On the first day and night of the CIF state championships at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, there were no games that were decided in the final minutes. Favored teams Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks (boys) and Oakland Tech (girls) completed their tasks with the Tech girls also making history with their fifth state title and third in a row in contested CIF state finals (none were held in 2020 & 2021). Other winners were Oakland (D3 boys), Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga (D3 girls), Lynwood (D5 boys) and Shalhevet of Los Angeles (D4 girls).
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Note: Our lead boys basketball analyst, Ronnie Flores, did the writeup for Division I boys & D5 boys. Our lead girls basketball analyst, Harold Abend, did the breakdowns for Division I girls & D4 girls. Editor and publisher Mark Tennis did the other two.
Boys Division I
Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) 67, Granada (Livermore) 58
With the competitive equity model in place for the CIF State Basketball Championships, the seedings and placements often create first time entrants and teams hoisting a trophy for the first time. The fans of those schools are elated by those results, but for those that follow the top teams throughout the season, they know who gets the hardware is often decided by those seedings and how many teams are taken for the coveted open division. There is traditionally more depth of quality teams in Southern California than in Northern California, so when the CIF decided this year to take only five open teams in each region, that pushed three quality teams down to D1, three more down to D2 and so forth. That contracted open bracket only makes the South stronger and that scenario was evident in this game.
Notre Dame, which would have been picked for the South open playoffs each year before this one and was awarded the top seed in this division, completed its mission as a first-time state champion with a complete performance against another battled-tested team with double-digit losses. Notre Dame, which came in second place in the Mission League behind South open representative Harvard-Westlake, took down a team that tied for fourth place in the East Bay Athletic League. To media reps on press row, other high school coaches in attendance and knowledgeable fans, Notre Dame sure looked like an open regional team.
Despite its slew of turnovers and early-season type of mistakes in the third period, Granada kept the game interesting and cut its deficit (which got to as large as 16) down to as low as six points (44-38). Granada trailed 48-40 entering the final period, and at that time, chose to keep St. Mary’s-bound center Andrew McKeever on the bench to begin the fourth period with four fouls. He had already fouled out his first defensive assignment, Notre Dame freshman Zach White, in the third period. The big man re-entered the game with 5:30 remaining in the game and promptly fouled out another interior defender, junior Jayden Harper. That part of the game plan worked, however, it folded when McKeever fouled out himself moments later and played only just over a minute of the final period.
After that sequence of plays, the game’s outcome was never in doubt.
McKeever finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. Ninth-seeded Granada (26-11) was led offensively by Tyler Harris with 17 points and 10 rebounds and Nate Keaney with 16 points.
The difference maker for victorious Notre Dame (27-10) was Duke-bound senior Caleb Foster. He dominated with his explosiveness, activity, court awareness and shot-making. He was in the key from the start of the game and his strong drive fouled out McKeever. Foster had 18 points at halftime with his team leading 39-27 and set a D1 scoring record by finishing with 33 points. The scoring output broke the old record set of 32 points set way back in 1981 by Michael Manning from Castlemont of Oakland, but in the presser all Foster wanted to do was credit his teammates that he had a chance to play with for this one season. The North Carolina native and Oak Hill Academy of Virginia transfer played like a Mr. Basketball finalist and All-American during the regional and added six rebounds, six assists and two steals.
“We not only played a tough schedule, but the toughest schedule,” said Notre Dame coach Matt Sargeant, himself a former standout at Ocean View of Huntington Beach who went on to play at Princeton and a self-described basketball stat junkie. “The difference in the game was we were able to attack the paint more than they were able to try to throw it inside (to McKeever and Harris)”.
Notre Dame was successful despite Gonzaga-bound guard Dusty Stromer gutting out a back injury and finishing with three points. Mercy Miller, another Oak Hill Academy transfer who is a junior, picked up the slack with 17 points. Dante Ogbu, a center turned 3-point specialist, make 2-of-3 three-pointers and finished with 10 points.
The seeding and selection for this division, not to mention Notre Dame’s focus after a rough patch during the regular season, led to the Knights’ dominance of the South D1 region and the big what if. Granada’s valiant effort led to the closest game Notre Dame played after the CIF Southern Section open playoffs and begs the question, how would the team had fared had it participated in the open division playoffs?
Notre Dame, after all, took Harvard-Westlake into double overtime during the regular season and lost in the Mission League title game by four points.
“Yes, we will be rooting for them tomorrow night,” Sargeant said.
Girls Division I
Oakland Tech 75, Santiago (Corona) 52
The Division I state championship title game was a re-match of the opening round of the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree in late December when Oakland Tech was a 62-57 winner after it led 45-30 to begin the fourth quarter.
On Friday evening at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento it was a different story in the fourth quarter after CIF Northern Regional second-seeded Oakland Tech cranked up the defense and turned a 52-45 lead heading into the final period into a victory the Bulldogs won going away.
With the win, Oakland Tech (30-5) has now won three straight state championships, in Division IV in 2019 and Division III in 2022, and five overall without a loss after they also won back-to-back titles in 2004-05 in Division I. It was also the 19th straight CIF playoff victory for head coach Leroy Hurt and his Bulldogs.
The three consecutive CIF state championships puts them on a list with seven other teams, and the 5-0 record in state title games puts them on an even shorter list as the only public school along with Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth and Atherton Sacred Heart Prep.
“It never gets old sitting on this podium,” remarked Hurt in the postgame press conference. “Last year I told everyone in this room that was here we’re a D1 school, and we should be in the D1 division. Thank you for putting us there and I’m so proud of these kids for responding and taking care of business.”
“We as a school and as a team we get an A-plus for our schedule,” Hurt continued. “Our first round game against McClatchy, we played them this year. Our second round game against Pinewood, we played them this year. Our third round game against San Ramon Valley (of Danville), we played them this year. Our fourth round game against St. Mary’s of Stockton, we played them twice this year – and then in our state final we played Santiago at the West Coast Jamboree.”
Oakland Tech was victorious against every one of those teams except St. Mary’s, who it lost to twice, 74-57 and 65-52, but last Tuesday in the CIF Northern Regional D1 title game they went into Stockton and in front of a packed house they avoided a sweep and punched their ticket to Sacramento with an 82-71 victory.
Despite being just 5-foot-9, junior Taliyah Logwood, who was a Cal-Hi Sports Northern California Girls Basketball Player of the Week after she went toe-to-toe with 6-foot-4 McDonald’s All-American Amanda Muse of Brentwood Heritage in a Bulldogs’ regular season win, and got the best of the UCLA-committed post, came up huge again and at times was matched up with Santiago 6-foot-2 senior power forward McKinley Willardson. Logwood didn’t have a triple-double like she did against Heritage, but she led the Bulldogs in scoring and rebounding after finishing with a double-double 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Freshman 6-foot-1 Terri’A Russell came off the bench as the sixth girl and had 15 points and eight rebounds, flashy senior guard Erin Sellers added 14 points with two three-pointers, and senior guard Nia Hunter also came off the bench to round out the Tech double-figure scorers with 13 points.
Oakland Tech trailed 2-0 to start but a two-point deficit was the biggest it faced and it came on two other occasions in the first quarter at 15-13 and 20-18, but after senior guard Mari Somvichian connected on her only three-point attempt of the night, Oakland Tech had a 21-20 lead it would never relinquish.
Santiago (26-10) stayed close and only trailed 35-28 at the half and by the previously mentioned 52-45 deficit after three quarters, but Tech went on a 10-4 run to begin the final period and from there the Bulldogs were off to the races.
So stout was the Bulldogs’ defense they only allowed Santiago one field goal in the final period, and it came from Willardson in her final tally for a game-high 21 points to go with 10 rebounds. The only other Sharks’ player in double-figure scoring was sophomore Jayda Cobbs with 11 points.
“For us our mission wasn’t accomplished,” said Santiago head coach Mike Mitchell. “Our shots weren’t falling, we had too many missed opportunities and we couldn’t weather the storm.”
“To win Division I, I didn’t see it coming,” Hurt said. I just knew we were going to be a tough out and if we lost some team was going to have come beat us.”
On this night at the home of the Sacramento Kings that team was not Santiago.
Boys Division III
Oakland 59, Buena (Ventura) 43
It was impossible not to harken back to the great days (and now the present) of the Oakland Athletic League (CIF Oakland Section) in watching the Wildcats roll past the Bulldogs.
Oakland High, one of the five oldest public schools in the state that dates back to 1865, earned the school’s first-ever CIF state title in basketball and probably just the second in any sport.
Head coach Orlando Watkins’ squad (27-8) showed what they could do after finally getting a win over OAL rival Oakland Tech in Tuesday’s NorCal final. The Wildcats, who had lost to Tech three times earlier, created a lot of pressure for the Buena ball-handlers, which contributed to 12 turnovers in the first half and more in the second.
Oakland broke out to a 9-0 lead to start the game and put it away with a 10-0 run to start the third quarter.
“For the program, this is huge,” Watkins said during the postgame press conference. “Everybody has had that dream, ‘to win state,’ and for these guys it’s not a dream.”
The team’s leading player, Money Williams, who led all scorers with 24 points with nine rebounds and four steals, concluded the press conference with some final words about what the win meant.
“We did this for the city and we did this for the youth,” said Williams, a senior who will play next at Montana. “We want to inspire the youth and let them know what can be done.”
The Wildcats also won the OAL’s fourth CIF state title. They join Fremont with two and McClymonds with one. There also were two outstanding teams led by future NBA player Leon Powe at Oakland Tech that made it to the D1 state final under the old non-competitive equity format but lost in both appearances.
Williams’ backcourt mate, Te’shawn Gamble, only had nine points but led the Wildcats with six assists and six steals. Anthony Lacy also scored nine points.
Buena (31-6) came into the game after winning in an amazing three-overtime thriller on Tuesday at Culver City. The Bulldogs became the first Ventura County public school to win a CIF regional title, but may have had a tough time coming back from such a regional final and then traveling for a Friday game in Sacramento.
“I don’t know if it took that much out of us,” said Buena head coach Matthew Colton. “This team has been exceptionally resilient and I think they played their butts off today. They just did a lot of good things and we did things we don’t usually do.”
Zane Carter, a senior and a prime candidate to be on the 2022-23 All-State Grid-Hoop Team, ended his hoops career at Buena with 19 points and seven rebounds. No other Bulldog player was in double-figures.
Girls Division III
Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga) 65, Colfax 48
Two hours after the D5 boys state title game record was tied by a freshman, the same thing happened for D3 girls as freshman Jackie Polk put on a show for the Grizzlies, who won their first-ever CIF state title.
Polk had a momentum killing 3-pointer just before the third quarter buzzer that gave her team a 41-33 lead. The Grizzlies (29-5) also took advantage of having the ball first to start the third quarter, a sequence that also led to a basket by Polk and a 10-point lead.
Colfax, which never got closer than nine points in the fourth quarter, will still earn a spot on the all-time state record book for finishing with 34 wins in a 34-3 season.
“These girls were dead set coming out here in winning today,” said Los Osos head coach Dawnesha Buckner, who also was the team’s head coach in 2017 when it lost in the CIF D4 state final to West Campus of Sacramento. “They just took the game over in the second half. It truly was a group effort.”
Polk also connected on an NBA style 3-pointer in the first half and finished with 30 points. It tied the D3 state title game record that is listed by the CIF as a tie already with three others. Since the CIF didn’t list any of the others, Polk’s name won’t be in that list, either.
“I was just hyped,” Polk replied when asked to talk about her performance. “I just wanted to keep adding points on the board. It didn’t matter to me who it came from.”
The Falcons knew that the hill they had to climb in the fourth quarter was made more difficult with the 10-point deficit, but head coach Rexanne Simpton said there was never any backing down.
“No lead was never too much for these girls,” Simpton said. “We just gave up some shots that they made. They shot the lights out. We only shot 31 percent. They were the better team today.”
The post play of sophomore post player Juliette James helped the Falcons stay close in the third quarter. She ended with 15 points and nine rebounds. Her senior teammate, Maycee Heimann, also had 15 points and had eight rebounds, five steals and three assists.
Polk was by far not a one person team. Senior Hailey Estrada had 14 points and seven rebounds while senior Taylor Rosado also had 14 points.
Estrada also was the one who answered the question when it was asked if it gave the Grizzlies and advantage in the playoffs having had the experience of playing and losing big twice to league rival Etiwanda (nationally ranked and in the Open Division final).
“I believe so,” Estrada said. “When you go against a team like that, anything you face or no one else has the same level as that. If we know we can play against Etiwanda, anything is possible.”
Boys Division V
Lynwood 89, Sierra (Tollhouse) 58
The third period was the story of a game in which both programs were gunning for a first CIF state crown. Lynwood, which lost in the CIF Southern Section D5AA title game and was placed as the top seed in this division, outscored the Chieftains, 35-15, in the pivotal quarter to turn a competitive game into a blowout.
The story coming into this game was the scoring exploits of Lynwood freshman Jason Crowe Jr., and if Sierra, the Central Section D3 runner-ups, could slow him down. What the rest of the state found out is Lynwood has plenty of other standout first-year players. The Wood, which starts four freshmen, got 78 points from that quartet to capture the proud program’s first CIF state title.
Sierra (31-6) probably figured Crowe was going to put up some points, and he did score 36 in the game, but the Chieftains couldn’t have imagined freshman Chace Holley would made 3-of-4 three-pointers to finish with 24 points and that fellow ninth-grader Jahaz Wright would nail 4-of-9 three-pointers (with five steals) to finish with 14 points.
“Lynwood is a very talented team and Jason Crowe is a very talented player, and when you put shooters on the floor like they have, it forced us to come out and defend and they got us in transition,” said Sierra coach Ryan Watt. “I was joking with our staff it we win tomorrow it will be like ‘Hoosiers.’ I’m so proud of these young men from where we’ve been the last three years.”
Sierra, which has an enrollment of just over 300 students compared to Lynwood, which has over 2,000 and has a student body as big as the community where Sierra is located, had two players in double figures. Star junior Logan Kilbert, who came in averaging 29 ppg and 8 rpg, finished 9-of-13 from the field for 19 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists. Nathan Kempen, a senior guard, made 4-of-9 three-pointers and finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Perhaps an omen of what was going to transpire took place before the halftime break when the game was still competitive. With 5:12 remaining in the second quarter, Crowe picked up two fouls within 10 seconds and the second one resulted in a conventional 3-point play for the Chieftains. That gave him three personal foul for the game and Sierra cut its deficit on the play to 31-27, but couldn’t take further advantage of the foul situation. In fact, his father and coach, Jason Crowe Sr., left him in for the rest of the quarter in shifts and Lynwood (27-11) actually increased its lead.
The Wood, which has produced plenty of fine D1 players in the Cal-Hi Sports era (late 1970s to current), got a break when Kempton fell in the backcourt on an inbounds play with seconds remaining in the first half and Lynwood quickly got the ball to Wright, who nailed a wing 3-pointer to give the Knights a 44-32 halftime lead.
It was all Lynwood in the second half.
“I think we came in with the right mentality,” said Crowe Sr. “We were devastated with the loss to Bosco Tech (in the section final). It was a great eye-opening experience. Chace Holley was incredible today.
“I truly believe we got the best player in the state. I don’t want to sound Lavar Ball-ish, but I have to admit it.”
Crowe was, of course, talking about his 14-year son and there is no debating he’s the most prolific offensive first-year player in state history. Crowe finished the contest with 36 points on 13-of-25 shooting from the field (and only two free throws in the fourth quarter after the game was out of hand) to finish his freshman season with 1,295 points in 36 games (36 ppg) while tying a CIF D5 state title game record for total points. Crowe came into this contest with 1,259 points, tied for No. 3 on the all-time single-season state list with Greg Goorjian of Crescenta Valley, who averaged 43.4 ppg in 29 games in 1978. Number two on the all-time state list is the 1,337 points scored by future MLB player Tony Clark of El Cajon Christian in 1990 and future NBA player Tracy Murray is way out ahead of the pack, averaging 44.3 ppg in 34 games for 1,505 points in 1989 when he led Glendora to the D2 state title game.
Crowe Sr. pointed out how four Lynwood players had 10 or more field goal attempts, compared to two for Sierra. Watt mentioned Lynwood’s offensive rebounding (10-9 advantage) as one of the keys to the game after The Wood was out-rebounded in the Bosco Tech loss. Rebounding and boxing out was a point of emphasis during a regional title run in which Lynwood dominated its D5 South foes and continued that domination at the Golden 1 Center. With four talented freshman returning, Lynwood has open division goals at the section and region level for 2023-24.
“Im really speechless about what happened, especially since we started the season with a little slump,” Crow Jr. said. “The coaching staff told me to keep attacking. We wouldn’t be here without them.”
Girls Division IV
Shalhevet (Los Angeles) 50,
San Domenico (San Anselmo) 46
In a rematch of last year’s Division V state title game, and after the CIF moved both teams up to Division IV based on competitive equity, it was the girls from Los Angeles that came out on top this year and became the first Jewish school to ever win a CIF state championship. We also believe it’s the first Jewish school to ever win a CIF state title in any sport.
“We worked 366 days to get back here,” said Shalhevet head coach Ryan Coleman. “I think being here last year in this environment helped us this year.”
Junior guard Yalee Schwartz, who went down with an injury last year with 2:46 left in the first quarter and didn’t return, was a huge factor in this affair after going for a double-double 21 points and 13 rebounds, plus four assists.
“She’s a difference maker on both ends of the court,” said Coleman about Schwartz.
“I’ve never wanted to win so bad in my whole life,” Schwartz remarked. “When I got hurt last year it was terrible. This year we all wanted to prove ourselves and get redemption.”
Schwartz got a lot of help from fellow junior Arielle Grossman, who also had a double-double after finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
A lot of teams have trouble shooting at big arenas like the Golden 1 Center but while it effected San Domenico it didn’t have the same effect on Shalhevet, and in particular Grossman and Schwartz. As a team, the Firehawks were 16-of-31 from the field and 4-of-9 on three-pointers. Grossman had all four treys and was 4-of-9 from beyond the arc and 7-of-11 overall from the field. Schwartz was 5-of-11 from the field and of her 21 points 11 came on the free-throw line.
“I get nervous a lot before game,” Grossman remarked. “But when I stepped on the court I had to get out of my head and relax.”
Shalhevet (26-2) built a 16-5 first quarter lead after San Domenico missed its first nine three-point shots, was 2-for-19 from the field, and 1-for-4 from the free-throw line.
San Domenico clawed its way back to 17-14 but Shalhevet went on a 9-2 run to make it 26-18 at the half.
It was a 37-32 deficit after three quarters but the Panthers refused to fold. They got it to 40-38 with 6:20 left but Shalhevet went on a 7-0 run and San Domenico only could muster a lone free-throw up until the 2:09 mark, and from there the margin was never less than four on two occasions including the final score.
In the end, San Domenico was a paltry 16-of-65 from the field and 7-of-31 from beyond the arc.
“I thought when we cut it to two we would win,” said San Domenico head coach Mike Fulton, who was going for his fourth state championship. “But we took some quick outside shots when maybe we should have gotten it inside.”
“With us getting 65 shots and they only got 31, we’re supposed to win,” continued Fulton. “But all you have to do is look at the scoreboard. We just missed too many shots.”
San Domenico (27-8) was led by junior Summer Jenkins with 15 points. Senior and Polish exchange student Maja Cykowska had a double-double 14 points and 11 rebounds, and junior Avery Conklin added 12 points.
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