The first night of the CIF Open Division boys basketball state playoffs saw both top seeds from the north and south suffer elimination upset losses. State No. 1 Salesian of Richmond lost in overtime to Folsom while state No. 2 Mater Dei of Santa Ana was tripped up by Fairfax of Los Angeles. Read on for some historical perspective and for some highlights/quick breakdowns of all of the other Open Division boys games played on Friday.
For similar wrap-up of the CIF Open Division girls basketball games played on Friday, March 9, CLICK HERE.
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What was the bigger upset? Was it state No. 1 Salesian of Richmond losing to a team that was still on the State Top 20 bubble coming into Friday’s first round of the CIF NorCal Open Division playoffs? Or was it state No. 2 Mater Dei of Santa Ana dropping one to the runner-up from the CIF L.A. City Section in the SoCal Open Division?
Either way, the top seeds from both brackets are gone. Folsom won 75-70 in overtime. Fairfax won 50-47.
Since the CIF went to an Open Division in the 2013 season, this is the first time that both top seeds from the north and south were knocked off in their first regional games. In fact, there’s only been one other top seed in either regional bracket of the Open Division that has lost its opener. Unfortunately for Salesian fans, it was the Pride that did that in 2013.
Further research is needed to see if there’s ever been a year in which both the top seeds in the north and south were upset in their first games playing in the highest division of the CIF state playoffs, which in boys basketball goes back to the early 1980s. A No. 1 seed in the north, Berkeley, did lose in its Division I opener in 2005, but nothing else was found between 2005 and 2012. Keep in mind that prior to the Open Division most of the first-round games in Division I consisted of the top-seeded teams rolling to easy wins over lower-seeded teams in much-larger brackets.
There was a good reason why Folsom wasn’t ranked that high and that is because the Bulldogs (27-5) had a head-to-head loss to Capital Christian of Sacramento, which was the other semifinalist from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs that was placed in the NorCal Open Division. They weren’t exactly your typical No. 8 seed, however. Head coach Mike Wall’s club lost by just 69-65 to Sheldon of Sacramento in the SJS semifinals and had a win over Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, which was the team that early in the season handed Salesian its only loss.
According to media reports, Salesian led by 61-51 late in the third quarter before Folsom went on a run to take the lead in the fourth quarter. The Pride, who finished 30-2 overall, tied the score at 65-65 in regulation on a basket by Deshawn Lynch. Folsom gained an advantage in overtime on a three-pointer by Isaiah Jones and then after a missed shot it was guard Eljay Gallegos drilling a pair of free throws for a 72-67 lead.
Harvard-bound Mason Forbes posted a triple-double for Folsom with his 11 blocked shots being the most crucial stat. Forbes also had 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Despite losing in the L.A. City Section final, Fairfax has been a team that has been in the No. 8 to No. 12 range of the State Top 20 all season. The Lions (23-9) were No. 9 this week and have a 66-60 win plus a two-point loss to Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland, which is now the highest-seeded team left in the north bracket.
What makes the Fairfax win perhaps more stunning than Folsom’s is all of the history behind the program at Mater Dei. The Monarchs won their 23rd CIF Southern Section title last weekend under legendary head coach Gary McKnight and have reached the title game of the top division in the CIF SoCal regional playoffs for 10 of the past 12 years.
The Lions started strong on Friday at Mater Dei and were leading 43-26 in the third quarter. The Monarchs (23-7) then went on a 12-0 run to get back into it. Fairfax didn’t buckle in the late minutes, however, and maintained a slim lead. The Monarchs had a chance to tie on a last-season three-point shot by Spencer Freedman but he missed. Freedman and Folsom’s Forbes will be teammates next season at Harvard.
Jamal Hartwell led Fairfax with five 3-pointers and 21 points.
As No. 8 seeds, both Folsom and Fairfax will be on the road again for Tuesday’s semifinals in the Open Division. The Bulldogs will be at Sheldon and will try to reverse that loss from the SJS semifinals. The Lions will be at Etiwanda.
In Friday’s other CIF Open Division boys basketball games:
State No. 3 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 88,
Foothills Christian (El Cajon) 61
The visiting Knights (26-7) had a head-to-head win over Fairfax, but weren’t expected to be close to the Trailblazers (24-4) after losing top player Taeshawn Cherry to a school expulsion. The CIF doesn’t look into those type of circumstances when doing its seedings or it doesn’t matter. Cassius Stanley rained down 25 points for the winners. Both Duane Washington Jr. and Terran Frank scored 21.
State No. 4 Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 56,
State No. 18 Mission Bay (San Diego) 34
On a day when it was announced that senior Davy Singleton of the Knights was going to be the Gatorade State Player of the Year it was junior Gianni Hunt who led in scoring with 16 points. Head coach Doug Mitchell’s squad improved to 28-1 and advanced to the semifinals next Tuesday at Sierra Canyon. Bishop Montgomery is attempting to win its second straight CIF Open Division state title.
State No. 5 Etiwanda 68,
State No. 7 Westchester (Los Angeles) 60
The Eagles (29-3) were down by seven just before halftime to the host Comets, but went on a big run early in the second half and won going away. Camren Pierce had 13 points in the second half. Elijah Harkless led in scoring with 21. Veteran head coach Ed Azzam’s squad will have to be satisfied with a 29-6* record and an L.A. City Section title game win over Fairfax.
State No. 6 Modesto Christian 66,
State No. 11 Bellarmine Prep (San Jose) 53
According to the Modesto Bee, Tyler Williams sparked a 14-3 spurt at the end of the third quarter and ended with 21 points to go with eight rebounds for the Crusaders. They advanced to a semifinal matchup in the north bracket against No. 2 seed Bishop O’Dowd, which is a team we have had lower in the state rankings. Modesto Christian (29-3) also got 20 points (18 in the second half) from Junior Ballard. Bellarmine (24-4) was topped by Siena-bound Jake Wojcik with 17 points.
State No. 8 Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 78,
State No. 17 Capital Christian (Sacramento) 67
Too bad William Chaverin didn’t score one more point to get him to 14 points for the Dragons in their home court win over the Cougars. All of the other four O’Dowd starters — Isaiah Hardy, Naseem Gaskin, Brenden Patrick and Ross Williams — scored 14 points in the win. O’Dowd (26-5) was the CIF Open Division champion from three years ago. Capital Christian wound up 22-9.
State No. 12 Sheldon (Sacramento) 67,
State No. 20 San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno) 65
Dom Johnson hit driving shot with one second left to give the Huskies the win over the Panthers. It was a back-and-forth affair throughout and showed the CIF Central Section D2 champion (25-7) belonged in the Open Division. Sheldon (27-5) is attempting to get back to the NorCal Open final after losing in that game last season to Woodcreek of Roseville.
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