Preseason Girls BB Ranks (1-15)

The State Sophomore of the Year for last season (and tops among frosh the year before) was Etiwanda’s Aliyahna “Puff” Morris (25). The State Junior of the Year for last season (and tops among sophs the year before) was Etiwanda’s Kennedy Smith (11). Photos: Samuel Stringer / Cal-Hi Sports & Etiwanda Girls Basketball.

Welcome to the start of our coverage of the 2023-24 girls basketball season in California. We begin with the same format for the boys — top 40 overall preseason state state rankings — and have matched the coverage of the two genders for more than 40 years. Despite transfers and graduations aplenty, the top four teams that finished in that order in the Final Expanded Rankings for last season grace these rankings in the very same order. After that, there’s differences. Some of the teams with higher rankings to start this season include St. Mary’s of Stockton, Sage Hill of Newport Beach, Mission Hills of San Marcos and one that may surprise: Ontario Christian.

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It might be hard for some to believe but girls basketball is getting closer to the boys, and even the Southern California football scene when it comes to the glamour programs playing the “rich get richer” game, and in this case one of those schools is Etiwanda, a public school from the Inland Empire.

Etiwanda head coach and 2022 State Coach of the Year Stan Delus have put the Eagles on the map big-time, and are building a dynasty.

In order to keep up with defending CIF Open Division champion Etiwanda, Sierra Canyon has found the services of the top sophomore in the nation, 5-star recruit Jerzy Robinson, a transplant from Arizona.

But Etiwanda got a transfer too. Grace Knox is a 5-star recruit as well by way of Las Vegas.

Transfers and players from returning from injury have muddied the waters for other teams as well.

Ontario Christian made one of the biggest moves from the Final Expanded Rankings to the Preseason Rankings we can ever remember in all the yers of doing the girls state rankings.

Read on for nearly 10,000 words of comprehensive evaluation of this new landscape and how we arrived at the 40 teams for the 2023-24 preseason rankings.

Note: The Cal-Hi Sports Girls of Summer Player Rankings are referenced in many places, but only the players observed over the summer qualify. Many of the returning top players in the state did not make the list of 125 players, but it wasn’t because they were not deserving, it was because only girls observed live in person were placed on those lists.

Note: The CIF is scheduled to crown its 2023-24 state champions on March 8-9, 2024 at Golden One Center in Sacramento.

Sophomore point guard Aliyahna “Puff” Morris gets instruction from 2023 State Coach of the Year Stan Delus during game last season. Photo:


(This is the 43rd consecutive season that will provide state rankings; Last year’s final rating in parentheses with 2022-23 won-loss record)
(Cal-Hi Sports co-founder and editor Mark Tennis contributed to these rankings)

1. (1) Etiwanda 32-3

The Eagles ascended from No. 2 to No. 1 in the final rankings last season after edging previous No. 1 Sierra Canyon 55-54 in the CIF Southern Section Open Division title game, and then following that up in the CIF Open Division state championship with a thrilling, last second 69-67 victory over Archbishop Mitty.

With the victory, Etiwanda not only won its first-ever state championship in its first title game appearance, it was also the first Open Division title for a team from the Inland Empire portion of the CIF Southern Section, and first girls state championship of any kind from the Inland Empire since Cajon of San Bernardino won the 2016 Division II state championship.

The reason head coach Stan Delus and his Eagles are No. 1 in the preseason rankings is pretty simple. They’re loaded and every analyst queried agrees Etiwanda will be better this year than last. Not only does Delus return everyone, including senior Kennedy Smith (24.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg and 3.8 apg, 3.5 spg and 2.2 bpg), the reigning State Junior of the Year and a leading candidate to start the season for Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year honors, and reigning StateSophomore of the Year Aliyahna “Puff” Morris (17.3 ppg, 4.7 apg, 3.8 rpg and 2.6 spg), but Etiwanda adds two solid transfers in Grace Knox and Shana Brew.

Knox, who like Smith is an ESPN 5-Star recruit, is a 6-foot-3 junior wing that was at Centennial (Las Vegas, Nevada) last season but was injured and did not play. However, several analysts and club coaches that did see her since the end of last season confirmed what Delus said, and that is Knox is the “real deal.” She can defend, jump, and finish in transition, plus more. Brew is a junior guard who according to Delus is originally from the Etiwanda area and has moved back after playing her first two years at Santa Ana Mater Dei where she was third on the Monarchs in scoring and rebounding, and second in assists and steals.

If that’s not enough, Etiwanda returns two players Delus call “impact” in sophomore guard Arynn Finley and senior guard Sania Jenkins from Australia in her second year at Etiwanda. With the team he has, Delus claims he’s put together the toughest schedule in the nation.

“I’m putting the team in a gauntlet with 14-15 games against national level competition,” he said.

Etiwanda will face Long Island Lutheran (New York) and Sidwell Friends of Washington D.C. in the Hoophall Classic in Massachusetts, plus the Eagles will be in the Nike Hoopfest in Texas and the Nike Hoopfest in the Bahamas, the NorCal/SoCal Shootout in Los Angeles, and the Nike Holiday Classic in Oregon.

Jerzy Robinson dribbles up the court last season for Desert Vista High in Arizona while leading that team to a state title as a freshman. She’s now at Sierra Canyon. Photo:

2. (1) Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 31-1

The Trailblazers rolled into the CIF Southern Regional Open Division championship game behind Juju Watkins after winning two straight over Etiwanda, including a 70-57 victory two weeks earlier in the CIF Southern Section Open Division title game. Unfortunately for the Sierra Canyon faithful, the girls came up just short in a heartbreaking 55-54 loss that ended the season.

Watkins is now off to USC after capturing a second straight Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year award but for anyone thinking there might be a drop-off there most likely won’t be with Jerzy Robinson transferring to Sierra Canyon for her sophomore season after leading
Desert Vista (Phoenix) to the Arizona 6A state championship and No. 1 ranking in the state as a freshman and averaging 22.0 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Robinson, an ESPN 5-Star recruit, and the No. 2 ranked player in the Girls of Summer Player Rankings, joins two current Trailblazers standouts who have more than established themselves as underclass players, seniors MacKenly Randolph, another 5-Star recruit, and recent Louisville-committed 4-Star recruit Izela Arenas, who are back. Sophomore post Emilia Krstevski also has many admirers who are college coaches.

Randolph, who was No. 4 in the Girls of Summer player rankings and was very impressive and looked significantly improved, averaged 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game last season. Arenas was out in the games we covered in the Girls of Summer Rankings and thus did not get evaluated, but averaged 15.3 points per contest last season.

The non-league schedule for Sierra Canyon consists of the 901 Tournament of Champions in Memphis, where Randolph’s father Zach Randolph starred for the Memphis Grizzlies, the Nike Hoopfest in Texas, the Iolani Classic in Hawaii, and the West Coast Jamboree where the Trailblazers will be the marquee team in the Platinum Division.

3. (3) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 28-3

Monarchs’ head coach Sue Phillips has been around for a bit, long enough to win 34 league titles, 31 CIF Central Coast Section Titles, 15 CIF NorCal championships, six CIF state titles, and according to the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book the wily veteran has amassed 789 career coaching wins for No. 4 all time.

Morgan Cheli was leading scorer las a sophomore two years ago at Archbishop Mitty. Photo: Harold Abend.

The one thing that has eluded Phillips, however, is a CIF state Open Division championship. The closest she has gotten was last year when Mitty lost 69-67 at the buzzer to Etiwanda. At the press conference afterward Phillips stated the obvious. “This one is going to hurt for a long time. It doesn’t just go away,” she said.

Even so, despite the loss that sees Mitty at 6-8 in state title-game appearances, it was one of the greatest seasons in Monarchs history. The good news for Monarchs fans is despite losing the last of the Hernandez sisters to graduation last season, twins Haley and Maya Hernandez, this year’s Monarchs team would appear to be better than last year, and very deep which is a trademark of Phillips’ teams over the years.

Connecticut-bound senior star Morgan Cheli showed over the summer she is fully recovered from a foot injury and looked super in events we covered, and she should be a legitimate Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year contender. State Freshman of the Year and current sophomore McKenna Woliczko followed up a season in which she averaged a double-double 20.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game with 62-pecent shooting from the field, by establishing herself as one of the top two underclass players in the world with her performance along with Jerzy Robinson of Sierra Canyon at the 2023 FIBA Americas U16 Championship where the US won the Gold Medal.

Lehigh-bound senior Belle Bramer, who was forced to sit out her entire junior season after transferring, was very impressive over the summer and while Cheli was the top rated player in the Girls of Summer rankings, Bramer was high up on the rankings list despite it being her first real high-level competitive action in a year. Sophomore Emma Cook also tied for No. 12 in the Girls of Summer rankings out of 125 players evaluated.

Other Mitty returners that impressed over the summer and should be improved this season were
Bucknell-bound senior Elana Weisman and junior Jordan Bowar. Five other Mitty role players made the summer rankings, junior Niyati Bangalore, junior Princess Mendoza, sophomore Caleigh Clarke, junior Rena Robinson, and sophomore Sophia-Lynn Teresi.

Being tops in Northern California to start the season is a slam dunk. The question is can it translate into a first CIF Open Division state title for Phillip and Mitty? The journey will begin with a solid preseason schedule that includes the Nike TOC in Arizona and the Nike Holiday Classic in Oregon before West Catholic Athletic League action starts in January.

4. (4) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 29-4

Like the three teams above them, the Monarchs start the preseason in the exact same spot where they finished in last season’s Final Expended Rankings. California all-time winningest head coach Kevin Kiernan comes into the season with 874 career coaching wins and with a similar season to last he will break new ground by crossing the 900-win mark.

Mater Dei’s Addie Deal won the three-point shooting contest last June at the Section 7 event held in Glendale, Ariz., and is shown with the mascot of the Fiesta Bowl college football game. Photo: @CalStars /

The centerpiece of Kiernan’s Monarchs will be junior phenom Addison “Addie” Deal, a transfer to Mater Dei for her sophomore season where last season she was a close runner-up for State Sophomore of the Year after leading the Monarchs with a 15.0 points per game average, plus 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.0 assists per game, and she connected on 57 three-pointers as well.

Deal, who can play both on top or in the paint, will be joined by senior post Jenessa Cotton to give Mater Dei arguably the top inside-outside combination in the state. Duke-bound Cotton led the Monarchs with 6.1 rebounds per game and she was second in scoring at 12.4 points per contest.

Other top returners include Central Washington-bound Emily Shaw, and junior Amaya Williams, plus three other girls averaging 3.4 points per game or better, including the coaches’ daughter, junior Devyn Kiernan. According to Kiernan, he will have three freshmen coming in that could be impact newcomers, Chasity Rice, Stella Hoss and Harmony Golightly. Sophomore Kaeli Wynn is back and her mom Jody Wynn is joining the show as well. The former D1 head coach at the University of Washington and CSU Long Beach is joining Kiernan on the bench as an assistant.

Prior to Trinity League action, Mater Dei kicks off its non-league schedule at the Troy Tournament, the Nike TOC in Arizona and the Nike Holiday Classic in Oregon. In January, the Monarchs travel to Massachusetts for the Hoophall Classic.

5. (11) St. Mary’s (Stockton) 26-10

There’s no question Texas-bound senior Jordan Lee is one of the top players in California. In fact, ESPN rates her as the No. 7 recruit from the class of 2024 in the nation. With all due respect to the Rams’ 2022 graduating seniors, Lee just did not have enough of a supporting cast to get into the CIF NorCal Open Division or even to make a run toward the CIF Division I state title game. Lee was unstoppable against Oakland Tech after erupting for a career-high 47 points, but the rest of the Rams could only muster 24 points against the tough Bulldog defense in an 82-71 loss in the NorCal D1 title game.

The reason for the big bump up from last year’s Final Expanded rankings is not only has Lee gotten bigger and stronger and improved her game after averaging 20.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.9 steals per game, but this year’s supporting cast would appear to be stronger. Junior Nyah Buntun and sophomore Mia Jamias (84 three-pointers) return but head coach and Rams alum Alle Moreno adds sophomore post Evelini Smith, a transfer who was ticketed as a promising freshman at Antelope before missing the entire season with an injury, senior power forward Cassidy Bartolotto, a transfer from Livermore Granada, and senior Emani King, another power forward who missed last season with an injury. Another huge catch for the Rams is incoming freshman Kori Rogers, one of the top 2027 performers this past summer.

St. Mary’s will be in the Marin Catholic tournament, the Nike TOC in Phoenix, the Tampa Bay Invitational, and of course its own MLK Showcase.

6. (8) Clovis West (Fresno) 30-2

There’s no question about Clovis West starting out as the top team in the CIF Central Section. Despite losing Etoyah Montgomery to Long Beach State and a couple of other graduating seniors, head coach Craig Campbell, who including his wins in Nevada became the ninth coach in state history to crack the 700 career win mark last season and enters the season with 704 career coaching victories, may have a better team this year and gets a two-spot bump from the 2022 Final Expanded Rankings.

Athena Tomlinson of Clovis West was the Player of the Year last season in the Tri-River Athletic Conference. Photo: @CWGirlsBball /

The top returner is flashy point guard Athena Tomlinson, who just signed with Boston College. Tomlinson was the leading scorer last season at 14.1 points per game with 2.7 assists was well. Another returner who looked improved in the off-season is junior guard Riley Walls. She averaged 11.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 2.3 assists per game. Senior point guard Ariyah Smith (5.9 ppg, 4.9 apg) also is back as is junior Keegan Medeiros and her 7.6 points per game from last season.

According to Campbell, junior Jordyn Ybarra will fill Montgomery’s spot and sophomore shooting guard Malohni Warren will join Ybarra as projected key contributors. Campbell always seems to have up-and-comers and this year’s crop of newcomers are guards, freshmen Ramie Chatman and Ziane Williams and sophomore Josline Martinez.

Clovis West will be at the Harvard-Westlake Classic, its own Nike Central Valley Showdown where one of the teams they will face is Episcopal from the Houston area that boasts the daughter of Shaq O’Neal, senior power forward Me’Arah O’Neal. Next is the Iolani Classic in Hawaii and then the Nike Holiday Classic in Portland. After New Year’s, Clovis West will be in the MLK Classic at St. Mary’s and also the Sabrina Ionescu SI20 event at Carondelet.

7. (9) Folsom 26-3

After finishing as the top team in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section in last year’s Final
Expanded Rankings, the Bulldogs start off this season as No. 2 in the preseason rankings after flipping with St. Mary’s. By March, however, when things really count it could all change.

Several solid contributors graduated, including current Nevada-Reno freshman Charlotte Climenhage, but head coach Lynn Wolking returns a lot of solid talent. The centerpiece of the Folsom lineup that returns 10 players and four starters coming into this season hasn’t changed, and it’s the Sacramento Bee’s 2022-23 All-Metro Girls Player of the Year Kamryn Mafua. The Cal-bound senior forward will now be a four-year varsity player. Last season, Mafua averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds and led Folsom to a 26-3 season, the best in program history, and somewhat surprisingly after all the recent success of Wolking, last year’s team was the first to win a section Division I championship. Over the summer, Mafua had the seventh highest mark in the Girls of Summer player rankings that included 125 players.

Another solid returner is senior Idaho-bound guard Ella Uriate, who looked markedly improved in spring and summer action. The other two returning starters are juniors Sophie Mindermann and Jada Tupou. A player Wolking is anticipating returning later in the season is junior guard Ava Rawlins. Before Rawlins went down last season with a knee injury she was one of the most promising freshman guards in Northern California. Key role players include juniors Dixie McLanahan, Aryn Bright and Breyana Kimmons. A new addition is 6-foot-2 athletic freshman Avery Masters.

We should get a better indication of how things will mesh for the Bulldogs in the early season when they take on some of the state’s top teams in the Nike TOC and the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree between Christmas and New Year. Folsom is also in the St. Mary’s MLK Showcase and the Sabrina Ionescu SI20 Showcase.

8. (13) Sage Hill (Newport Beach) 21-10

When querying coaches and analysts, which we like to do in helping determine the preseason landscape, there were those that pegged the Lightning as the preseason No. 4 team in the CIF Southern Section and some felt they were No. 5, but our decision is to go with a proven product and Sage Hill head coach Kerwin Walters has just that. Walters only loses one player off what is now a 15-player roster and returns a whole lot of talent.

Kat Righeimer (left) and Amalia Holguin of Sage Hill are two of the top players in Orange County. Photo: @sagehillgbb /

Senior forward Emily Eadie returns after leading the team last season in scoring, rebounding and assists with 15.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Eadie had the seventh highest mark in the Girls of Summer player rankings out of 125 players evaluated. Coming in right behind Eadie in the Girls of Summer rankings was Amalia Holquin. After averaging 14.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.4 steals per game last season she had the eighth highest mark overall and tied for third highest among incoming sophomores in the Girls of Summer rankings. The third of the top returners is senior forward Kat Righeimer. She averaged 11.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

Other significant contributors include seniors Annabelle Spotts (9.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.0 apg) and Zoe Lamkin (8.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.0 spg). In addition, Walters is looking for contributions
from sophomore Alyssa Cuff, senior transfer Aurora Elder and freshman newcomer Kamdyn Klamberg.

Anyone who thinks Sage Hill isn’t loaded and better than last year may want to re-think that again. Walters has scheduled as such. The team will stay local in SoCal for the Redondo and Troy tournaments, then they head north for the West Coast Jamboree, and finally they go east for the St. James MLK Classic in Washington D.C.

9. (4) La Jolla Country Day 29-4

The Torreys start out a little lower then they finished in the Final Expanded Rankings but veteran head coach Terri Bamford still has a top 10 team and despite losing arguably the most talent off her roster in many years to graduation, over the years she always seems to develop players to fill the gaps.

Bamford losses two Arizona-bound McDonald’s All-Americans, Breya Cunningham, a State Freshman of the Year winner, and Jada Williams, plus Sumayah Sugapong. Between those three, they accounted for 43.4 points, 18.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game. She also lost senior guard Tajianna Roberts, who transferred to IMG Academy, but even so the current cupboard is not bare.

The top returner will be Naomi Panganiban (7.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.6 apg) but like just about everyone Bamford has some transfers and newcomers that will still make the team very solid this year. Bamford will enter this season with 696 career coaching wins in her quest to be the ninth coach in state history to achieve 700 career coaching wins. Also, if her Torreys win 30 games next year, Bamford will pass Jay Trousdale (725 wins at Poway 1988-2022) as the all-time leader in the CIF San Diego Section.

Another returner is senior Ale’a Tufaga, who brings veteran leadership to the team. Carleton college-commit and returning senior Taylor Dente is a knockdown shooter. Returning senior Ann-Mae DeGuzman brings defensive intensity. Returning junior Erin Sicari is another scrappy defender. The top transfer is sophomore Mei-Ling Perry, a budding, promising versatile guard with interest from power five universities. Another sophomore transfer is Tatiana Harness. Her 20.9 point per game average was second in scoring for freshman and top ten in the state in Arizona. To round out the transfers, the Lady Torreys bring in Isabelle Miller, a 6-foot-3 sophomore post player from Spring Valley Monte Vista.

10. (10) Oakland Tech (Oakland) 30-5

The big question is can Oakland Tech, or “Purple Reigns” as they call the purple-clad Bulldogs in Oakland, win a fourth consecutive CIF state championship? If they can, they will equal the most all time. With three straight and five overall state championships, the Bulldogs are already among the all-time best. Six other teams have won three straight CIF state titles and five have won four straight. With five state titles, Oakland Tech is also already tied for fourth most all time.

Jhai Johnson is a 6-foot-3 sophomore from Oakland Tech who can play on the perimeter, which is why college coaches and recruiting analysts are so high about her. Photo: Samuel Stringer.

Tech graduates Erin Sellers, Nia Hunter and several other seniors including Mari Somvichian and Sophia Askew-Goncalves, but head coach Leroy Hurt returns a load of talent led by senior Taliyah Logwood, outstanding sophomore standout Terri’A Russell and another sophomore standout, Jhai Johnson.

Oakland Tech avoided the Open Division last year when the CIF seeded only five teams in both the Northern and Southern Regional brackets, but Hurt, who never shies away from playing the best, has scheduled tough once again this year like last in anticipation of being placed in the Open Division this year. He will take his team to the Nike TOC in Phoenix and the Bulldogs will also be in the Platinum field of the West Coast Jamboree.

11. (33) Ontario Christian 27-5

Some may question how a team that finished No. 33 in the Final Expanded Rankings last season, and graduated the greatest scorer in Inland Empire history and the No. 3 scorer all time in the state, Washington freshman Chloe Briggs and her 3,474 points, and still jump 22 spots in the preseason rankings.

The answer is that the Knights are a prime example of how transfers can change the landscape almost as fast as the blink of an eye, and when you add in an incoming freshman that’s been turning a ton of heads to the mix it adds even more to the reason why.

Want more reasons. Two coaches of teams ranked in the top 10 and more than one other coach who has seen Ontario Christian over the summer and fall said the Knights should fall either No. 4 or No. 5 in the CIF Southern Section pecking order to start the season. Since this is a team still coming together with different pieces, we’re going to go with No. 5 and see where the chips fall from there.

The top returner is a girl who has her name in two spots in the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book. Senior sharpshooter Dejah Saldivar made 144 three-pointers last season including 17 in a game. The 17 made treys is tops on the Most Three- Point Field Goals Made – Game list in the record book and the 144 made last season is a top 10 mark on the Most Three-Point Field Goals Made – Season list.

The transfers are senior Karsen Marshall, a college prospect who averaged 9.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last year at Corona Centennial, Amanda Ajobiewe, a senior who was the leading scorer at JW North (Riverside) last season. The incoming freshman that has turned heads is Kaleena Smith. With her performances over the summer and fall, Smith has established herself as one of the top incoming freshmen in the nation, enough even to be on the South Carolina radar screen. She was the top rated incoming freshman by a landslide in the Girls of Summer Player Rankings and came in tied for the No. 11 mark overall.

Head coach Matt Tumambing also has three returners that will be contributors, sophomore Savannah Philan, junior Danika Tolentino and senior Kailee Briggs, the little sister of Chloe Briggs. Tumambing also has two 6-footer newcomers, freshman Legacy Benjamin, and sophomore Cori Benjamin, a freshman transfer who did not play last year.

The Knights’ non-league schedule includes the Battle at the Beach at Redondo Union, the La Jolla Country Day Sweet 16, the Nike TOC in Arizona and the Matt Denning Hoops Classic at Mater Dei.

12. (12) San Ramon Valley (Danville) 28-5

The Wolves, who made it to the NorCal D1 semifinals before bowing out 56-46 to eventual state champion Oakland Tech, start in the same spot they finished in the Final Expanded Rankings, only instead of falling in behind St. Mary’s and Oakland Tech, they’re next in the pecking order behind Tech and fast rising Ontario Christian.

Head coach John Cristiano loses a few seniors led by Anneka Lupinek, but he returns nine players led by the Wolves’ top player, Southern Utah-bound senior Sierra Chambers. After averaging 13 points and eight assists, Chambers tied for the No. 10 ranking in the Girls of Summer Player Rankings. Three other senior returners, Sofia Bowes, who averaged a double double 13 points and 11 rebounds with six assists per game, Cal Poly-bound Avery Knapp and sharpshooter Amanda Kerner, who got nice marks in the Girls of summer Player Rankings, will be the other key contributors.

Senior Paige Baldyga was going to be a huge piece but tore her ACL in the off season. Players like junior Ava Horrocks (playing D1 lacrosse at UC Davis) will have to step up to fill the void. According to Cristiano, senior Tera Chen will be a key role player defensively. There are no transfers but there are three incoming freshmen to watch, one of which is Hania Bowes, the little sister of Sofia Bowes.

Prior to East Bay Athletic League action, San Ramon Valley will be in the Marin Catholic tournament and San Diego Gold Crown Holiday Tip-Off tournament.

Kyara Walter, a junior, was one of the top players on the floor when we saw Mission Hills at the MLK Classic held at St. Mary’s of Stockton. Photo: Mark Tennis.

13. (28) Mission Hills (San Marcos) 21-11

The Grizzlies, who come into the preseason rankings as the No. 2 team in the CIF San Diego Section, are another team that makes a huge jump from where they finished in the Final Expanded Rankings. Mission Hills was a very young team last year with only one senior that was a medium contributor on the roster. Because of its youth the team was a bit up and down as indicated by its record. Now, with all those 11 returners and the top producers seniors, Mission Hills has transformed into a veteran team that should help head coach Christopher Kroesch, who is also the top women’s assistant at nearby Palomar College, put the Grizzlies in a position to make another run at a CIF San Diego Section Open Division championship. That’s something he has done three times in his 11 years at the Grizzlies’ helm.

Three senior returners averaged over 10 points per game, Cal State-Los Angeles-bound leading scorer Kyara Walter (12.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Cal State-San Marcos-bound Maria Gorbushin (11.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg), and Westmont College-bound Mariah Brown (11.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.3 apg). An up and comer who looked good in the summer is senior Colorado College of the Mines-committed senior post Lindsey Jones. An incoming freshman Kroesch calls a “future star” is guard Maleena Nava.

Prior to Palomar League play, Mission Hills will be at the La Jolla Country Day Sweet 16 event and the Nike Holiday Classic in Portland. The team also will be coming up north for the MLK Showcase in Stockton at St. Mary’s.

14. (16) Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 25-8

As of right now, the eligibility of incoming junior and Brazilian phenom Taissa “Tissa” Queiroz is still up in the air, so we’re ranking them as if she is not eligible. However, the groundswell among a multitude of coaches we talked to, even some that would be potential adversaries on the court, is they are hoping she is cleared to play and can bring her talents to the attention of California girls basketball fans.

Just over the summer, where she wasn’t really in tip-top shape since there is no girls basketball season in Brazil, Tissa received several offers just from her performance at Girls California Live 23 from schools like Cal, San Diego State and St. Mary’s plus a lot more, with interest from Washington, Oregon State and Stanford. Tissa was the No. 3 rated player in the Girls of Summer Player Rankings and right now she’s up to 12 D1 offers.

With what Cardinals’ head coach Monica Mertle returns, if Queiroz were eligible right now, more than one coach of a top 25 ranked team said Newman could be as high as top five in the state. The top returner is junior Kate Schat. She averaged 15.2 points per game and made 87 three-pointers and shot 82-percent on free-throws. She tied for No. 11 in the Girls of Summer Player Rankings.

Several other returners and one newcomer made the Girls of Summer Player Rankings, including seniors Leah Martinez, Janelle Pena, Leah Mauritson and Natalie Rosetti. Another returning senior contributor is Kaida Angelo. The newcomer is incoming freshman Macie Flores, one of only two incoming freshmen to make the Girls of Summer Player Rankings. The Cardinals will be hosting their own Cardinal Newman Classic as one highlight of the schedule.

15. (15) Clovis 27-7

Some may argue the Cougars should be ahead of Cardinal Newman based on a 62-58 road win in the CIF Northern Regional Division I quarterfinals last season, and they may have a case. However, this is just the preseason and trying to wade through top returners and newcomers, with transfers on many teams mixed in, is harder than it’s ever been, so at this point, and after arguably the greatest season in Clovis girls basketball history, head coach Cooper Steele and his Cougars start off exactly where they finished in the Final Expanded Rankings.

Where they go from here and whether they can challenge Clovis West for CIF Central Section supremacy remains to be seen. Devin Miller and Alyssa Kem graduated and are now at Fresno Pacific University, but Steele has two talented sophomores that return plus more. Sadie Sin averaged 11 points as a freshman and her production as the top returner should increase. The other sophomore is three-point specialist Yazmin Aguilera. Other role players include sophomore Taylor Larkin, senior defensive standout Deja Lee, and senior defensive specialist Kaya Semier. The newcomer is junior Saiya Sidhu, a transfer from San Joaquin Memorial who averaged 13 points per game last season and can light it up from beyond the arc.

Clovis will be in the Oxnard Invitational, the Del Oro tournament, the Central Valley Showdown and the West Coast Jamboree.

For a look at the teams we’ve ranked from No. 16 to No. 40, plus 15 more on the bubble, CLICK HERE.

Harold Abend is the associate editor of and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend

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  1. […] how to join our team today, CLICK HERE. To check out the teams we ranked from No. 1 to No. 15, CLICK HERE.16. (26) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 20-9A third team at this stage of the rankings that gets a big […]

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