paris Dawson, bounced back from a 80-72 loss to No. 13 Etiwanda with a sound 86-71 win over No. 18 Chino Hills. Centennial tunes up for the Tark Classic with a road game at bubble club Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood.
15. (31) St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 8-0
The Braves have rattled off some impressive wins and it looks like they might be the biggest challenger to Mater Dei and Santa Margarita in the Trinity League as opposed to preseason No. 16 JSerra. Led by Alpha Okoli and Josh Adoh, Bosco won the Buena Park Tournament and the Cerritos/Gahr Tourney, handing bubble club Crespi of Encino its only loss (73-67) so far behind Okoli’s 25 points.
16. (7) Oak Park 6-2
One-point losses to Narbonne (58-57) and St. Anthony of Long Beach (60-59) at the early Pac Shores tourney hurts the Eagles in these rankings, but they atoned for those performances by capturing the Rose City Classic with a 61-60 overtime win over No. 17 Pasadena. With it talent, size and experience, Oak Park won’t panic over the early setbacks as it has upcoming big games on its slate.
17. (17) Pasadena 3-1
The Bulldogs came real close to knocking off No. 16 Oak Park, but Bryce Hamilton’s last-second overtime shot was just off the mark. Hamilton, headed for UNLV, finished with 31 while fellow all-stater Riley Battin finished with 28 points for the Eagles. Coach Tony Brooks’ club is now headed for the Tarkanian Classic where it opens up with FAB 50 ranked Clark of Las Vegas.
18. (8) Chino Hills 3-3
It’s still very difficult to get a good read on this Huskies’ club. In a game versus preseason No. 18 Foothills Christian in which we evaluated, Chino Hills looked like world-beaters, but were throttled the next two nights versus No. 4 Rancho Christian (81-60) and No. 14 Centennial (86-71). This past weekend the Huskies put forth a good effort against the Shadow Mountain of Phoenix club No. 3 Sierra Canyon took into overtime.
19. (19) San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno) 2-0
The Central Section’s top-ranked club has downed Moreau Catholic (78-67) and Lynwood (100-60), but the competition will get stiffer at the Clovis West Invitational and Tarkanian Classic. The crowd at the NorCal-Tip Off Classic was able to see what a special talent sophomore Jalen Green is, as he finished with 26 points while LMU-bound Dameane Douglas is off to a terrific start.
20. (23) Taft (Woodland Hills) 10-0
The third and final Top 20 newcomer came down to Vista and Taft and we go with the Toreadors since they remain unbeaten after capturing two tourney titles. Coach Derrick Taylor is confident his team can play with Fairfax and Westchester in the L.A. City Open playoffs, the latter of which he really came away impressed with after evaluating at the Pac Shores Tourney.
Dropped Out: Preseason No. 11 Alemany (Mission Hills), No. 16 JSerra (San Juan Capistrano), No. 18 Foothills Christian (El Cajon).
Teams On The Bubble:
Alemany (Mission Hills) 6-2
Brentwood (Los Angeles) 7-1
Cantwell Sacred Heart (Montebello) 7-1
Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo) 4-1
Capital Christian (Sacramento) 2-3
Central (Fresno) 4-0
Crespi (Encino) 9-1
Esperanza (Anaheim) 7-0
Foothills Christian (El Cajon) 2-3
Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood) 8-1
Heritage (Brentwood) 6-0
Jesuit (Carmichael) 2-1
JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 4-1
Laguna Beach 7-0
Lincoln (Stockton) 7-0
Poly (Long Beach) 6-2
Los Altos (Hacienda Heights) 4-1
Mission Bay (San Diego) 4-1
Narbonne (Harbor City) 4-4
Poly (Riverside) 5-0
Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) 3-1
Rolling Hills Prep (San Pedro) 4-1
Sheldon (Sacramento) 2-1
St. Anthony (Long Beach) 7-1
St. Mary’s (Stockton) 6-1