As is another custom of ours going back more than 30 years, here are the predicted scores, what to watch for and more for each of the 12 CIF boys and girls basketball state title games this weekend in Sacramento. This is done with the best of wishes for all 24 teams, but the goal is to get as many correct winners as possible. For the record, last year it was 11 out of 12 games. Does it matter that both leading SoCal teams for the entire season, the Centennial of Corona boys and Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth girls, were both defeated in Tuesday’s Open Division regional finals?
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Note: Our lead boys basketball analyst, Ronnie Flores, did the breakdowns for Open Division boys, Division I boys & D5 boys. Our lead girls basketball analyst, Harold Abend, did the breakdowns for Open Division girls, Division I girls & D4 girls. Editor and publisher Mark Tennis did the rest.
FOR MOST RECENT BOYS STATE TOP 25 RANKINGS (DONE BEFORE REGION FINALS), CLICK HERE.
FOR MOST RECENT GIRLS STATE TOP 25 RANKINGS (DONE BEFORE REGION FINALS), CLICK HERE.
(All games played at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento)
(All state rankings references to State Top 25s, which were done before any of this week’s games)
Open Division (Boys)
State No. 2 Harvard-Westlake of Studio City (SoCal) 32-2 vs. State No. 10 St. Joseph of Santa Maria 28-6 (NorCal), Saturday, 8 pm
This is an intriguing matchup to close out the 2022-23 season. It will be the first appearance for either school in a CIF open final and history will be made. St. Joseph’s appearance is already history making, as it marks the first time ever a team from the CIF Central Section, representing the North or the South region, will play in the CIF Open Division title game. The last time a team from the Central Section played in the highest classification was in 2006, when Clovis West of Fresno lost to De La Salle of Concord in the D1 final.
Incredibly, many of the players who will suit up for head coach Tom Mott’s club, the Central Section D1 champs, played against a majority of Harvard-Westlake’s roster in last year’s open division regional. That’s because St. Joseph was sent South and fell to the Wolverines 63-55, in the first round. Central Section teams are at a slight disadvantage because they can be placed North or South, but the Knights would be a formidable out in either region with their blend of talent, size and shot-making ability. Both teams extracted a measure of revenge in the regional final. For St. Joe’s, its 72-58 win over top seed Modesto Christian avenged a 68-67 loss to the Crusaders on MLK Monday in which it led 70-63 midway though the fourth quarter. Similar to St. Joe’s, Harvard-Westlake was also the No. 3 seed in its region, and won two road games, over No. 2 seed St. John Bosco of Bellflower (69-64) in the regional semifinal and over state No. 1 Centennial of Corona (80-61) in the South final. St. John Bosco knocked off the Wolverines in CIFSS pool play, which prevented them from meeting Centennial in the CIFSS open title game. Centennial came into the regional final as the three-time CIFSS open champ and Harvard-Westlake’s Tuesday victory marked the first time the Huskies had lost to a CIF opponent in 51 outings, dating back to the 2021 spring CIF season when Harvard-Westlake beat Centennial in a pool play game, but like this year, didn’t advance to the CIFSS title game.
Harvard-Westlake is relentless defensively and doesn’t have a weakness in its lineup. One thing to keep an eye on is the shoulder injury to junior guard Trent Perry, who scored 25 points in the region final vs. Centennial but had to come out of the game late and have his shoulder popped back into socket. If he’s 100 percent and Harvard-Westlake is hitting its normal allotment of shots, the Wolverines will be tough to beat. Brady Dunlap, a returning all-state forward, has also battled injuries this season but was on point in the regional, scoring 19 points vs. Centennial and a team-high 18 points vs. St. John Bosco. Nik Khamenia, a talented sophomore wing guard originally from Slovenia, made a big impact vs. Centennial and could be an X-factor. If Perry, Dunlap and Khamenia all go for 15 plus points, Harvard-Westlake will be in terrific position to win its first state title since 2016, when it won in D4.
For St. Joseph, it begins with sophomore wing Tounde Yessoufou, last season’s Cal-Hi Sports State Freshman of the Year who might be as individually talented as any player in Sacramento this weekend. All he’s done so far this season is average 28.2 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 3.8 spg and 1.2 bpg even though every opponent gears up to stop him. Yessoufou is athletic around the rim, can stretch defenses with good outside shooting and creates opportunities for teammates, many whom are a bit unheralded but talented nonetheless. Similar to Harvard-Westlake, the Knights went on the road to beat No. 2 seed Dougherty Valley of San Ramon (87-76) in the regional semifinal, as Yessoufou netted 29 points. He went for 27 vs. Modesto Christian and Mott would love for his star player to be in that range for Saturday night’s game.
Senior big man Caedin Hamilton (12.1 ppg), who finished with 10 points vs. Modesto Christian, puts pressure on interior defenses, so it will be important for him to stay out of foul trouble and neutralize the presence of Princeton-commit Jacob Huggins. The key to the game also could be how well the Knights handle Harvard-Westlake’s ball-pressure applied by Perry (if healthy) and junior Robert Hinton. That’s where Mott likes his team’s chances, as freshman Julius Price (12.8 ppg) has been big-time in the post-season. He went for 17 points in the win over Modesto Christian and had 28 points and got St. Joe’s off to a roaring start vs. Dougherty Valley. Mott raves about his ability and poise, while senior Luis Marin (12.6 ppg) is another capable impact player in the backcourt for St. Joe’s.
Harvard-Wesltake rang up 80 points on Centennial, and St. Joe’s would love to keep it in the 50s or 60s. St. Joseph has the horses to keep this game close to the end, but Harvard-Westlake is playing with so much confidence and has a bit more shot-making ability that will allow the Wolverines to pull out a close game.
Prediction: Harvard-Westlake 73, St. Joseph 66
Open Division (Girls)
State No. 2 Etiwanda 31-3 (SoCal) vs. No. 4 Archbishop Mitty of San Jose 30-2 (NorCal), Saturday 6 p.m.
Many high school basketball fans in California were anticipating a potential re-match of defending CIF Open Division state champion and SoCal top-seeded Sierra Canyon and the NorCal No. 2 seed Archbishop Mitty team the Trailblazers defeated 85-61 last year.
However, while Mitty held up its end of the bargain, Sierra Canyon did not, and instead it will be SoCal No. 3 seeded Etiwanda making its first ever appearance in a CIF state championship game to face a Monarchs’ team making a record 14th trip in quest of a seventh state title at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
Mitty and head coach Sue Phillips have captured six state championships, tied for third most in state history, but they haven’t won one since the 2015 Division II state championship and they’re 0-2 in the Open Division since the CIF went to an Open format for the 2012-2013 season.
Mitty punched it ticket to Sacramento and a second straight Open Division title-game appearance with an impressive 86-49 CIF Northern Regional Open Division championship victory that late in the game went to a running clock over fifth-seeded Salesian of Richmond. Salesian upset top-seed Piedmont in the NorCal semifinals.
Etiwanda earned its right to play for a state championship with a thrilling 55-54 victory over a state and nation No. 1 ranked Sierra Canyon. Equally impressive was a 47-42 semifinal victory over a host and second-seeded La Jolla Country Day team that had defeated them 70-65 on a neutral court in late January.
Mitty and Etiwanda are both deep teams and go 8-9 deep.
Mitty is led by junior Morgan Cheli, who looks like she’s just about all the way back after missing most of the season with a foot injury. Cheli hasn’t been looking to primarily score but facilitate and lead the vaunted Mitty full-court press. Cheli did have 15 points in the Salesian win but 13 were in the second half after Mitty led 41-20 at halftime. The three points she did have in the first half came on an and one that gave the Monarchs a 10-8 lead they never relinquished. Cheli will likely need to score more if the Monarchs are to prevail.
The other Mitty top star is freshman post McKenna Woliczko. She had an amazing 29 points and 21 rebounds against Salesian, and the rebounding total was 12 more than the entire Salesian team that was outrebounded 50-9 by a Mitty team with all five starters 6-foot or taller. Etiwanda head coach Stan Delus is a defensive specialist just like Phillips and he is certainly going to try and use physical play against the Mitty freshman post.
The other Mitty starters are Loyola Marymount-bound Maya Hernandez, herself a solid rebounder, her twin sister Haley Hernandez, and three-point specialist Elle Hanson. To beat an Etiwanda team bursting with confidence after its last two wins, all the Mitty starters and role players off the bench will need to play well.
The two big stars for Etiwanda are powerfully-built junior Kennedy Smith, the reigning Cal-Hi Sports State Sophomore of the Year, and Aliyahna “Puff” Morris, a flashy and speedy sophomore guard who was the Cal-Hi Sports State Freshman of the Year last season.
Smith had 21 points and nine rebounds with three steals against Sierra Canyon, and Morris added 17 points, three assists and two steals.
Another player that had a great game against Sierra Canyon was Sa’lah Hemingway. The Eisenhower of Rialto transfer had a double-double 13 points and 12 rebounds in the SoCal championship. Two other Eagles players to look for are senior Majesty Cade and junior Mykelle Richards.
Based on the various rankings and who Etiwanda has beaten to get to the title game, the Eagles will be favored to win a first state championship in their first-ever appearance, but you can never count out Phillips, who if her Monarchs win will earn her a seventh state championship, and that would tie her for the second most all time by a head coach.
Prediction: Etiwanda 61, Archbishop Mitty 60 (OT)
Division I Boys
State No. 4 Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks 26-10 (SoCal) vs. State No. 19 Granada of Livermore 26-10 (NorCal), Friday, 8 p.m.
Isn’t it ironic that the teams in this game not only represent the toughest leagues in each region, but come in with identical records? Don’t let the double-digit losses fool you, though. Both of these state-ranked clubs are ultra-talented with multiple college D1-bound players and are battle tested. Notre Dame, representing the Southern Section’s Mission League, has played one of the toughest schedules in the country and beat a league rival to make it to Sacramento. Granada, representing the North Coast Section’s East Bay Athletic League, avenged a loss in the NCS open playoffs to get their shot at the Knights.
Neither Notre Dame or Granada won league or section titles, as the Mission League was captured by SoCal open representative Harvard-Westlake, while the EBAL champ was NorCal open entrant Dougherty Valley of San Ramon, which lost in the regional to NorCal open representative St. Joseph. Notre Dame’s losses are a bit deceiving because two of them are to Harvard-Westlake (including one in overtime), two to SoCal open finalist Centennial of Corona, and two to West Ranch of Valencia, another SoCal open team. For Granada, the only team it lost to more than once was Dougherty Valley, which beat head coach Quaran Johnson’s club three times. Johnson might give a friendly ring to Dougherty Valley coach Mike Hansen on how to slow down the Knights because his team played Notre Dame pretty tough in the State Preview Classic before losing, 65-53. Hansen would probably tell Johnson he needs to find a way to slow down Duke-bound Caleb Foster and limit him getting downhill into the paint. League foe Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth couldn’t figure it out in the regional final, as Foster scored 28 points in the Knights’ 80-61 victory. Notre Dame actually defeated Sierra Canyon four times during the season (with Foster averaging 20.5 ppg), so junior guard Marco Wilde and senior guard Kevin Grant are going to have to play one of their best games of the season to put Granada in position to win this game.
The comparative scores favor Notre Dame in this game, but there is one key aspect of the game where the Matadors hold the edge and that’s on the interior. With St. Mary’s-bound 6-foot-11 Andrew McKeever inside complimented by 6-foot-7 senior Tyler Harris, one of the best unsigned prospects in the state, Granada will look to get easy shots inside and perhaps tire out the Knights defensively. Notre Dame’s biggest inside player is 6-foot-7 junior Jayden Harper and often its most effective is 6-foot-5 freshman Zach White. Harper and White are going to have to stay out of the foul trouble and covert some key buckets to keep the defense honest and not over-play Foster and Gonzaga-bound wing Dusty Stromer. Stromer is one of the most talented all-around players in the state and can shoot it from deep or finish over bigger players inside. Stromer, Foster and junior guard Mercy Miller each nailed three 3-pointers in the regional semifinal blowout of state power Mater Dei of Santa Ana, and if all three of the trio are hitting from the outside it could spell major trouble for Granada. Miller finished the Mater Dei game with 28 points.
Granada’s avenging 60-47 win in the NorCal regional final vs. Salesian was the club it lost to in the third place game of the NCS open playoffs. Granada has plenty of big-game experience, but doesn’t have that signature win one can point to that would indicate Notre Dame will be in trouble unless it really shoots poorly from the field. Harris scored 18 points in the win over Salesian and will need about 8-10 more in this game for Granada fans to feel comfortable its team can pull out the win. Grant went for 16 in the regional final and if he scores in that range to offset Miller, Granada will be in business in the fourth quarter. Both clubs have been plagued by bouts of inconsistency, but Notre Dame is currently on a roll and has a bit more firepower to account for and try to slow down than Granada does.
Prediction: Notre Dame 77, Granada 67
Division I Girls
State No. 14 Santiago of Corona 26-9 (SoCal) vs. State No. 11 Oakland Tech 29-5 (NorCal), Friday 6 p.m.
The CIF Division I state championship will be a re-match of the opening round game of the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree in late December where Oakland Tech posted a hard fought 62-57 victory before losing for the first time to St. Mary’s of Stockton in the semifinals, 74-57.
Both coaches, Leroy Hurt of NorCal No. 2 seed Oakland Tech and Michael Mitchell of SoCal second-seeded Santiago, wanted to play in the top division at the Jamboree, that incidentally was won by Etiwanda over St. Mary’s. It prepared them both for this very game.
Oakland Tech has won 18 straight CIF playoff games, four straight NorCal titles and will be looking for its third straight CIF state championship after winning in Division III last year and Division IV in 2019. There were no CIF regional or state games in 2021 and in 2020 Tech wasn’t able to play for a D2 regional title (pandemic).
After losing a second time to St. Mary’s in the regular season, the third time was a charm after the Bulldogs won the 18th straight CIF playoff game with an 82-71 victory on the road at top-seeded St. Mary’s.
For most of the game it was back-and-forth. Oakland Tech trailed by 10 at the start of the second quarter, went up by 15 in the third quarter, but with the score tied 64-64 midway through the fourth, the Bulldogs put together an 11-2 run to make it 75-66 with a minute left, and St. Mary’s ran out of time.
Bulldogs’ standout senior guard Erin Sellers put the team on her back down the stretch with three three-pointers, four treys in the fourth quarter, and six for the game to finish with a team-high 26 points.
Four other Tech players were in double-figure scoring. Junior Taliyah Logwood had 15 points, senior Mari Somvichian had 14, freshman Terri’A Russell had 13 and senior Nia Hunter had 10. Two other players to look for on Friday night are senior power forward Sophia Askew-Goncalves and freshman post Jhai Johnson.
Santiago has had an up and down season but down the stretch the Sharks have gotten it done with five straight wins after a loss to Mater Dei of Santa Ana in the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs. Santiago punched its ticket to the Golden 1 Center with a 52-39 victory over No. 5 seed Del Norte of San Diego.
Santiago center McKinley Willardson led the way against Del Norte with 26 points and seven rebounds. Two other Sharks’ players to look for are senior point guard Queen Ruffin and junior guard Rylee Ghent.
Santiago will be making its first-ever CIF state title game appearance while Oakland Tech has played in four state championships and won them all. Besides the past two seasons, the Bulldogs also won two consecutive times in 2004-2005 in Division I.
Based on beating St. Mary’s and having played at Golden 1 Center twice before, Oakland Tech would appear to have the advantage, but this game should be close like the first meeting at the Jamboree.
Prediction: Oakland Tech 60, Santiago (Corona) 58
Division II Boys
Pacifica Christian of Newport Beach 27-9 (SoCal) vs. San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno 25-9 (NorCal), Saturday 4 p.m.
It’s rare when a NorCal and SoCal regional champion in a division lower than D1 have played each other before, but these two have as SJM topped the Tritons, 68-58, at The Classic at Damien. After that game, the Panthers hit a four-game losing streak, but have been getting stronger and stronger leading into the postseason. A big indication of what they might do was losing by just 65-63 at St. Joseph of Santa Maria in the CIF Central Section D1 quarterfinals. Those teams shouldn’t have been seeded that way, but since it was a close game and St. Joe is now going for the CIF Open Division state title that also shows that this run by the Panthers (especially in D2) should not be a surprise.
Head coach Brad Roznovsky even called us on the morning of selection Sunday to see if we had any idea where his team would go. With all Central Section teams (that can go to either the north or south regionals) one just never knows. Being in D2 (and not in the same bracket for example as Clovis West) and in the north was the call and it has been a great place for the Panthers to be. With such a great tradition of hoop success, going back to having back-to-back State Players of the Year for 1971 and 1972 with Roscoe and Cliff Pondexter and then continuing with guys like Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez, Quincy Pondexter and current NBA star Jalen Green (who played as a senior at Prolific Prep in Napa but is an SJM grad), it’s hard not to hope the school can get its first-ever CIF state title.
Senior Mike Davis has been the leader of the Panthers and has put up 29, 25 and 25 points in the regional round. He missed two games with an injury and the team lost in both of those games, but Davis did play in that earlier game vs the Tritons. Sophomore Julius Olanrewaju also has continued to improve after his transfer from small school Coalinga, where he was an an all-state freshman last season. Point guard Amari Carraway also has been terrific.
Despite having that 10-point win over Pacifica Christian, the Tritons have shown great resiliency themselves and it’s not like SJM has been rolling to its regional wins (the win vs Vanden in the regional finals, for example, was in overtime). Just what they’ve done against Orange Lutheran shows what they are capable of. OLu is a team that had a win over Mater Dei in the Trinity League and beat CIFSS D2AA champion Tesoro of Las Flores to avenge a loss to the Titans in the section final. Against Pacifica Christian, though, OLu lost by one point in the regular season and then again 52-51 in the regional finals.
Northwestern-bound point guard Parker Strauss (12.3 ppg, 7.2 rebs) has been the leader for the Tritons. It was a complete team effort, though, that carried the day against OLu. E.J. Spillman blocked a potential game-winning shot, Logan Stewart came off the bench to score 15 points and Alex Stewart scored 10 points. Senior Tanner Deal had 15 points to lead Pacifica Christian when it lost to SJM in December.
Prediction: San Joaquin Memorial 62, Pacifica Christian 58
Division II Girls
Bonita Vista of Chula Vista 23-9 (SoCal) vs. Central of Fresno) 22-12 (NorCal), Saturday at 2 p.m.
These two teams are both used to playing elite competition and one of them is going to earn their school’s first-ever CIF state title.
For Bonita Vista, we rank the Barons as a slight favorite because they have a win over a Clovis High squad that beat Central twice in the Tri-River Athletic Conference. Bonita Vista also has played SoCal Open Division top two seeds Sierra Canyon and La Jolla Country Day and has a win over CIF North Coast Section Open Division finalist San Ramon Valley. The Barons bounced back from a 61-58 loss to Mission Hills of San Marcos (D1 for the SoCal regionals) in the CIF San Diego Section Open Division playoffs to get their shot at a state title.
Two Bonita players came back this season after earning Cal-Hi Sports D2 all-state honors last year. Junior guard Mahliya Wilson (first team) leads the team with 18.9 ppg. Senior guard Kaylyn Buchanon-Lamb (2nd team) leads the team in assists (4.6 ppg) and steals (4.3 ppg) and averages 14.2 points. In the team’s 80-67 win over Leuzinger of Lawndale on Tuesday, Alyssa Alvarado led the way with 21 points.
Central’s run in the D2 playoffs on the NorCal side of the bracket has been sparked by senior standout Talia Maxwell. The team wasn’t D2 last year so she wouldn’t have been on a D2 all-state team. She’s going to get big honors this season. Maxwell just scored 36 points when the Grizzlies went up to Chico and beat Pleasant Valley, 62-51, to earn their spot in this game. They trailed 16-7 after the first quarter, but took control on a 20-0 run. Maxwell also had 42 points in an earlier regional playoff game and hit the game-winning shot when Central edged Marin Catholic in another road trip.
Most of Central’s losses have come in TRAC games to Clovis as well as state top 10 ranked Clovis West. The toughness that the Grizzlies have shown in winning on the road in their last two games should aid them against Bonita Vista.
Prediction: Bonita Vista 65, Central 61
Division III Boys
Buena of Ventura 31-5 (SoCal) vs. Oakland 26-8 (NorCal), Friday, 4 pm
This game seems like it is the most difficult to pick a winner. A close game, however, may favor Buena as the Bulldogs have been in five overtime games this season (with wins in three of them). On the other hand, CIF Oakland Section boys and girls teams seem to play inspired ball in NorCal state finals.
The Bulldogs are making the first appearance by a Ventura County public school in a CIF state final. That’s on the boys side as the school may be first on the all-time state list of wins for girls basketball and it’s a school that won back-to-back CIF state titles in the 1980s at the highest division. All of the teams that Buena has lost to are from D2 or higher so in D3 it is definitely looking good.
In the CIF SoCal D3 final, the Bulldogs spoiled the chance for NorCal hoop fans to see Culver City head coach Michael Cooper (the former Laker) coaching a team in the state final with an amazing 81-78 in three overtimes against the Centaurs. Junior Luke Ortiz blocked eight shots in the win, but it was his three-pointer at the regulation buzzer that saved the season. Senior three-sport star Zane Carter (who averages 16.7 ppg) had 28 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Daniel Ortiz has been another Buena bomber as he averages 14.2 ppg and has had recent outings of 25 and 29 points.
Oakland High is not only looking to win its first CIF state title in boys hoops, but we believe it would be the second for any sport. And since Oakland High goes back to 1869 (one of the five oldest schools in the state and one of the three oldest public schools), that would be a pretty big deal. The Wildcats, who of course count future Pro Basketball Hall of Famer Damian Lillard among their alums, had to get past league rival Oakland Tech to earn their spot at the Golden 1 Center.
Tech had won in three previous meetings over Oakland, but the Wildcats and star guard Money Williams (25 points) got the last laugh last Tuesday, 77-61, in front of a packed house at Laney College that included new Oakland major Sheng Thao, who fired up the crowd with a pregame message. It also was reported as the first ever NorCal final between two OAL schools, which is true since the advent of the CIF state playoffs in 1980, but just the year before in 1979 we watched Fremont and Castlemont battle for the championship of the last Tournament of Champions at the Oakland Coliseum, which was for the NorCal overall title. Williams is averaging 17.4 ppg and gets a lot of help in the backcourt from senior teammate Te’shawn Gamble, who hits for 10.8 ppg and leads the team in assists (2.5 per game).
Prediction: Oakland 71, Buena (Ventura) 70
Division III Girls
Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga 28-5 (SoCal) vs. Colfax 34-2 (NorCal) Friday at 2 p.m.
While the locals from up the hill in Colfax have already gained a state record listing with their 34 wins and should have great support (weather permitting since it will be horrible weather on Thursday night into Friday morning), this is definitely an underdog story. Los Osos is from the same Baseline League as Open Division finalist and nationally ranked Etiwanda and has a win over D2 state finalist Santiago of Corona. This also is a school of more than 3,000 enrollment taking on a legit small school (enrollment not even 700).
The Grizzlies will be looking to win their first CIF state title after losing in the 2017 D4 final to West Campus of Sacramento. They frankly looked a little misplaced into D3 by the CIF when the pairings came out two weeks ago and that has been true with winning margins of 28, 14 and 14 and then 60-39 in Tuesday’s regional final vs Redondo Union. Head coach Dawnesha Buckner’s girls are led by freshman Jackie Polk, who averages 13.9 ppg.
One game experience that should help the Falcons in this game is facing Washington-bound state scoring phenom Ari Long and her team from Valley View of Moreno Valley in December. They won that game, 56-54, and will need to keep the scoring low to have a chance. Colfax center Juliette Jones also needs to have another big game like the 16 points she had in the 53-52 win over Caruthers in the NorCal final. The Falcons, who have won 22 straight games, have won CIF state titles twice in the early years of the event in 1983 and 1984 in Division III when there were just three divisions. They also made it but lost in D4 in 1998. Senior guards Maycee Heimann and Gabi Bittner also have been rock solid in the playoffs with Heimann averaging 11.8 ppg.
Prediction: Los Osos 58, Colfax 50
Division IV Boys
Valencia 26-10 (SoCal) vs Half Moon Bay 21-10 (NorCal), Saturday 12 noon
When the CIF announces its divisions and pairings for basketball each season, there are a few examples every time in which a team’s placement just seems out-of-whack. Valencia in D4 is one of those examples. It appears that the team only being in D4AA in the Southern Section is why it was in D4 for the regionals, but it only took a quick glance at what the Vikings have done to see that they were going to be a big favorite in D4 for the state. Sure, they figured to have to play Moore League champion Jordan of Long Beach and perhaps win in a rematch against St. Bonaventure of Ventura, but now that those hurdles are done with the prospects of a loss to Half Moon Bay in the state final seem far-fetched.
Valencia comes from the same league as CIFSS Open Division and state top five overall West Ranch of Valencia and in two games vs the Wildcats the scores were not that bad (72-64 and 75-62). Head coach Bill Bedgood then got the squad playing well in the CIFSS D4AA playoffs. His son, Bryce, a promising 6-foot-10 junior, had 28 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks in one playoff win over Warren of Downey. Leading scorer Mikah Ballew, who went over 1,500 points for his career this season, had 30 points in a 65-62 win against St. Bonaventure in the section final. The Vikings, who also have a win this season over St. Pius X-St. Matthias of Downey (team with a blowout win over CIF D3 state finalist Buena), then beat Jordan, 89-80, and won against St. Bonaventure, 72-58, on Tuesday on their path to Sacramento.
For Half Moon Bay, you have to give the Cougars a lot of props for bouncing back from an 0-3 and 3-6 start to the season. They also fell to King’s Academy in the CCS D4 playoffs. In the NorCal D4 bracket, though, HMB got going after a big win over San Mateo County rival Hillsdale in which junior 6-foot-8 big man Jaeden Hutchins poured in 33 points. The Cougars then hit the road and posted wins of 65-60 over Marin Catholic and 71-61 over Chico.
Predicted Score: Valencia 74, Half Moon Bay 53
Division IV Girls
Shalhevet of Los Angeles 25-2 (SoCal) vs. San Domenico of San Anselmo 27-7 (NorCal), Friday 10 a.m.
Competitive equity is not just for the Open and Division I teams and the CIF Division IV state championship between Shalhevet and San Domenico is a perfect example in what will be a rematch of the 2022 Division V state title game where San Domenico was a 37-28 winner in the lowest scoring affair ever in CIF state championship history.
Based on competitive equity, the CIF moved both teams up to Division IV this year and made each the top seed in their respective regions in the only girls division where both top seeds have advanced to the title game. Both teams return talent with San Domenico led by Summer Jenkins and Shalhevet by Yalee Schwartz, who was not a factor in last year’s loss after going out of the game with 2:46 left in the first quarter with an ankle injury.
Both teams are aiming for milestones. San Domenico head coach Michael Fulton will be going for his fourth CIF state
championship, but the first three were in D5 after he won back-to-back in 2007-08 with Branson of Ross. Four titles would put him in some pretty select company, including Terri Bamford of La Jolla Country Day, Ellis Barfield of Lynwood and John Paye of Atherton Menlo School. Paye’s team was the one that San Domenico had to get past in Tuesday’s NorCal final. Shalhevet was the first orthodox Jewish school ever to appear in a CIF state title game last
year and is now are looking to become the first to win a state championship. Playing the first game of the weekend at 10 a.m. on Friday is a move by the CIF to respect the school’s religious obligations. Normally, the D4 and D5 teams switch back and forth playing the early games on Friday each year, which is why D4 boys is going to be played right after D5 girls.
Even with Schwartz returning, San Domenico has more returning talent and played a much tougher schedule to prepare for a D4 run. It should be a close low scoring, defensive matchup just last year.
Prediction: San Domenico 36, Shalhevet 34
Division V Boys
Lynwood 26-11 (SoCal) vs. Sierra of Tollhouse 31-5 (NorCal), Friday, 12 noon
Since the CIF’s competitive equity model went into effect for the 2016-17 season, this matchup has the best star attraction ever in this division. Right off the bat fans at the Golden 1 Center are going to be treated to a matchup of two star players in freshman Jason Crowe Jr. of The Wood and junior multi-sport star Logan Kilbert of Sierra. If there are any Sacramento Kings fans who want to get indoors to beat the rain and watch some hoops, getting in their seat early Friday to watch Crowe would probably remind them of one of their own. Crowe has a darting, downhill style similar to the King’s De’Aaron Fox and all the left-handed guard has done in 37 games so far is score 1,259 points, which ties him for No. 3 on the state’s single-season scoring list with another standout prep guard who played for his father, Crescenta Valley’s Greg Goorjian (1978).
Just as Goorjian played for his father, Jason Crowe Sr. (who played at Inglewood with future NBA Hall of Fame Paul Pierce) is the coach for the top-seeded Knights, who were originally placed in D4 South in front of the Bosco Tech of Rosemead club it lost to in the CIFSS D5AA final. The CIF swapped the two teams and it’s no surprise Lynwood made it to Sacramento, as Crowe went for 40 points (six above his 34.0 ppg average) in Lynwood’s 87-65 regional final victory over Pacifica Christian of Santa Monica. Crowe scored the first 12 points for this team in the regional final, so it will be imperative for Sierra to not let he freshman go off and steal the game’s momentum early.
For the No. 5 seeded Chieftains, Kilbert has led the way to three big-time road victories. The Northwest Sequoia champs knocked out No. 4 seed Fortune Early (Elk Grove), 57-55, on a coast-to-coast layup by Kilbert and he came back to score 27 points in a 71-55 win over top seeded Venture Academy (Stockton) in last Saturday’s regional semifinal. No. 3 seed Ripon Christian went down in the regional final, 47-41, even though Kilbert (15 points) fouled out with 3:36 remaining in the contest. Obviously, Sierra’s star can’t foul out against a team as fast and talented as Lynwood and he’ll need to score close to his output against Venture Academy in order for the Chieftains to be close in the final period.
The Chieftains, runner-up in the Central Section D3 playoffs, have had many players step up in the regional, particularly senior guard Nate Kempen, who scored 13 points and came up big in the regional semifinal win over Venture Academy. Coach Ryan Watt is confident many players can step up for Sierra, which is a good rebounding club and finds their man in transition. On a big court, however, the food speed of Lynwood could pose a problem and the Knights are far from a one-man team, even though their own defensive focus and boxing out lacks at times. Freshman Chace Holley (15.3 ppg) is capable of putting up big numbers and another first-year player, Jahaz Wright (10.1 ppg), can light it up in a hurry. Despite its occasional defensive lapses, Lynwood is going to have a bit too much firepower at the end.
Prediction: Lynwood 81, Sierra 65
Division V Girls
Marina of Huntington Beach 21-15 (SoCal) vs. Bret Harte of Altaville 25-7 (NorCal), Saturday 10 a.m.
We’re still unsure why Bret Harte was seeded higher than Valley Christian of Roseville for D5 NorCal girls after Valley Christian won the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D5 title with a 71-65 win over the Bullfrogs. Regardless, the girls from Tuolomne County took advantage with an avenging win over VCA at home in the regional semifinals, then went all the way up to McArthur in the CIF Northern Section and knocked off top seed Fall River, 58-47.
Bret Harte (enrollment around 600) received five 3-pointers and 20 points from freshman guard Maddie Kane in its win up north. Junior center Makenna Tutthill also made a difference inside and had 14 points.
Like Bret Harte, Marina also is going for its first CIF state title and it has been led by a freshman guard. For the Vikings, it’s been Rylee Bradley, who is averaging 18 ppg and had 30 points in the team’s regional semifinal win vs South Hills of West Covina. Marina (enrollment 2,300) started to turn around its season with avenging wins in league against Laguna Beach and Edison (Huntington Beach). The Vikings also bounced back from a one-point loss to Gahr of Cerritos in the CIFSS D5AA playoffs with a 49-33 win over the Gladiators in the SoCal D5 playoffs.
Prediction: Bret Harte 55, Marina 49