NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week are Una Jovanovic from Pinewood of Los Altos Hills & Jordan Johnson of Caruthers. Photos: Megan V. Winslow / Town Crier & Twitter.com.

It’s the next to last installment of this feature for this pandemic-affected and shortened season, but we can keep going with the CIF Central Coast Section still going until Saturday of this weekend. We have a CCS girl chosen this week for the north combined with a NorCal boys’ player who was sensational in his final two games. For the south, we went with a pair of guards who played major roles on Wednesday night in their teams winning CIF Southern Section titles.

We hope you enjoy this free story on Cal-Hi Sports.com. For our State Top 25 rankings packages for the rest of the boys & girls basketball seasons plus State Stat Stars of the Week, state record updates and special features, please check out our Gold Club membership today. If you’re not a member, CLICK HERE.

Note: For these honors, we consider CIF Central Section players for Northern California. To nominate anyone, email markjtennis@gmail.com. We are picking the winners on Monday nights for the rest of the spring season.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Boys Basketball Player of the Week

Jordan Johnson (Caruthers) Sr.

It’s not the norm for us to honor a player from a team that has seen its season end with a playoff loss, but we have to make an exception for Jordan. His last two outings were just that good.

In his final regular season game two weeks ago, Johnson tied two school records (according to CIF Central Section historian Bob Barnett) by scoring 44 points and making 18-of-22 free throws in a 76-64 triumph vs. Minarets of O’Neals. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and had eight steals in the same game.

Caruthers then played Highland of Bakersfield last week in the CIF Central Section D5 playoffs and lost in a heart-breaker, 61-59. Johnson was spectacular in defeat with 35 points and 13 rebounds.

In 14 games for the Blue Raiders in a 6-8 season, Johnson averaged 26.2 points with 10.5 rebounds and 4.6 steals per game. He had 10 steals in the first game of the season against Minarets and a season high of 16 rebounds to go with 30 points in a loss to Orange Cove.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Boys Basketball Player of the Week

Benny Gealer (Rolling Hills Prep, San Pedro) Jr.

Playing up in a CIF Southern Section D2-A bracket with teams like Colony of Ontario, Santa Margarita (Rancho SM), Long Beach Poly and Los Altos (Hacienda Heights) didn’t make a difference for Benny and his teammates at Rolling Hills Prep, which captured the crown in that division on Wednesday night with a 67-56 victory over Los Altos.

Gealer has been a standout at RHP since his freshman season and led the way against the Conquerors with 28 points. He only had four points at halftime, but erupted in the second half to score 24. With the score 32-30 in the third quarter, Gealer canned a pair of three-pointers that helped to open up a lead that was not challenged down the stretch.

With just 10 games in the COVID-19 impacted regular season, it was hard to tell how the Huskies would do in the playoffs. They were moving up to D2-A after winning three CIFSS titles in four years in lower divisions. But perhaps two clues to what was to come was when Gealer scored 27 points in a 61-52 loss to CIFSS Open Division powerhouse Mater Dei (Santa Ana) and when he had 23 in a win over preseason state-ranked Windward (Los Angeles).

Teammate Seydi Thiombane (6-foot-5 junior) also has shined in recent weeks, but with Gealer leading the way and with head coach Harvey Kitani on the bench this is a team to watch not just for the upcoming CIF SoCal regional playoffs but also for next season. Kitani, who has been at RHP since 2017 after coaching at Fairfax of Los Angeles from 1982 to 2016, has now won four CIFSS titles in the last five years. Sometime next season he should become just the fifth coach in state history to win 900 games.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Girls Basketball Player of the Week

Chase Dionio (Newport Harbor, Newport Beach) Jr.

It was a historic night on Wednesday inside the Newport Harbor gym as the girls basketball team and student supporters celebrated the school’s first-ever CIF Southern Section title in the sport with a 58-45 victory over Rancho Christian of Temecula.

The win earned the Sailors’ the CIFSS D4A title plaque and Dionio was right in the middle of it with 15 points. She’s adding this weekly honor for her season accomplishments and the great improvement she’s had since transferring to Newport Harbor from her previous school, Liberty of Brentwood (in the Bay Area).

At Liberty, Dionio averaged a little more than 7 ppg as a sophomore during the 2019-20 school year. Her exact scoring average at Newport Harbor isn’t reported, but we assume it’s at least double that and we know she’s already been named MVP of the Sunset League Wave Division.

Dionio had 24 points in an earlier CIFSS D4A playoff win against San Clemente. And in one of Newport Harbor’s league wins (vs. Edison of Huntington Beach), Chase came up big with 25 points, seven steals, four rebounds and three assists.

We’re sure Chase would want to give a shout out to her teammates, especially junior guard Cydney Jover (team-high 17 points vs. Rancho Christian), Emma Fults (22 rebounds in title game) and four-year starting center Willa Rath.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Girls Basketball Player of the Week

Una Jovanovic (Pinewood, Los Altos Hills) Sr.

We were a bit hamstrung with the girls who are still playing in the north this week in the CIF Central Coast and Central Sections in that almost all teams have games on Thursday night. That left us only with the options from the two major CCS Open Division teams that played on Wednesday night, Archbishop Mitty of San Jose and Pinewood, that rolled to easy wins in the semifinals to set up their championship game for Friday.

Jovanovic has been the top scorer for unbeaten Pinewood, ranked No. 9 in the state this week. She and junior Elle Ladine both hit for 22 points when the Panthers won on Wednesday night, 80-41, over St. Ignatius of San Francisco to earn their trip to Mitty on Friday. The Monarchs, ranked No. 5 in the state with just one loss to No. 4 St. Mary’s of Stockton, are the top seed and are hosting this Friday’s game. They won in their semifinal, 68-26, against Priory of Los Altos Hills.

For Jovanovic, she matched her season high of 22 points in the win vs. the Wildcats and is averaging 13.0 ppg. She also had 22 a few weeks ago in Pinewood’s biggest win of the season so far, 61-38, against Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland. Two other strong outings for her were 21 points vs. Priory and 17 in the first of two triumphs vs. Menlo School of Atherton. Jovanovic also ranks second on the team in assists behind senior Annika Decker with single game highs of six and five in three separate games.

Una is one of three senior starters at Pinewood — along with Decker and guard Courtni Thompson — who are concluding four-year varsity campaigns playing under legendary head coach Doc Scheppler. She will play next at Cal-State Fullerton.

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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