There ended up being 10 new teams that were not this high in the state rankings at the finish of the 2017-18 season. The CIF San Diego Section snagged four of the spots taken by newcomers. We don’t have a bubble list with this set of preseason rankings, but trust us that a lot of other teams came close to the final few positions and there will be a bubble list for each week of the State Top 20 during the regular season.
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For last season’s final state rankings, CLICK HERE.
(Last year’s final ranking in parentheses with last year’s final record)
16. (30) La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 20-9
We went back and forth a number of times on trying to decide who should be the top team from the CIF San Diego Section since analysts and coaches consulted had reasons for all three teams that are bunched together to get the top spot. It ended up with us taking a little pressure off head coach Terri Bamford and her girls, particularly junior Te-Hina Paopao. If Paopao is back at full strength, there is no one in the state that can handle her, but with her misfortunate injuries the past two seasons it seems appropriate to let her show what she has – and if she’s right, then lookout San Diego. Still, even so, Bamford and her girls make a huge leap from last season’s final rankings because with Paopao in action anything is possible. Bamford loses all her senior scoring but besides Paopao returning sophomore Jazy Anousinh and her 7.6 ppg average returns but to Bamford it’s about her junior phenom. “I’ve got a healthy kid,” Bamford said about getting Paopao back. “I just became a better coach.” Not really. Bamford has proven herself with four CIF state championships and the 2012 Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year award.
17. (9) Serra (Gardena) 25-8
State Coach of the Year McKinsey Hadley loses eight seniors off his 2018 CIF Division I state championship team so that will have an impact but he has one of the state’s top returners in Alexis Tucker. The 5-foot-11 Texas Tech-committed senior averaged 16.9 points, 13.2 points, 2.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game and amazingly had 29 double-double performances in 33 games. Her best game statistically was in an early season win over CIF Open Division participant Etiwanda where she went for 30 points and 15 rebounds with three steals and two assists. Tucker will get another shot at Etiwanda next week in the Battle at the Beach tourney. Hadley also has three flashy freshmen guards — Morgan Edwards, Myanna Emery and Jailah Donald.
18. (34) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 20-9
For the first time in quite a few years the Jackrabbits fell off the radar screen of the top 10 teams but head coach Carl Buggs and his girls are back in the top 20 in this year’s preseason rankings. Last year, nine girls averaged over four points per game and seven return led by leading scorer Deja Williams. The senior point guard averaged 8.5 points per game last season.
19. (6) Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood) 26-6
The Wolverines have to drop down with the graduation of the Rufus-Milner twins and other scorers but they’re still a top 20 team mostly because of State Freshman of the Year Kiki Iriafen. The 6-foot-1 Iriafen led the team in scoring and rebounding with 17.0 and 10.8 per game averages, respectively, and against a schedule of top tournaments and nationally-ranked teams she had 21 double-doubles. Another top returner is sophomore Kimiko Katzaroff. Head coach Melissa Hearlihy also starts the season as the No. 3 all-time winningest coach in the state with 717 victories. Harvard-Westlake will be in the Battle at the Beach and is also coming north to play in the Diamond Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
20. (NR) Rosary (Fullerton) 17-11
The Royals round out the top 20 based on the fact they return almost all their top players, including flashy guard Kate Goostrey, plus several other talented players including forward Bryn Boznanski. Not only does head coach Richard Yoon have two freshmen that looked real good over the summer, Soleil Montross and Kaylee Byon, but the No. 2 team from Orange County welcomes three transfers, Asia Avinger from Los Alamitos, Breanna Ha from Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga) and Savannah Felix from Avalon. Ha was a top player two seasons ago for team that won CIF D4 state title.
21. (23) Miramonte (Orinda) 28-6
For the second straight year, the Mats faltered in a Northern Regional championship title game after losing to Sacred Heart Cathedral in the Division I title game. Still, it was a solid season for head coach Kelly Sopak and his young team. The Mats lose Clair Steele and a couple of other seniors but return a ton of underclass talent, including juniors Erin Tarasow and Rebecca Welsh, and sophomore Mia Mastrov. Some other players to look for are sophomores Samantha Johnson and Jordan Allred. Sopak doesn’t have a lot of size but his girls can get after it and shoot the three-ball. Miramonte meets Bishop’s (La Jolla) in the La Jolla Country Day Sweet 16 tournament in two weeks, hosts its own Mats Tip-Off Classic and is in the Diamond Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
22. (24) Chaminade (West Hills) 21-9
Head coach Kelli Di Muro and her girls had the kind of season in 2107-18 where they won all the games they were supposed to win, but despite coming close against Carondelet and Harvard-Westlake, they could not get a win over any team ranked above them despite a 6-2 record and second place in the tough Mission League. Di Muro loses some senior talent but senior and leading scorer Leslie Hunter (12.7 ppg) and junior and second-leading scorer and top rebounder Alexis Whitfield (11.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg) are back and that’s enough to place them higher than where they finished last season in the final rankings.
23. (NR) Bishop’s (La Jolla) 23-8
The word from coaches in Southern California and in the CIF San Diego Section is don’t sleep on the Knights. Head coach Marlon Wells returns everyone, including leading scorer Madison Chang (19.0 ppg) and second-leading scorer and top rebounder Brianna Delatorre. Wells also has a strong freshmen class led by Angie Robles that looked good at the San Diego Classic over the summer. Wells has scheduled tough so we’ll see how things shake out after the tournaments are concluded.
24. (NR) Antelope 26-6
The consensus among coaches and analysts is that head coach Sean Chambers and his Titans will be the top team in the Sacramento area to begin the season. Chambers lost one senior scorer but everyone else returns from a team that won the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title before bowing out to Miramonte in the second round of the CIF D1 NorCals. Flashy sophomore guard and leading scorer Jzaniya Harriel (14.2 ppg) returns as does two other girls who were in double-digit scoring last season, Arianna Spann (12.6 ppg, team-leading 8.9 rpg) and junior guard Jordan Goodwin (12.0 ppg, 3.5 assists). Chambers has his girls in the Bill Cartwright and Rocklin tournaments and the West Coast Jamboree.
25. (21) Mount Miguel (Spring Valley) 30-2
The CIF San Diego Section Open Division champions posted the greatest season in school history last year and although they graduate Camara Douglas the current group of Matadors should help head coach Robbie Sandoval add to his 428 career coaching victories. Sophomore sensation Sylena Peterson leads a strong group of returning players, including senior Citalli Gurrola. Sandoval and his girls will be hosting the Matador Classic in two weeks.
26. (NA) Bear Creek (Stockton) 28-4
Based on who they return, the No. 2 team from Stockton can go ahead of the St. Francis team that beat them by four points in the CIF D1 NorCals and two spots below the Antelope team that beat them in overtime in the CIFSJS D1 title game. Head coach Anthony Matthews returns a ton of talent led by one of the top sophomore guards in Northern California, Mya Blake, and her team-leading 17.4 points and 4.3 assists per game. Senior Deyliana Lewis (11.0 ppg, team-leading 8.0 rpg) also is back. Three other seniors to look for are Cassidy Byrne, Sarah Ruiz and Jailah Brice-Moore. Matthews and his girls are in the Rocklin tourney and will also play in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.
27. (15) Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 24-5
The Cardinals lose the school’s all-time leading scorer, Maiya Flores, and will be lacking in size, but they return one of the top backcourt combinations in Northern California in junior Anya Choice and senior Avery Cargill. Another player that looked good for over the summer for the top team from the Redwood Empire was junior Brin Searcy. Newman will be hosting its Cardinal Newman Classic in two weeks, travels to Pinewood in early December and will also be in the Coaches vs. Cancer event at Eastside Prep in East Palo Alto.
28. (19) Granada Hills Charter (Granada Hills) 28-6
The Highlanders lose a couple of senior scorers but they return their leading scorer and senior guard Hayley Berfield (14.3 ppg) and their leading rebounder 6-foot-2 junior post Haylee Aiden (9.7 rpg), plus several other solid contributors. As a result they will supplant a Fairfax (Los Angeles) team that graduated all its top scorers as the top team from the Los Angeles City Section. Head coach Jared Honig and girls will play in several local tournaments before venturing north to play in the Gold Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
29. (38) St. Joseph-Notre Dame (Alameda) 28-5
The Pilots are loaded this year and just about everyone returns from a team that was upset by St. Francis in the second round of the CIF D1 NorCals. Leading scorer Malia Mastora (14.4 ppg) and Zhane Duckett (11.4 ppg) are back together with a lot of underclass talent. Head coach Shawn Hipol and his girls will be making a trip to Wyoming to play in the Energy Classic in Gillette. If Sophie Nilsson (11.3 ppg) was not injured together with a couple of other girls the Pilots could have been higher.
30. (27) Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) 31-5
Head coach Marcelo Enriquez enters his 24th season at the Sea Hawks helm and it will be hard to duplicate the CIF Division II state championship in the greatest season in school history, but Redondo returns almost everyone including sensational junior guard Alyssa Munn. Enriquez and his girls open next week hosting the Battle at the Beach and will also play in the Nike TOC and the Diamond State Classic in Delaware.
31. (NR) Christian (El Cajon) 22-10
Head coach Vickie Carrington returns everyone off a team that won the CIFSDS D3 title, and she also will have three girls that were not eligible last season suited up as well. Her team looked very good in spring and summer ball and some analysts have them as high as No. 3 in the San Diego Section. Junior wing and leading scorer Simone James (16.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg) is primed for a breakout season and flashy sophomore guard Kristin Williams (16.0 ppg) looked very good as well. Carrington has other producers and her girls will be tested right away with Etiwanda as an opener. They will also be in the Matador Classic and coming north to play in the Gold Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
32. (39) McClatchy (Sacramento) 23-7
The Lions come in as the No. 3 team from the Sacramento Metro area and get to come up eight spots from where they finished in the final rankings after two wins last season over the Sacramento team they’re ahead of and a season ending one-point loss to St. Joseph Notre Dame in the D1 NorCals. Richelle Turney has graduated but two girls to look for that had solid summer performances are senior wings Kamryn Hall and Nia Lowery. Head coach Jeff Ota and his girls look poised for a solid season and could very well end as the top team from the Sacramento area when all is said and done.
33. (NR) Sacramento 18-12
It was a tough year for head coach Michelle Massari and her girls last season but look for them to bounce back this year with just about everyone returning, including senior standout guard RyAnne Walters, the ESPN No. 27 rated senior point guard in the nation. Massari has a deep roster and two other girls to look for are seniors Andriana Avent and Rebekah Brown. The Dragons should be back as one of the top teams from the Sacramento metro area. Massari has the Dragons in both the Nike TOC and the Gold Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
34. (NR) Centennial (Corona) 24-4
The school is known for football but head coach Martin Woods has done a good job of building the Huskies’ girls basketball program and this year’s team features one of the top sophomore guards in Southern California, Jayda Curry. She led the team in scoring at 16.1 ppg and looked very good over the summer. Another sophomore to look for is leading rebounder Jessica Peterson (8.0 rpg), plus junior Madison Green (9.3 ppg, 3.3 assists) looked good over the summer as well.
35. (NR) Troy (Fullerton) 16-10
The Warriors already have a loss to No. 1 Windward but although head coach Roger Anderson lost his leading scorer he returns a lot of underclass talent led by Anaiyah Tu’ua and her 9.3 points and 8.0 rebounds a game. The girls of Troy are in the La Jolla Country Day Sweet 16 in two weeks and are coming north to play in the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
36. (32) St. Francis (Mountain View) 16-13
Former Pinewood star Sami Polisso is now in her second year at the Lancers helm and despite losing a lot of scoring punch her girls should be the No. 2 team in West Catholic Athletic League this year with leading scorer and senior guard Paige Uyehara (11.9 ppg) returning along with 6-foot-1 senior post Mia Grizelj (7.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg) plus others.
37. (NR) Bonita Vista (Chula Vista) 28-7
The Barons lost one of the nation’s leading scorers in Shyla Latone but they are looking like they will be a better more well rounded team this season and showed just that at the San Diego Classic where they had Pinewood on the ropes but couldn’t seal the deal. Head coach Tristan Lamb has a ton of returning talent led by senior guard Anneth Grijalba (8.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.3 steals and 3.0 assists) and sophomore guard Julia Cosolan. Bonita Vista will be in the La Jolla Country Day Sweet 16, the Matador Classic and the Las Vegas Holiday Showdown
38. (18) Fairfax (Los Angeles) 27-5
The Lions lost most of their top scorers but still fall in as the No. 2 team from the Los Angeles City Section. Head coach Charles Harrell has some solid returners led by junior Kaci Scott (8.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and the sophomore duo of Diara McBroom and Jori Haleakala-Denson, who each averaged around six points a game. Fairfax will be opening in Battle at the Beach next week.
39. (22) Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 15-15
The Fighting Irish lost a ton of talent but the consensus is they will still be one of the top teams in the Central Coast Section. Because of that, head coach LyRyan Russell and his girls led by senior Talo Li-Uperesa and his girls snag one of the final two expanded spots. Sacred Heart Cathedral opens its season at the Cardinal Newman Classic.
40. (NR) Lakeside (Lake Elsinore) 13-14
A team that fell off the radar screen last year showed up on everyone’s list this preseason and mostly because the Lancers pretty much return all their top talent led by leading scorer Jolene Armendariz and her 23.4 points per game. Two sophomores to look for are Alyssa Diaz and Gugu Marotte.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend