NorCal Tip-Off Classic Recaps

Leo Ricketts (left) and Ibrahim Monawar both had their three-point shooting stroke clicking during De La Salle’s big win at the NorCal Tip-Off Classic over three-time CIF Southern Section Open Division champ Corona Centennial. Photo: Ronnie Flores.

Here’s the results and recaps from the 16th Annual NorCal Tip-Off Classic at Dublin. Nationally-ranked and state No. 4 Roosevelt of Eastvale records a big win over No. 8 Riordan of San Francisco in an early NorCal-SoCal showdown. State No. 13 De La Salle of Concord and No. 16 Branson also pick up key victories with the Spartans pulling off the upset in the marquee game of the evening. 

RELATED: To see 2023-24 preseason state rankings, CLICK HERE ; To see the list of major tournaments and showcases involving California’s best teams, CLICK HERE ; To see a list of all-time preseason No. 1 boys basketball teams (since 1979-80), CLICK HERE ; To see the vast list of transfers that will impact the 2023-24 season, CLICK HERE

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2023 NorCal Tip-Off Classic Results
(Teams listed by preseason state ranking)

Game 9: No. 13 De La Salle (Concord) 62, No. 6 Centennial (Corona) 51

In the final game of the evening, the pro-NorCal crowd was hoping a local club could beat one of the two big SoCal teams that made the trek to the annual showcase put on by veteran event director Gerry Freitas. Often times, it’s the first game of the season for a top-ranked NorCal club and not the first game for the marquee team from the South, but there still have been some upsets in recent seasons, including a big win by Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland over eventual CIF open champ Bishop Montgomery of Torrance in 2016-17. That same scenario played out once again, as De La Salle shot the ball terrific from the outside and got terrific games from its lesser-known talents in its first game to pull off the mild upset of CIF Southern Section power and three-time defending section open champion Centennial.

Ibrahim Monawar, a talented 6-foot-3 sophomore guard, knocked down a 3-pointer to give De La Salle (1-0) a 16-5 lead and it never looked back, although Centennial (2-2) made it interesting on many occasions. The Huskies just never got over the hump. A big difference in the game was the 3-point shooting of Monawar and 6-foot senior Leo Ricketts, who combined to make 9-of-15 3-pointers. Nobody else on the Spartans made one (9-of-20 as a team), while Centennial shot a paltry 23 percent (3-13) from 3-point range.

Monawar scored a game-high 22 points (4-of-7 3-pointers) and added six rebounds. Ricketts finished with 21 points (5-of-8 3-pointers) and five rebounds. Even more than his point total, it seemed as if his buckets crushed Centennial’s hopes of a comeback win and lifted the Spartans’ energy level as the crowd cheered every long jumper in search of the upset.

“We came in thinking Centennial is a great team, but we think we’re one of those great teams, too,” said Ricketts. “We think we can play with anyone. Who they were made no difference on our mindset coming in.”

The Huskies trailed 16-11 at the end of the first period and 30-19 at halftime. De La Salle was seemingly in control until star junior wing Alec Blair, one of the nation’s best hoop-baseball combo athletes, picked up his fourth personal foul with De La Salle leading 40-30 with 2:32 remaining in the third period. Centennial re-grouped and found some life and cut its deficit to three points before Blair re-entered the contest with his team leading 46-43. Centennial actually cut its deficit to one point (46-45) on a layup by UCLA-bound wing Eric Freeny (16 points, 6 rebounds), but Blair answered with a nifty pass to junior post Braddock Kjellesvig to push the lead back up to three points with 4:34 to go. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Monawar and Ricketts, followed by a driving bucket by Blair, made it 56-49 with 2:13 remaining and from there on the NorCal fans could smell the upset win.

Blair finished with seven points, six rebounds and three assists, but his impact on the game far exceeded his point total. His size, presence and skill made a big difference for a team that made the NorCal open semifinals last season but has more offensive weapons in 2023-24. Kjellesvig, a transfer from Christopher (Gilroy), added six points, eight rebounds and four interior assists.

For Centennial, it was working in a new lineup with Arizona-bound forward Carter Bryant eligible for his first game after transferring from Sage Hill of Newport Beach. Bryant (team-high 18 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks) definitely gives Centennial another dimension with his shot-blocking and shot-making, but Centennial is still working out the kinks with the lineup it’s going to want to play with when it takes on league foe Roosevelt of Eastvale down the line. Roosevelt, of course, beat NorCal’s top-ranked team earlier in the day at the event and is a more cohesive unit at the moment.

Centennial has now lost two games in a row, after dropping a contest at home to highly-regarded and West Region ranked Sunnyslope of Phoenix, 65-62. Bryant and Freeny were the only two players in double-figures vs. De La Salle for a club that shot 38 percent (20-53) from the field.

Both Centennial and De La Salle will participate in the top division of the Platinum Bracket at The Classic at Damien after Christmas, but have plenty of land-mines before then. The main difference is De La Salle will have some positive momentum going into its December games, while the Huskies will look to find the missing ingredients to give itself a chance to win the Big VIII League crown over Roosevelt and defend its section title admirably.

Game 8: No. 16 Branson (Ross) 65, No. 21 Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 58

In the best “pick ’em” game of the nine-game slate, Branson took charge in final minute of the first quarter and never looked back to start off a highly-anticipated season with a quality victory. With Branson leading 13-11, it went on a 11-0 run to take control of the game over the end of the first period and beginning of the second. Branson actually went up 27-13 before UC Riverside-bound guard Tyler Jones ended the Branson spurt with a 3-pointer.

Illinois-bound point guard Jase Butler answered Jones’ 3-pointer with one of his own and the Central Coast Section power had a hard time slowing him down the entire contest. Butler can punish teams from deep or inside and creates offense for others because of the defensive attention. It also helps that Branson quickly moves the ball on offense, flies to loose balls and pressures the ball-handler as well as any team in NorCal.

Branson led 18-11 after one period and 35-20 at halftime, as Butler nearly scored as many points as the entire Mitty team in the first 16 minutes of play. Butler had 18 points, four rebounds and two assists.

At the end of the third period, Mitty (0-1) got within six points (49-43) on a 3-pointer by 6-foot-3 senior Aaron Biebel, but Branson answered with a nifty lay-up by 6-foot-2 senior guard Joaquin Aguilar, his only two points, to make it 51-43 entering the fourth period.

Mitty got within four points (51-47) with 6:30 remaining in the fourth period on a Jones layup, but Butler answered the call again with a power layup for Branson (1-0). The power guard finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Junior guard Semetri Carr had 16 points and seven rebounds for the Bulls.

Mitty was led in the scoring department by UC-San Diego-bound forward Gavin Ripp with 16 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Jones finished with 15 points.

Luke Isaak is one of the top players for San Ramon Valley, one of the top teams in Northern California this season. Photo: Gerry Freitas.

Game 7: No. 26 San Ramon Valley (Danville) 70, Capital Christian (Sacramento) 56

In the season opener for both clubs, the Wolves slowly pulled away from the Cougars, as they led after each period in a game that was never in doubt.

Eight different players scored, including four in double-digits, for San Ramon Valley, led by junior guard Luke Isaak in a balanced attack. One of NorCal’s best juniors finished with 21 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Elliot Conley, a 6-foot-3 junior, also played well with 15 points and nine rebounds.

Capital Christian got within 10 points early in the fourth period, but could get no closer. Jaylen Valdez, a tough-as-nails 6-foot-3 junior guard, led the Cougars with 18 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Myles Wiggins, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, added 14 points and 11 rebounds

Game 6: No. 11 Clovis West (Fresno) 78, No. 40 Vanden (Fairfield) 64

With the game tied at 53 heading into the final period, the Golden Eagles did what they do best, wear down teams with their vaunted full-court press. Vanden made many ball-handling mistakes down the stretch when its legs lost steam from the pressure and the top-ranked team from the CIF Central Section pulled away.

The catalyst was one of the state’s fast-rising junior guards: 6-foot-1 D.J. Stickman. He was everywhere on the defensive end, guarding the ball, contesting shots and scoring off the defensive effort. He made 14-of-18 shots from the field, consistently blowing by his man and hit a couple of pull-up jumpers as well. Stickman finished with 32 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals.

Vanden (1-2) put up a game effort despite missing two starters and a reserve because of a fracas on Friday afternoon versus Moreau Catholic (Hayward) at the Bishop O’Dowd Thanksgiving Showcase. Included among the suspended players was leading player and Montana-bound Tyler Thompson. Josh Neal, a 6-foot-6 senior, led Vanden with 15 points and six rebounds versus Clovis West (2-0).

Game 5: No. 4 Roosevelt (Eastvale) 77, No. 8 Archbishop Riordan (San Francisco) 72

In one of the early marquee games of the season involving two teams with a legitimate chance to represent their respective region in the CIF open title game on March 9, it looked like Riordan of the CIF Central Coast Section might have a real tough time in its season opener against a CIF Southern Section open contender that was quite impressive in its first four victories. Roosevelt won those games by an average of 37 points each, but Riordan took a quick 5-0 lead. That’s when the roof caved in on the Crusaders, as Roosevelt went on a 19-0 run to take control of the highly-anticipated matchup.

Roosevelt (5-0) has many physical scorers and is generally unselfish, but when it shoots like it did in the first quarter, it will be nearly unbeatable this season. Coach Steve Singleton’s club made seven 3-pointers and led 29-15 at the end of the period. The Mustangs didn’t quite shoot that well the rest of the way, but they played well enough in the wake-up call victory at Dublin High School.

Riordan (0-1) made some spectacular shots and chipped away at its early deficit, but didn’t help itself by missing nine free throws in the third period and not taking advantage when Roosevelt had four team fouls with over five minutes remaining in the period (teams now shoot two free throws on the fifth team foul of each quarter). Roosevelt led 66-47 entering the fourth period after a made 3-pointer by reserve Jackson Haggins, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, at the buzzer. That’s when Riordan went to work, particularly sophomore guard Andrew Hillman. Hillman had two points in the first half, but came roaring back with 23 points after intermission. Hillman got downhill and worked the offensive boards, finishing with nine rebounds.

After the hot first quarter, Roosevelt cooled down from behind the arc, hitting 14 for the game. It hit only one in the final period, but it was a big one for the Mustangs. With 1:20 remaining and Riordan trailing 71-64, Colorado St.-bound Darnez Slater nailed a corner 3-pointer to hold off the hard-charging Crusaders who got closest at the final buzzer in an ending that was never in serious doubt.

“It was a good game with some great plays and some bad ones, but maybe it’s what we needed,” Singleton said.

Hillman was slowed down early trying to contain Roosevelt’s best player, junior Mr. Basketball candidate Brayden Burries. He picked up two quick fouls in the first four possessions and we suspect the physical big guard will be getting more defenders off their game trying to contain him. Burries finished with 28 points, eight rebounds, four steals and five blocked shots. Junior Issac Williamson, who came over to Roosevelt from Riverside Poly with Burries, nailed five 3-pointers and had 15 points. Slater finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Hillman had 25 points and St. Mary’s-bound forward Zion Sensley had 23 points on 9-of-28 shooting from the field. Burries lost a tooth during the chippy game and it was probably loosened or knocked out on one of the many major-league collisions with 6-foot-6, 300-pound sophomore big man Tommy Tofi. Tofi, a transfer from Sheldon of Sacramento, gives Riordan a shot in the arm with his physicality, soft hands, screening, offensive rebounding and outlet passers. He’s definitely one of the best Grid-Hoop linemen we’ve seen in the state in recent years. Tofi finished with eight points, nine rebounds and three blocks and is a type of player foes would love to have on their side.

Riordan will get better, as it had four players in street clothes on its bench sitting out, but the big question is, how much better can the Mustangs get? They definitely can but how much?

Game 4: No. 29 Weston Ranch (Stockton) 85, Bakersfield Christian 72

The Cougars outscored Bakersfield Christian, 29-17, in the pivotal third period to take control of a game against a team looking to break into the Cal-Hi Sports state rankings. Bakersfield Christian started the season right outside the preseason Top 40 as the No. 4 team from the CIF Central Section, but didn’t have enough depth to hold off a team looking to capture a CIF Sac Joaquin Section D1 crown.

Bakersfield Christian (0-3) took a 15-14 lead after one period behind the sharp-shooting of 5-foot-11 junior Gabe Gutierrez, who finished the first half with 24 points, including 3-of-3 on 3-pointers. He finished the contest with 41 points on 16-of-26 shooting for Bakersfield Christian, who trailed 37-35 at halftime.

Weston Ranch (2-0) had four players in double figures, led by player of the game Izaias White, a 6-foot-3 senior who finished with 22 points and five rebounds. Richard Banks, a 6-foot-4 senior, added 19 points, while strongman Darrion Lilly, a 6-foot-5 junior, added 18 points for the victors.

Vince Crisp of St. Ignatius was the MVP of the game he played in at the NorCal Tip-Off Classic. Photo: Gerry Freitas.

Game 3: St. Ignatius (San Francisco) 63,
Dublin 54

The host Gaels were seemingly in control of the game, until the Wildcats came alive in the fourth quarter and tied the game at 45-45 after S.I. took an early 3-0 lead. Dublin led 28-17 at halftime, but the Wildcats took a 49-47 lead with 4:20 to go on a lay-up. They proceeded to outscore Dublin, 25-9, in the fourth quarter after trailing 45-38 at the end of the third period and by as many as 14 points in the second quarter.

Vince Crisp hit a 3-pointer with 2:30 remaining to give S.I. a 54-49 lead and it didn’t look back from there. Crisp, a 6-foot-4 junior, finished with 22 points, including 4-of-6 on 3-pointers, and three steals. Raymond Whitley, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard, added 23 points for St. Ignatius (1-0).

Jalen Stokes, a 6-foot-5 junior, led Dublin (0-0) with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Game 2: No. 38 Lincoln (Stockton) 73, Ygnacio Valley (Concord) 60

Ygnacio Valley started off the game red hot from the outside, but couldn’t sustain it, as the state-ranked Trojans played good team defense throughout and recorded a come-from-behind victory. Lincoln took the lead with 1:53 to go in the third period on a 3-pointer by Elijah Holmes to make it 48-45 after Lincoln (1-0) trailed by as much as 13 points in the first half (32-19) and never looked back. Lincoln outscored Ygnacio Valley (0-1) 21-8 in the third period.

Unsigned senior Anthony Moore, a 6-foot-7 junior, had a game-high 21 points and seven rebounds for Lincoln, while 6-foot-6 senior Quentin Thompson added 15 points. Junior Antonio Kellogg Jr. and sophomore Jalan Cody each netted 17 points for Ygnacio Valley, which converted 8-of-10 on 3-pointers in the first half. The Wolves made 9-of-15 for the game.

Game 1: Head-Royce (Oakland) 68, Bellarmine (San Jose) 49
The Bells led 32-23 at halftime and slowly pulled away from the Jayhawks in the third period behind a balanced attack. A pair of 6-foot-7 seniors, Julian Gospich and Nick Corbett, had a nice game for Bellarmine (1-0) as did junior Brayden Harris. Gospich dominated inside with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Corbett had 14 points and nine rebounds. Harris, a terrific long-term prospect, had eight points and five rebounds.

Head Royce (2-1) was led by 6-foot-1 junior Micah Nyamuzuwe with 12 points.

RELATED: To see 2023-24 preseason state rankings, CLICK HERE ; To see the list of major tournaments and showcases involving California’s best teams, CLICK HERE ; To see a list of all-time preseason No. 1 boys basketball teams (since 1979-80), CLICK HERE ; To see the vast list of transfers that will impact the 2023-24 season, CLICK HERE

Ronnie Flores is the managing editor of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores

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One Comment

  1. Sean inches jackson
    Posted December 9, 2023 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Damm forgot about me Westchester high school, Look me up fam vbl all-star,and streetballer Los Angeles native

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