Despite knowing that a few teams have already played at least once, it’s still that time of the year to present our preseason Top 40 of the best girls basketball teams from all across the state. This group is led by No. 16 Redondo Union of Redondo Beach and includes the rest of these teams down to No. 40 Oakland Tech, plus a list of 10 more teams that just missed.
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To check out the teams we ranked from No. 1 to No. 15, CLICK HERE.
(Cal-Hi Sports co-founder & editor Mark Tennis also contributed to these rankings & writeups)
16. (11) Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) 24-6
The 2018 CIF Division II state champions got moved up to the Open Division for the CIF Southern Section playoffs last year where they played well against last year’s top teams, and then they were placed in the Open Division for the CIF Southern Regional playoffs where they travelled to Clovis West and only lost by six points. Head coach Marcelo Enriquez lost some seniors but the Sea Hawks return a ton of talent led by senior guard and All State Third Team selection Alyssa Munn, who has been the top player for the team since the state championship season. Another standout for the Sea Hawks is 5-foot-11 junior wing Calli Stokes. Enriquez and his girls have already played a game and it was a close home loss to No. 9 Clovis North. This coming week they host the Battle at the Beach.
17. (31) Chaminade (West Hills) 22-11
The Eagles were up and down with some stinker losses and then some sparkle like when they tested Sierra Canyon but lost by five on the road. Longtime head coach Kelli Di Muro has left to take a head coaching job at her alma mater at California Lutheran in Thousand Oaks and the new head coach is her longtime and very capable assistant Megan Kelso. We’re going to reward Kelso with a 10-spot bump from where they finished last season but it has nothing to do with Kelso, it has to do with Washington-committed 6-foot-1 wing Alexis Whitfield. When we saw the double-double machine Whitfield (16.7 ppg, 14.0 ppg, 3.9 assists, 3.9 steals) hammer home 24 points and 25 rebounds in the CIFSS D1 52-49 title-game win over No. 12 M.L. King we knew she’d also just made a point about the future. Senior guard Jasmine Rodriguez (12.6 ppg) is another player to look for and Kelso also has a transfer from Alemany, San Diego State-bound 6-foot senior forward Kimberly Villalobos. The Eagles play this week at the Battle at the Beach and then will be coming north to play in the Diamond Division of the West Coast Jamboree on the opposite side of the bracket from No. 15 Miramonte, but it will be without Villalobos, who has to sit out until after the first of the year.
18. (2) Clovis West (Fresno) 31-4
Head coach Craig Campbell lost almost all of his scoring punch, including his daughter Madison Campbell, who is now at USC, but he does return talented junior guard Nikki Tom, and Campbell, who is one of California’s top coaches and has won state championships in both California and Nevada, has some up and coming players on a 16-girl roster and the team played well in the fall. One face that’s not new is junior guard Justyce Harris, who has been the first girl off the bench the past two years. A name to watch for is CSU Bakersfield-committed senior guard Aaliyah Seuell. We realize it’s a huge drop, and Campbell feels his team should be higher, but we’re not in fall ball and with so many new faces Campbell and his girls will have to work their way back up the pecking order, and we’ll be happy to eat crow if they do.
19. (23) Antelope 31-4
The Titans will start out as the No. 2 team from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section and the No. 1 team from the metropolitan Sacramento area. Head coach Sean Chambers only loses one senior contributor from a young team led by one of the top players in Northern California, junior guard Jzaniya Harriel, who despite being 5-foot-9 averaged a double-double 23.4 points and 12.8 rebounds along with 2.9 assists and 2.9 steals per game. Three other solid returners are senior guard Jordan Goodwin (10.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.0 assists, 2.5 steals) senior guard Angel Jordan (9.8 ppg) and junior point guard Kaiija Lesane. Antelope is in the Bill Cartwright Tournament at Elk Grove, the Rocklin Tournament, the Oak Ridge Trojan Toss-Up in El Dorado Hills, and the Gold Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
20. (24) Heritage (Brentwood) 26-5
Just like they finished behind the Antelope team that beat them 53-48 in the CIF Division I Northern Regional quarterfinals, head coach Rob Ocon and his girls get to move up with that team and begin the season right behind. Ocon lost one of his top players with Jordan Sweeney moving on to Idaho State, but one of the top players and prospects in Northern California, Boise State-bound 6-foot-3 center Abby Muse is back for her senior season, as is guard Paige Ziemann. A newcomer who is drawing raves from college scouts and analysts is Abby’s younger sister, 6-foot-3 freshman Amanda Muse, who some say will be better than her older sister and probably taller. Two other girls to look for are Sacred Heart Cathedral transfer and junior point guard Milan Tuttle, who is immediately eligible since her family moved into the district, and junior point guard Julie Ramirez. The Patriots are in the Oak Ridge tournament and then host the Gold Division of the West Coast Jamboree where they are on the other side of the bracket as Antelope.
21. (20) Troy (Fullerton) 24-10
Head coach Roger Anderson and his Warriors’ girls are the No. 3 team in the Orange County Register preseason rankings and that’s where they land here as well as starting out one below above where they ended last season. Anderson returns just about everyone from a squad that reached the semifinals of the CIF SoCal Regional D1 playoffs in a game where senior point guard Anaiyah Tu’ua (10.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.5 assists, 3.6 steals) suffered a knee injury. Anderson has told the Orange County Register she is back and doing very well. The top returner for Troy is sophomore combo guard and All State selection Hannah Stines and her 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Troy also added Brea-Olinda transfer Maggie Teven, a 5-foot-11 sophomore forward who will sit out the first 30 days. Three other girls to look for are sophomore Isabella Pearson, senior Gaby Tan and junior Endigo Parker. Troy opens this week at the Redondo Union Battle at the Beach, and then hosts their Troy Classic before heading to Texas for the Sandra Meadows Classic.
22. (NR) Centennial (Corona) 21-9
The Huskies girls are the sleeper team in these rankings, partly because they lost in the playoffs to Alhambra Keppel in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 second round, and they are still very young, but very talented, and that showed in a second-place finish to Long Beach Poly in an eight-point loss in the 3A title game of the San Diego Classic. Centennial head coach Martin Woods returns almost all his top scorers led by incoming junior combo guard Jayda Curry (15.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.2 steals, 2.9 assists), who has an offer from San Diego State. At San Diego, she showed why some analysts think she is one of the top players from the Class of 2021 in the Inland Empire and all of Southern California. Another player who turned some heads in San Diego is incoming freshman guard Sydni Summers. We like her a lot and another analyst that saw her in San Diego said, “She has game, good off the bounce, deep range, plays very quiet but with loud skills.” Other players to look for are sophomore guard Bella Law, senior guard Madison Green, and senior forward Brook Svoboda.
23. (7) Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 23-7
It’s a huge drop for head coach Noelle Quinn and her girls from where they finished in the final rankings last season but they lose a ton of talent. The Knights still have to get some props because junior wing Khylee Pepe (14.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 3.0 assists, 3.0 steals) is back and that in itself gets Quinn and her girls a top 25 start since Pepe is a top SoCal talent. We had Bishop Montgomery at around this spot prior to a 44-41 win on the road at Harvard-Westlake in the one game they’ve already played this season. Quinn and her girls now go to the mountain when they meet No. 2 Mater Dei to open the Redondo Union Battle at the Beach.
24. (8) Salesian (Richmond) 25-9
The Pride team that pulled off the 44-41 upset of Archbishop Mitty in the Northern Regional Open Division semifinals is no longer at the disposal of head coach Stephen Pezzola with just about all his scoring and rebounding punch gone, including Angel Jackson departing for USC, so Pezzola and his girls have to take a huge drop, but they’re not off the radar screen, and every analyst we queried has the Pride in the upper echelon of the Northern California pecking order and we agree. Juniors Amira Brown and Alexsandra Alvarado are ready to step up, and senior Daylee Dunn, who recently signed her letter of intent to play basketball and run track at Fresno State, is looking to have a breakout season.
25. (5) Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) 27-4
Some may be shaking their heads and thinking how can a team that went to two straight CIF Open Division title games drop 20 spots? The answer is for the first time in many years the cupboard has been seriously depleted for veteran head coach Doc Scheppler. Hannah Jump has hopped off to Stanford and Klara Astron has sailed away to Yale, plus other contributing seniors are gone. Junior guards Courtney Thompson and Annika Decker return and are very solid, and guard Una Jovanovic is back from a knee injury. The question is size and whether some of the big girls Scheppler has like 6-foot sophomore Valentina Saric and 6-foot-3 junior Maia Garcia will become contributors.
26. (NR) Harvard-Westlake (Studio City)
Head coach Melissa Hearlihy has a short roster but it includes double-double machine and 2018 State Freshman of the Year Kiki Iriafen (19.8 ppg, 13.4 rpg) and with the 6-foot-3 junior in the lineup in this group it warrants a ranking, and this is where they are starting. Two other players to look for are junior point guard Kimiko Katzaroff (13.4 ppg) and junior guard Melissa Zozulenko. Hearlihy and her girls have already played two games and lost both, but it was 44-41 to Bishop Montgomery and 68-61 to Sierra Canyon, and for that they can’t be penalized.
27. (NR) Orangewood Academy (Garden Grove) 15-15
The Spartans were not on the radar screen last season despite finishing second to Fairmont Prep in the San Joaquin League but in this day and age of transfers things can change so the No. 4 team in the Orange County Register rankings finds a spot in these rankings with the addition of Los Alamitos transfer and Idaho-bound point guard Sydney Gandy. She will join the twin towers of 6-foot-3 post and Boise State-bound Elodie Lalote, who is now eligible, and 6-foot-3 post Aixchel Hernandez, who is back from injury. Last year’s leading scorer Tarryn Ross is lost for her senior season due to injury but head coach Leslie Aragon still has a lot of young girls who can play.
28. (28) Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) 26-7
Head coach Jackie Turpin and her girls had a big win over Long Beach Poly last season but they faltered as the Southern Regional Division I top-seed fell to M.L. King in the quarterfinals. The Dons are still going to be very formidable but the No. 2 team from the CIF San Diego Section is still very young and will be led by outstanding 6-foot-3 sophomore post Isuneh “Ice” Brady who averaged 16.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Cathedral Catholic has one game in the books and it was a 65-63 loss on the road at the Orangewood Academy team they fall in behind.
29. (NR) Bonita Vista (Chula Vista) 18-11
Our sources in San Diego had the Barons ahead of Cathedral Catholic because of the transfer of Selena Peterson from Mount Miguel but we’re going to flip it for now since Peterson, who looked very good when we saw her at the San Diego Classic over the summer, has to observe the mandatory 30-day sit-out. Head coach Tristan Lamb gains Peterson but lost some senior scoring, but he still has some girls who can play and two names to look for are junior guard and last year’s leading scorer Julia Cosolan (15.3 ppg) and 6-foot junior wing Keyanna McCoy.
30. (40) Menlo (Atherton) 26-5
Last year’s CIF Division II state champions move up a bit and the reason is veteran head coach John Paye returns every single contributor from last year’s team. The West Catholic Athletic League has dominated the CIF Central Coast Section and Menlo has had its problems with Pinewood over the years, and although the Knights are starting below Pinewood here and in other analysts’ pecking order, this could be the year Paye and his girls have a good chance at beating Pinewood. All his top players are back led by sophomore Avery Lee (16.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.8 apg, 3.2 bpg). Two other girls to look for are 5-foot-10 sophomore Sharon Nejad and junior Coco Layton. Nejad averaged 12.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game and Layton was at 9.9 points 5.6 rebounds per game.
31. (NR) Bishop’s (La Jolla) 19-12
Head coach Marlon Wells and his girls made some noise last season, including a win over St. Joseph Notre Dame, but they were very young and up and down like a yo-yo, but with the group he returns the No. 4 team from the CIF San Diego Section certainly deserves a spot in the preseason rankings. Wells losses one senior but his two leading scorers, the sophomore duo of flashy point guard Angie Robles (16.7 ppg) and three-point shooting guard Renee Chong, are back as is 6-foot-3 junior Jada Davis-Mack.
32. (NR) Folsom 21-7
The Bulldogs were supplanted from the pecking order of ranked teams at the end of last season and fell behind McClatchy and Sacramento, but they’re back to No. 2 in the greater Sacramento area and No. 3 in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section with the most interesting outside/inside combination in the state of 5-foot-3 junior guard Charity Gallegos and 6-foot-6 Santa Clara-bound Katie Harris. We’re not bringing in head coach Lynn Wolking and his girls too high but this team could be a sleeper.
33. (NR) Rolling Hills Prep (San Pedro) 27-5
This is the team that lost to preseason No. 30 Menlo School 70-63 in last year’s CIF D2 state final and returns two standout players. Junior center Clarice Akunwafo dominated the inside with 18.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game and there’s also four-year starter Aly Maxey (15.0 ppg) back at guard. Sophomore guard Tatum Tamashiro also got better and better after Maxey’s backcourt mate since her freshman season, Macy Pakele, suffered a season-ending knee injury in December. If Pakele is back to full strength, that will only make the Huskies that much better. They’ll be in the CIFSS D1 playoff grouping this season, though, which will make returning to state more difficult.
34. (33) Christian (El Cajon) 21-10
The No. 5 team from the CIF San Diego Section comes in near where they finished and should be very solid this year as head coach Vickie Carrington returns her three top scorers, 5-foot-11 senior wing Allie Carreon (14.9 ppg 6.2 rpg, 5.0 assists), 5-foot-11 senior wing Simone James (14.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and junior point guard Kristin Williams. Last year’s team played well in an eight-point loss to Cathedral Catholic in the CIFSDS Open Division semifinals before bowing out in the Southern Regionals to M.L. King.
35. (38) San Ramon Valley (Danville) 26-5
It may or may not be the case but the way we see it head coach John Cristiano and his Wolves come into the season as the top team in the East Bay Athletic League and some other analysts and pecking orders have the girls higher than Folsom and Menlo, but we don’t quite see it that way based on their strength of schedule from last season and which teams they have scheduled this season. Even so, they come up four spots from their final ranking from last season. Cristiano only graduated two seniors so he brings back a lot of solid contributors led by standout senior guard Paige Gerhart.
36. (NR) Roosevelt (Eastvale) 27-6
Here’s another Inland Empire club that we like a lot. The attraction begins at center where the Mustangs will feature 6-foot-5 senior Ugonne Onyiah. She’s been in the top 40 on some Class of 2020 recruiting lists and recently committed to Cal. But there’s more. Roosevelt also has junior guard Jaachi Nwanevu. She had 33 points and 17 rebounds when the Mustangs topped Bonita Vista of Chula Vista in the CIF SoCal D2 playoffs. They’ve already begun this season with a victory over Palisades of Pacific Palisades.
37. (37) Valley Christian (San Jose) 17-10
The consensus among analysts and we agree with it is the Warriors girls will be the No. 2 team in the West Catholic Athletic League this season and when you look at it on paper it makes perfect sense. Head coach Chris McSwain lost his second leading scorer Nyah Willis, but he is a good coach and returns a solid core of players led by senior guard and leading scorer Fallon Dexheimer who averaged 14.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.4 steals a game. Other names to look for are flashy sophomore guard Jadyn Patterson and junior guards Nina Barry and Kelly Seymour.
38. (NR) San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno) 27-6
We wanted to get a third team written up from the CIF Central Section after Clovis North and Clovis West and went with the Panthers, partly because they got a win last year over a Clovis team that returns four starters and also should be very solid this season. SJM, which opens the season on Dec. 6 going up against No. 3 Mitty, has its top two scorers back led by junior Macie James at 11.7 ppg. She also is getting Pac-12 offers. Angela Whitfield is the other one with 11.1 ppg.
39. (39) St. Ignatius (San Francisco) 16-11
The Wildcats lost their best player but of all the teams we looked at for the last couple of spots it became apparent head coach Mike Mulkerrins returned the most talent from a team that tied for third place last year in the West Catholic Athletic League, plus he does an excellent job as a coach. Three top players to look for are senior star Rachel Harvey and fellow senior Angie McAdams plus rising junior Emily Jones. Mulkerrins and his girls will be venturing to Spokane, Washington the first weekend in December to play in the Fitz at Ferris High.
40. (NR) Oakland Tech (Oakland) 30-6
We realize Tech was only the CIF Division IV champion last year, so bringing the Bulldogs in with the big dogs night be a stretch, but not to some other analysts queried who feel this is their spot in the preseason pecking order. They already have a loss to Cardinal Newman but were competitive in a 15-point loss to a loaded Cardinals squad. With so many teams from last year’s final rankings losing most or all of their talent, Tech gets the nod for a spot. They lose one senior top scorer but everyone else is back, including 6-foot senior forward Stephanie Okowi (12.5 ppg), who turned some head heads at Golden 1 in the D4 title game.
TEAMS ON THE BUBBLE
Carondelet (Concord) 26-5
Del Oro (Loomis) 23-7
Fairmont Prep (Anaheim) 15-15
Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 18-9
Palo Alto 23-5
Santiago (Corona) 20-9
St. Patrick-St. Vincent (Vallejo) 27-4
West Campus (Sacramento) 16-15
To check out the teams we ranked from No. 1 to No. 15, CLICK HERE.
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