Boys/Girls BB Pairings Reactions

Mater Dei of Santa Ana point guard Devin Askew (left) looks to get around Sierra Canyon’s Harold Yu during last Saturday’s CIFSS Open Division boys final. At right is Aptos senior Natalia Ackerman, who helped her team cruise to CCS D3 crown. Photos: Scott Kurtz / kurtzphoto & Juan Reyes / The Pajaronian.


There is some shock in the basketball community with all of the first-round byes for the Open Divisions, but with the way the results came in for the entire season so far and with the rise of competitive equity as an overriding factor in the seedings for all CIF playoff sports, it was a direction we thought was going to happen. We go through each of the regional brackets with teams to watch, teams that got the short end of the stick and top matchups for the first round.

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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA BOYS

Open Division
Two-time defending state champion Sierra Canyon collected the top seed and along with the team the Trailblazers defeated in the CIF Southern Section Open Division final, Mater Dei of Santa Ana, received a first-round bye. All six teams in the bracket, in fact, are from the CIFSS Open Division. An upset of L.A. City Open favorite Fairfax (Los Angeles) and an auto accident that seriously injured standout Obinna Anyanwu of CIF San Diego Section Open Division champion Cathedral Catholic were other likely factors that contributed to the Open Division winners of those two sections not being mixed up with the impressive group of six from the CIFSS. No. 3 seed Etiwanda playing No. 6 Rancho Christian in the first round is a matchup of Inland Empire powerhouses that haven’t played this season. That unfortunately also set up a third matchup between Harvard-Westlake (Studio City) and Centennial (Corona). According to reports, Anyanwu suffered a collapsed lung and other injuries in the accident, which occurred only a few hours after he had 18 points in title game win against Torrey Pines.

Division I
The seventh and eighth teams from the CIF Southern Section Open Division, St. John Bosco of Bellflower and St. Anthony of Long Beach, are the top two seeds. The two San Diego Open finalists, Cathedral Catholic and Torrey Pines, were next, although CIFSS D1 champion Windward and CIFSS D2AA champion Santa Clarita Valley Christian have both been ranked higher by Cal-Hi Sports and others. L.A. City Open winner Westchester, which reversed two earlier losses in getting a surprisingly easy win over arch-rival Fairfax in the title game on Saturday, will open as a No. 9 seed against Ribet Academy, last year’s D4 state champion and this year’s CIFSS D2A titlist. Some in the media seemed surprised to see Ribet in D1, but for us we were surprised the Frogs were seeded so low. That’s just the kind of depth there is right now for top teams in the CIFSS.

Division II
After just losing 61-39 to Santa Clarita Valley Christian, putting St. Francis of La Canada as the top seed in the next division (while not having SCC higher in D1) didn’t make a lot of sense. For those situations, we just prefer the team that lost in a section final being in the same division for state as the team that won. No. 4 seed Hesperia, which came close to upsetting Ribet Academy in its section final, looks like it is in a good spot to do a lot of damage in this bracket.

Division III
It’s great to see a school from the Palm Springs area atop this bracket. Shadow Hills starts the regional at 29-3 after it topped Price of Los Angeles 69-54 for the CIFSS D3A crown. It’s that school’s first title and only the fifth-ever for the desert region. L.A. City Section teams Gardena and Taft of Woodland Hills, seeded No. 2 and No. 4 respectively, have played stronger overall schedules and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the two play each other in the regional final.

Division IV
Top seed Aquinas of San Bernardino will try to reach the state finals in boys basketball after getting there for the D2-AA state final in football a few months ago. The Saints lost in the CIFSS D2A title game to Renaissance Academy, which is in a higher regional division. Speaking of state football finalists, No. 5 seed Bakersfield Christian is a squad we really like for this bracket. The Eagles (23-6) were the D3A state champion in football and have big-time grid-hoopers (especially Stanford-bound TE/DE Ben Yurosek), which usually means those guys take some time getting used to basketball after playing football into December. Bakersfield Christian won the Central Section D3 title over Hoover of Fresno.

Division V
We’ve seen larger city schools from San Francisco do well in this bracket in the past and there are two L.A. City schools that seem to be in a good situation for this group. That would be Roosevelt of Los Angeles and San Fernando, which are the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds. Eastside of Lancaster (15-13) earned the top seed. This was the division that had Foothill of Bakersfield in it last year, which looked odd given its school size and the division it came from in the Central Section. We thought the Trojans would roll to the state title and they did. There’s no such strangeness for this bracket.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA BOYS

Open Division
We didn’t think it would actually happen, but in our breakdowns of these teams heading into the various section finals we liked the idea of just five teams in it. Sending teams into an Open Division for potential mis-matches against a team like Sheldon of Sacramento (No. 4 overall in the state) just didn’t seem to work. It did happen. Sheldon survived an upset bid by Capital Christian of Sacramento last Friday, Clovis West got upset in the Central Section Open Division final and neither Capital Christian or Salesian of Richmond wound up with the overall resumes to go up, either. It’ll therefore be Sheldon, Archbishop Mitty and Bishop O’Dowd with byes and then it’ll be the NCS and CCS Open runner-ups, Dublin and Bellarmine of San Jose, playing each other in a lone first-round game.

Head coach Brad Roznovsky directed team at San Joaquin Memorial to the first-ever CIF Central Section Open Division title. Photo: Mark Tennis.


Division I
It’ll be almost a two-week span in between games for top seed Archbishop Riordan of San Francisco. The Crusaders were in a three-way tie with NorCal Open teams Bellarmine and Mitty in league, but were upset in the CCS Open quarterfinals by St. Francis (Mountain View). Capital Christian was seeded second based on having a head-to-head win over Salesian of Richmond (seeded third). The curious aspect of the bracket shows Central Section Open champion San Joaquin Memorial as a No. 13 seed playing at No. 4 De La Salle while the team the Panthers just beat, Clovis West of Fresno, is getting a home game as a No. 8 seed to play Sac-Joaquin Section D3 winner and No. 9 Vanden (Fairfield).

Division II
The top seed went to a Granada of Livermore squad that lost to De La Salle in the NCS D1 championship, but it could have gone to No. 2 St. Patrick-St. Vincent, which has better wins, including one against Central Section Open champ San Joaquin Memorial. Sac-Joaquin D1 school Weston Ranch (seeded fourth) also shows that this should be a tricky bracket to predict. The Cougars haven’t been as good as expected this season compared to last year’s Open Division squad, but they do have a win over St. Patrick-St. Vincent at the Crush In the Valley event.

Division III
Palo Alto was in the D1 NorCal finals just two years ago so at 23-4 this season and getting placed in D3 makes the Vikings a serious contender. They are the top seed and also will be looking to win the school’s third CIF state title (1993, 2006). Anytime there is a WCAL team from the CCS dropping down in the NorCal brackets to D3 that’s also presents a big problem for everyone else. St. Ignatius is that squad and is the second seed.

Division IV
Also two years ago, Stuart Hall of San Francisco was in a NorCal final, but the Knights won the D4 regional title and then lost to View Park of Los Angeles to decide the D4 state crown. Stuart Hall is the top seed for this bracket after defeating Clear Lake of Lakeport for the NCS D5 title. A team to watch is No. 8 Brookside Christian of Stockton, which won its divisional title in the Sac-Joaquin Section and is playing with the knowledge that this will be the program’s final season. The campus and buildings were recently purchased by the Lincoln Unified School District and will be converted to a middle school.

Division V
This is the last true small school bracket left in the state. It could be argued that Christopher of Gilroy isn’t a small school (medium), but top seed Pierce of Arbuckle (25-4) along with No. 2 Bradshaw Christian and No. 3 Domenico of San Rafael clearly are small schools.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GIRLS

Open Division
Just like the boys in the south, the pairings pretty much went as we thought after La Jolla Country Day won the CIF San Diego Section Open Division championship on Saturday night. The Torreys, ranked No. 1 in the state and nation, got the No. 1 seed and because No. 8 would have had to been the team they just beat, Cathedral Catholic, it only made sense that they got a first-round bye. We probably wouldn’t have had Centennial of Corona fifth, but by putting Sierra Canyon sixth that made it possible to have the defending Open Division state champs play their league rivals from Windward in the first round plus it’ll be Centennial against Etiwanda.

Kennedy Johnson of Bishop O’Dowd and Savannah Felix of Rosary lock arms while battling for position during CIF D2 state final. Photo: Willie Eashman.


Division I
Cathedral Catholic owning a head-to-head win over Rosary of Fullerton (the seventh team in line from among the CIFSS Open teams) made it easy for the CIF to give the Dons the top seed. Rosary also will be able to defend the state title it won in this division last season. The game to watch in the first round may be Orangewood Academy (No. 8) hosting Bonita Vista of Chula Vista (No. 9). Orangewood won the CIFSS D2AA title over league rival Fairmont Prep and has two wins against Cathedral Catholic. The Spartans could have their hands full with Bonita Vista, though, which only lost 48-46 to La Jolla Country in the San Diego Section Open Division playoffs.

Division II
Moore League member Wilson of Long Beach, which is led by Ashley Hawkins and her 19.5 ppg average, came through with an OT win over Eisenhower of Rialto in the CIFSS D3A final and was given the top seed. The Bruins are used to playing Long Beach Poly in that league and are 25-8 overall. Palisades (Pacific Palisades) and Bakersfield are starting with the bracket’s other top seeds.

Division III
After losing to Arroyo Grande in the CIF Central Section D2 final, Righetti of Santa Maria (23-4) was slotted with the top seed. It seems like Burroughs of Burbank (25-4), the second seed, just as easily could have been there. A team that deserved better was Central Section D3 champion Porterville (31-2), which has to travel to CIFSS D3A runner-up Eisenhower of Rialto, which only lost in its section final in overtime. Porterville rolled in its section final, 65-39, over Arvin. It would have been nice to see that team get a more fair seeding especially after the library fire in that town last week that killed two firefighters.

Division IV
For selfish reasons, the team we’d like to see eventually winning the regional title in this bracket and getting to Sacramento for the state bracket would be No. 2 seed Ontario Christian (29-3). That’s only because we’d like to see freshman scoring sensation Chloe Briggs. She’s been leading the state almost from the first few weeks and has been averaging more than 34 ppg. Lancaster is actually the top seed.

Division V
We’ve got to admit seeing East Bakersfield down in D5 and sitting at No. 4 in the south makes us think about the run of the Bakersfield Foothill boys winning the D5 state title last season. The Blades (19-9) have a shot to do the same. Most of their losses are in league to teams from higher divisions. They won the Central Section D5 title with a 43-39 win against Strathmore. Top seed San Jacinto Valley Academy (17-2) lost to Artesia of Lakewood in the CIFSS D5AA championship. Marshall of Los Angeles, not exactly a small school either, is seeded second.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA GIRLS

Open Division
Probably the one boys or girls team that in our view got treated the worst (and just can’t see why) would be the St. Mary’s girls of Stockton. The Rams easily could have been the No. 2 seed in this bracket, but instead got slammed down to fourth. It looks like all the CIF did was go by one loss to Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland in putting the Rams (and Clovis West) behind St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda, the NCS Open winner. But St. Joe has more losses, one that was 72-39 to top seed Archbishop Mitty. Plus, St. Mary’s routed Miramonte of Orinda after that O’Dowd game and then Miramonte beat O’Dowd. We warned Rams’ head coach Tom Gonsalves about the CIF perhaps putting Clovis West higher because they’d notice the one loss to Clovis North (by one point) compared to Clovis West having a 3-0 record against the same team. But Clovis West also has a loss to Rosary of Fullerton (a team St. Mary’s beat) and the Rams later beat Clovis North by 20. Don’t underestimate that some folks in the CIF noticed that St. Mary’s had a 114-18 playoff win over Turlock and that this seeding was influenced by it. Mitty, the big favorite, will be waiting for the St. Mary’s-Cardinal Newman first round winner after getting a bye.

Oakland Tech head coach LeRoy Hurt looks out onto the court during last year’s D4 state final. Photo: Willie Eashman.


Division I
We’ve had both Salesian of Richmond and Bishop O’Dowd ranked higher than Clovis North, but also thought there was a good chance the CIF would notice Clovis North has a win over NCS runner-up Cardinal Newman and might uplift the Broncos into the NorCal Open Division. Clovis North, though, has struggled in its matchups with Clovis West (including the one just played for the Central Section Open Division title) and it wasn’t moved up. Salesian is the top seed, O’Dowd is second and Clovis North third. Antelope, the Sac-Joaquin D2 champ and generally thought to be the section’s second best overall team behind St. Mary’s, was only given a No. 8 seed in this group.

Division II
Last year’s D4 state champion, Oakland Tech, is going to begin this year’s regional playoffs as the top seed in the north in D2. Given some of the Bulldogs’ wins, they could have been brought up all the way into D1. This is a good spot for them. Sac-Joaquin D2 runner-up Del Oro of Loomis, coming from one of the toughest leagues in Northern California (Oak Ridge, Granite Bay, Folsom, etc.), and 27-3 Laguna Creek (which Del Oro edged by a bucket in te SJS D2 semis) also are teams to watch. Those are the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds. Clovis is seeded second.

Division III
Menlo-Atherton (17-10), which reversed a 20-point loss from earlier in the season in beating Palo Alto, 34-32, for the CCS D1 title, gained the top seed and will be tough to beat in this field. The Vikings are only seeded sixth. To us, the CCS has another strong contender in this bracket even though Aptos (25-4) was only given a No. 8 seed. The Mariners won the CCS D3 title easily over Mills of Millbrae, 57-30, their last loss was to D1 Pinewood and they have a win over Palo Alto.

Division IV
Led by Grace Bliss, one of our recent NorCal Players of the Week, Colfax (27-4) looks like the favorite and is the top seed. It’s a team that easily could have been brought up to D3 and since that didn’t happen that should be viewed as good news by Falcon fans. Colfax clobbered Golden Sierra of Garden Valley 66-23 to win the SJS D5 title. Hanford of the Central Section is the No. 3 seed and Northern Section D2/D3 champion Pleasant Valley of Chico is only in D4 as well. The Vikings played for the D2 state title just two seasons ago.

Division V
West Valley of Cottonwood (23-8) is the top seed, but the team that stands out the most to us is No. 2 Branson of Ross. The Bulls (22-8) have several D5 state titles in their history, they’re used to playing tough competition in the Marin County Athletic League and they are coming off of a 61-32 rout of Oakland Head-Royce in the NCS D5 final. Monte Vista Christian of Watsonville is the No. 3 seed.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports


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4 Comments

  1. phil60
    Posted March 2, 2020 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    First they stop having regional finals at a single venue, now this. I see why it was done, but having 5 byes and only 3 games in the boys Open? Ugh! Is this carrying competitive equity too far? Plus there are some questionable seedings based on the Cal Hi rankings in D1 – Ribet, Windward, Chaminade, SC Christian, JSerra, and Westchester only at 9 (they are a different team now it appears). What were they thinking with these seedings? Finally, they should change the name of the Southern Regionals to the Southern Section Regionals.

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted March 4, 2020 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      The Southern Section created the situation with the byes by going to its eight-team Open Division, and then those eight teams also become the top eight teams just about in the entire state. Bosco was the seventh team in that bracket and had a 63-47 win over Fairfax. You can’t have every team from the CIFSS Open in the SoCal Open so there’s not much the state can do other than to seed it so the finalists get byes and the top two seeds.

  2. walter guanella
    Posted March 2, 2020 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    St Marys Stockton got the worst seeding? Seriously?
    Cause of the top 13 seeded teams in the North girls only Cardinal Newman goes on the road and as the 5 seed has no chance at ANY home games. And they are the only non section champ in the Open. And Clovis North who beat the Cards h2h(as you mentioned in your pre-seedings article) somehow got seeded behind them in D1. Why not just go 4 teams in North Open? And bump everyone down one. In essence the North Open got a play in game between SM and CN.

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted March 4, 2020 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      They currently have 85 teams to fill in for the north and south brackets for all divisions and currently can’t do that and have four teams only in the open divisions at the top. The only way it works is if there were play-in games on a Monday night so there would teams playing Monday and Tuesday and the CIF really doesn’t want to do that.

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