There’s been a handful of squads that have already hit the court, but we’re still calling it preseason for the rankings and writeups that are below. Just like the boys, Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth has a CIF Open Division defending state champion that has a loaded roster on the girls side and starts out at No. 1. And also just like boys, look which school is sitting at No. 2 in the state to start for the girls: Mater Dei of Santa Ana. It’s not quite the same after that as Archbishop Mitty of San Jose and La Jolla Country Day are in the next two spots. So how can Mitty be that high with the amazing Haley Jones now at Stanford? Go inside to find out as well as breakdowns for teams No. 1 through No. 15 in our preseason State Top 40.
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For a look at the teams we’ve ranked from No. 16 to No. 40, plus 20 more on the bubble, CLICK HERE.
For last season’s final state rankings, CLICK HERE.
2019-20 CAL-HI SPORTS PRESEASON
GIRLS BASKETBALL STATE RANKINGS
(This is the 39th consecutive season that CalHiSports.com will provide state rankings in girls basketball; Last year’s final rating in parentheses with 2018-19 won-loss record)
(Cal-Hi Sports co-founder and editor Mark Tennis contributed to these rankings)
1. (1) Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 33-1
When a team wins the CIF Open Division state championship and is No. 1 to end the season, and brings back just about all its talent as Trailblazers head coach Alicia Komaki does, it’s pretty much a slam dunk they will be the No. 1 team to start the preseason, and until someone beats Sierra Canyon the catbird seat belongs to Komaki and her girls. So with the Sierra Canyon boys starting at No. 1, the San Fernando Valley private school sweeps the top spots of the preseason rankings. CIF Southern Section Co-Player of the Year and Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalist Vanessa De Jesus (15.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.8 apg), whose numbers would be higher if not for getting pulled early in several Gold Coast blowouts, is back for her senior season and has committed to Duke. Fellow senior and backcourt mate Ashley Chevalier (13.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.3 apg) returns and is committed to Texas. Those two will be early candidates for Ms. Basketball this year. The third returning star is Boise State committed 6-foot-2 Alexis Mark (12.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg). Without a doubt, that trio is the top 1-2-3 punch in the state. With what she has, Komaki isn’t ducking anyone as she and her girls will be heading to Texas at the end of this week for the Sandra Meadows Hoopfest. From there, they return to host their own tournament the first week of December. Then they play state-ranked Rosary of Fullerton before heading to the Nike TOC in Phoenix where they will almost assuredly be in the top division, and finally they come to Northern California and grace the West Coast Jamboree where the Trailblazers will be on the opposite side of the Platinum Division bracket from No. 2 Mater Dei of Santa Ana. Outside of Gold Coast League play that includes No. 10 Windward, Sierra Canyon also has games scheduled with top teams Long Beach Poly, Cathedral Catholic and Chaminade. Sierra Canyon already has a game in the books and it was a 68-61 over Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood.
2. (6) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 28-5
Of the five losses by Mater Dei last year, four were to CIFSS or CIF Open Division teams Etiwanda, Redondo Union, Windward and Clovis West, and the Monarchs avenged the loss to Etiwanda. Their only other loss was 69-66 to national No. 11 and New York No. 1 Christ the King in a game they could have won. The Monarchs were unable to get past Clovis West in the Southern Regional Open Division playoffs, but they posted a solid 54-48 win on the road at Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) in the first round. Head coach Kevin Kiernan, who is now the all-time coaching leader in California according to the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book after passing Joe Vaughn last season (761 wins at Ventura Buena, 1976-2007) and finishing the season with 775 career wins, returns 10 players from last year’s roster, including the best player in the state according many girls basketball recruiting analysts in Brooke Demetre. The State Sophomore of the Year, Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalist and overwhelming choice as Orange County Player of the Year will be one of several early candidates for Ms. Basketball this season. The 6-foot-3 Stanford-committed Demetre, who is listed as a guard but can play any position on the court, led a very balanced Monarchs team in scoring at 14.6 points per game, rebounding at 6.6 rebounds a game, blocks at 1.8 per game, and was second in assists and steals at 3.3 and 2.1 per game, respectively. Not many players listed as a guard had the six double-doubles Demetre had last season. Other top returners include junior guard Alyssa Frescas (12.1 ppg, 2.3 apg), who has several D1 offers, 6-foot-1 junior power forward Meaali’i Amosa (5.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg), who is starting to get some college interest, senior guard Camryn Kiernan, the coach’s daughter who is committed to play at Concordia University for her mother and Eagles head coach Christine Collins-Kiernan. A transfer to look for who many analysts think could be one of the top sophomore guards in the state after she sits out, is Soleil Montrose. Mater Dei opens on Monday with Bishop Montgomery at the Battle at the Beach at Redondo Union, then the Troy Classic in Fullerton, and then it heads to Hawaii for the Iolani Classic. The team also travels north and is on the opposite side of No. 1 Sierra Canyon in the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree, and before starting Trinity League play will host the Matt Denning Hoops Classic. Centennial of Las Vegas, No. 5 nationally and No. 1 in Nevada last season, will be one of the opponents.
3. (3) Archbishop Mitty
(San Jose) 25-3
Miss Everything Haley Jones is off to Stanford and head coach Sue Phillips lost other talent as well, and the Monarchs likely would have been behind Mater Dei at No. 3 had the second best player on last year’s team, senior Hunter Hernandez, not injured her knee in July. She may or may not be able to play this season. Even so, all the analysts queried have Mitty as the top team in Northern California and we can’t disagree, not with Phillips at the helm and with what she does have, and she’s loaded. She turns girls into players and just seems to keep doing it year after year to the tune of 692 career coaching victories, 12 CIF NorCal and six CIF state championships. Like the analysts we queried when it comes to stats from last year, it’s almost irrelevant since Jones had the ball in her hands so much and other girls like juniors Marley Langi and Olivia Williams were biding their time to take the spotlight, and both have looked good in summer and fall ball. The culture of Mitty basketball is almost like De La Salle football where players are quietly groomed to step in and step up and Phillips has the formula perfected. Some other names to look for are senior point guard Ashley Hiraki, junior forward Katie Springs, junior forward Amelia Scharpf, junior wing Sydney Bourland and sophomore point guard Siena Guttadauro. Phillips and her girls don’t start play until December 6 and shortly thereafter they go to the Nike TOC in Phoenix and then come back to play in the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
4. (19) La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 22-12
Before she had a slew of injuries over the first three years of her career, a basketball official in the CIF San Diego Section once used this in describing Te-hina Paopao: “Paopao, pow, pow, pow.” Now Paopao is back for her senior year but she’s not the 5-foot-8 player she was back then. She’s 5-10 and much bigger and stronger and there may not be a player in the state who can handle her even with defensive help. She’s listed as a point guard but she can play anywhere and last season Paopao averaged 17.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.4 steals per game and shortly after the season was over she committed to Oregon. Just having Paopao would still not be enough to elevate head coach Terri Bamford and her girls all the way to No. 3 in the state, however. It’s what Bamford has added in her arsenal, and that is 6-foot-3 freshman post Breya Cunningham, who is drawing raves from SoCal coaches and analysts and who Bamford described over the summer as the best post as an incoming freshman she’s ever had. She will be one of the early candidates for State Freshman of the Year. Another player that should be even better than she has been her first two years is point guard Jazzy Anousinh. She averaged 12.0 points, 4.9 assists, 2.2 rebounds and 1.9 steals a game last season. The Torreys open with the Mark Keppel tournament followed by their own Sweet 16 tournament and then the Nike TOC, the SoCal Holiday Prep Classic and then face Nevada powerhouse Centennial at the Mater Dei Matt Denning Classic.
5. (10) Etiwanda 26-6
The highest ranked public school and the top team from the Inland Empire to end last season starts out there again, and as predicted in the final rankings as a team that could start much higher, and they do. Head coach Stan Delus is one of the top young coaches in Southern California and despite losing some top talent, Delus returns his second-best player from last year’s team, flashy senior point guard Joy Campbell, plus 10 other players, including what could become the Inland Empire version of twin towers, in 6-foot-2 senior post Nnenna Orji and 6-foot-1 senior forward Destiny Okwonko. Etiwanda opens with No. 19 Corona Centennial at the Battle of the Beach at Redondo Union and then plays in the Troy Classic followed by the SoCal Holiday Classic.
6. (14) Rosary Academy (Fullerton) 27-8
We had said in the final rankings from last year that the Royals would start higher here than where they finished and if senior Kate Goostrey had not suffered a knee injury, and rising sophomore Soleil Montrose not transferred to Mater Dei, head coach Richard Yoon and his girls would have been No. 3, but even without those two they are still going to be very good. Senior guard Asia Avinger (10.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 6.3 apg) turned some heads in the Royals’ 75-58 state CIF Division I victory last year over Bishop O’Dowd when she dropped in 24 points with six rebounds and three assists. Avinger, who will be one of the top guards in the state, will be joined in the backcourt by senior Nicole Rodriguez (10.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg) to give Yoon the second best backcourt on paper to start the season behind Sierra Canyon. Another player to look for is sophomore Kaylee Byon (10.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.2 apg). Rosary opens with the Troy tournament and also faces Sierra Canyon and state No. 10 Windward before opening Trinity League action against No. 2 Mater Dei.
7. (13) St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 22-8
The Pilots jump up from last year’s finish and are the No. 2 team from Northern California, and as predicted from last season the top team from the CIF North Coast Section. Head coach Shawn Hipol returns just about everyone and he gains back a player with the return of 6-foot senior Sophie Nilsson from missing last year with an injury. The Pilots will be led by senior Malia Mastora (14.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.6 spg), blossoming sophomore Talana Lepolo (7.9 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.1 rpg, 2.5 spg), plus three other girls who averaged over five points a game, juniors Makena Mastora and Ariez Pimentel, and senior Maila Lepolo. Another name to look for is 6-foot junior post Kalia Coverson. We should get an indication of how good St. Joe’s is when they play in the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree, and then in early January they face Archbishop Mitty on the road.
8. (17) St. Mary’s (Stockton) 22-9
Another team that comes way up because of what they return and add is the Rams, the No. 3 team from Northern California and the top team from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. Of all the young teams in the state, the Rams may return the most talent and have some incoming new girls as well. Amaya Oliver, a 6-foot-2 forward who came back from injury, is at full strength for her senior season according to head coach Tom Gonsalves. Sophomore 6-foot-5 post Ashley Lewis is looking exceptional according to Gonsalves, flashy sophomore guard Tai Sherman, who turned some heads as a freshman and fellow sophomore guard Sofia Lee, all return. Another player Gonsalves is looking at for production this season is sophomore Arianna Webb. If that isn’t enough, the Rams have two of the top incoming freshmen in Northern California, Brooklyn Perry, a point guard who looked exceptional during the summer, and fellow point guard Nia Anderson.
9. (12) Clovis North (Fresno) 25-6
The pressure of getting their first win over arch-rival Clovis West since head coach Heather Long took the helm for the 2012-2013 season is gone and now the Broncos get to start in the top 10 and as the top team from the CIF Central Section. Some talent did graduate but Long returns her two top leading scorers, senior and Tri-Rivers Athletic Conference Co-MVP Savannah Tucker (20.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg), and 2018 State Sophomore of the Year Rowan Hein (12.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 4.7 apg, 3.3 spg), plus others like sophomore Asha Sra, junior Laney Amundsen, and junior Taylor Pacheco. Long will be taking her girls to the Nike TOC in Phoenix and then comes up to Northern California to play in the West Coast Jamboree. The Broncos were going to be top 10 even if they hadn’t already won three games, including a 66-63 win at No. 16 Redondo Union.
10. (4) Windward (Los Angeles) 26-6
The Wildcats can’t replace 2018 Ms. Basketball State Player if the Year and finalist from last year, Charisma Osborne, but head coach Vanessa Nygaard, who in almost every analyst’s opinion is one of the top girls basketball coaches in the state, will have one of the top returning players in Southern California with McKayla Williams (13.0 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.0 apg) returning for her senior season. Windward has to drop with Osborne off to UCLA but Nygaard may have her replacement if 5-foot-11 freshman wing Juju Watkins is as good as every analyst who has seen her play says she is. After watching some highlight reel film (we usually don’t like to do that), we can’t argue. Watkins will be an early candidate for State Freshman of the Year. Windward has already played and won two games and is next in action at the Redondo Union Battle at the Beach.
11. (15) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 24-10
The defending Northern Regional Division I champion Dragons lost some talent, but they still start out four spots higher then they finished and come in as the No. 4 team in Northern California and the No. 2 team from the CIF North Coast Section. After fighting through injuries last season, 6-foot wing Kennedy Johnson (14.7 ppg) is back and according to head coach Malik McCord is at full strength and looking very good. Sophomore 6-foot wing Amaya Bonner (12.8 ppg) is back and along with Johnson gives McCord a very solid 1-2 punch. Leading rebounder Kayla Hankins is out until January with an injury but that’s the only negative for the Dragons. According to McCord, senior Jenna Kilty is playing with a lot more confidence and he has a group of players that were developed at the JV level last year that have come up and are hungry and have added energy to the team. O’Dowd is at the Nike TOC and then plays in the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
12. (21) M.L. King (Riverside) 31-3
This is another young team, which we saw in the CIF Southern Section D1 title game last season where they lost to Chaminade, but from there the Wolves had a great playoff run before they lost by four points to La Jolla Country Day in the CIF Southern Regional Division I semifinals. The reason head coach Jesus Martinez and his girls come up so high is because all four of his top players return, senior Olivia Moran (14.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg) her twin Nyah Moran (11.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg), flashy junior guard Alexis Mead (11.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.1 apg, 2.8 spg) and senior guard Raya Smith (10.9 ppg, 5.3 apg, 2.9 spg, 2.9 rpg). The No. 2 team from the Inland Empire already has played four games and has one loss, 72-68 on the road, at No. 10 Windward. They now face No. 2 Mater Dei at the Troy Classic.
13. (22) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 21-11
The Jackrabbits hop up nine spots from where they finished last season after a four-point loss to No. 6 Rosary in the Southern Regional Division I quarterfinals. We saw veteran head coach Carl Buggs and his girls at the San Diego Classic last summer where they won the 3A Division and looked very good even though they were missing several players. Buggs, who comes into the season with 522 career coaching victories, has five of the six leading scorers from last season returning led by senior Ashlee Lewis (9.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg), junior Simone Morris (9.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and the coach’s daughter, junior floor general Kalaya Buggs (7.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.8 spg, 2.8 apg). Lewis and Buggs were particularly impressive at the San Diego Classic with the 6-foot-2 Lewis dominating the paint in every game, and this season should give the Jackrabbits a very solid inside/outside game.
14. (27) Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 24-6
The Cardinals were the victim of an upset in the opening round of the 2019 CIF D1 NorCal playoffs, but that was then and this is now, and a lot has changed. Head coach Monica Mertle, who many consider one of the top coaches in Northern California, lost one senior but everyone else returns plus more. Smooth and flashy UC Santa Barbara-committed guard Anya Choice is back for her senior season and she looked excellent over the summer. Senior three-point specialist Christina Bacci is back as is junior standout Aysia Dural. With nearby Rincon Valley Christian closing, Mertle picked up a big girl when 6-foot-2 Point Loma Nazarene-signed Elizabeth Chambers enrolled at Newman, and she will give the Cardinals a presence in the paint they haven’t had the last few seasons. Another reason Mertle and her girls move up is the return of junior Mariah Harris. She was 6-7 on the depth chart as a freshman before losing her home in the Santa Rosa fires and moving away. She’s back living in Santa Rosa and looked very good at the San Diego Classic where Newman looked very good without Chambers. Newman already has a 15-pint win over defending state CIF D4 champion Oakland Tech. Next week, the Cardinals host their Cardinal Newman Classic and they will be in the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
15. (16) Miramonte (Orinda) 28-4
A lack of size hurt the Mats in two losses to Bishop O’Dowd last season in the CIFNCS D3 title game and again in the NorCal Division I quarterfinals, but head coach Kelly Sopak is a nationally recognized coach and he returns all his top talent led by junior wing Mia Mastrov (15.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.0 spg), who some say may show she’s the top player in the North Coast Section this season, and senior Rebecca Welsh (13.8 ppg, 4.0 apg), who made 102 three-pointers and is on a pace to break the school record of 298 treys set by 2016 Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year and current Oregon phenom Sabrina Ionescu. Other top returners are senior Erin Tarasow (10.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 69 three-pointers), and junior Jordan Allred (10.4 ppg, 74 three-pointers). Sopak and his girls will be hosting the Peyo Tip-off Classic and are in the Diamond Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
For a look at the teams we’ve ranked from No. 16 to No. 40, plus 20 more on the bubble, 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