Girls BB CIF State Previews & Picks

Etiwanda head coach Stan Delus presents 2023 CIF Open Division title trophy to Kennedy Smith and teammates. Photo: Samuel Stringer.

It was sub-par year for us doing predictions of state finals last year at 9-3 after a 11-1 showing from 2022. It’s time to take a crack at the 2024 lineup of games for girls basketball that will be played this weekend at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. We do this with respect to all 12 teams who’ve made it there and with a historical touch. Editor Mark Tennis has been credentialed at every CIF state championship weekend since the first one in 1980 in Oakland. Highlights from the regional finals (one played Wednesday night) also included in these previews.

Note: We hope you enjoy this free post on Next week’s final state rankings in all divisions, expanded overall final rankings and some of our exclusive upcoming all-state teams (including juniors, sophomores and frosh) will be for Gold Club members only. Sign up today for our Gold Club for $3.99 per month or as low as $2.08 per month for a yearly subscription. For details, CLICK HERE.

Note: Our lead girls basketball analyst, Harold Abend, did the breakdowns for Open Division girls, Division I girls & D3 girls. Editor and publisher Mark Tennis did the rest.


(All games played at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento)
(All state rankings references to State Top 35s, which were done before any of this week’s games)

Open Division (Girls)
State No. 2 Etiwanda 31-3 (SoCal) vs. State No. 1 Archbishop Mitty of San Jose 30-0 (NorCal), Saturday 6 p.m.

There’s a reason Archbishop Mitty is No. 1 in the nation, and a lot of it has to do with the players head coach Sue Phillips has at her disposal, starting with Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year candidate Morgan Cheli. The Connecticut-bound senior missed some games like last season, but even though she might have been able to come back a little sooner that the eight-plus games she missed, there was no need to rush her back, particularly with the Monarchs winning the five West Catholic Athletic League games she missed by no fewer than 34 points. When she did come back in the Monarchs’ NorCal Regional Open semifinal 82-71 victory over Folsom she was definitely needed and made a big impact. The player that did the heavy lifting during her absence was 2023 State Freshman of the Year McKenna Woliczko, who some feel should get some consideration for Ms. Basketball despite being a sophomore. Woliczko had 28 points and nine rebounds against Folsom and was unstoppable in the paint. Woliczko was just as effective in the NorCal title game when she went for 20 points (9-of-10 from the field) and eight rebounds in a somewhat surprisingly easy 71-34 victory by the No. 1 seed over No. 2 seed Clovis West. Lehigh-committed Belle Bramer has also been brought back slowly from a foot injury and could be a factor against Etiwanda.

Archbishop Mitty sophomore phenom McKenna Woliczko is shown waiting for a free throw during last year’s title game. Photo: Samuel Stringer.

Like Archbishop Mitty, Etiwanda may also have its best team ever. The Eagles boast two former Cal-Hi Sports players of the year. Louisville-committed Kennedy Smith will be going for the quad if she can snag Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year honors after being named State Freshman of the Year, State Sophomore of the Year and State Junior of the Year last season. In the CIF Southern Section Open Division title-game 65-44 trouncing of Sierra Canyon, Smith had a double-double 13 points and 11 rebounds with three assists. Junior Aliyahna “Puff” Morris is a two-time class award winner after garnering State Freshman of the Year and then State Junior of the Year honors last season. In the rematch with Sierra Canyon for the SoCal Open title, Morris had 12 points and three assists in a 54-51 victory. Etiwanda lost a couple of seniors from last year but a huge piece of the puzzle this season that wasn’t there last year, and a player that has been coming on strong after a little bit of a slow start after not having played in over a year, is Nevada transplant and junior standout Grace Knox. She had 19 points and 12 rebounds in the Southern Section Open championship victory over Sierra Canyon plus 17 points and 10 rebounds in the rematch. Senior Mykelle Richards had 13 points (two three-pointers) in the first meeting with Sierra Canyon.

The buzz around the local Bay Area media is that not only is this the best Archbishop Mitty team ever but it might be the best team ever in the Bay Area and all of Northern California for that matter. Mitty is at a point where it can surely surpass the achievements on the 1999 Monarchs’ team that went 31-0, was named the State Team of the Year and earned head coach Sue Phillips State Coach of the Year honors. There was no Open Division back then, though, and the divisions were enrollment based. This time Mitty is No. 1 in the nation and it’s a re-match of heavyweights with an Etiwanda team that is ranked No. 3 nationally and right behind the Long Island Lutheran team that Mitty defeated 73-72 to claim the nation’s top spot. In 2018, Mitty was named No. 1 in the nation in the junior year of Haley Jones by some rankings, but that year not only did it not win an Open Division state championship, it lost to Pinewood in the NorCal Open title game. This year, the only thing standing between Mitty and a CIF Open Division championship and an undisputed national championship is an Etiwanda team that broke their hearts last year with a come-from-behind 69-67 victory on a basket at the buzzer. While Mitty’s Cheli and Bramer have had their minutes limited since returning for the NorCal Open semifinal win over Folsom, one thing is for certain, and that is Phillips is not going to be able to that against Etiwanda. The question really is will the addition of Grace Knox to the Eagles’ arsenal give Etiwanda the advantage or will Phillips finally claim the one thing that has eluded her in an illustrious coaching career. For Mitty, this is about achieving the one milestone it is without. For Etiwanda, it’s an opportunity to continue and grow its legacy as one of the greatest programs in California girls basketball history. Only one team has won back-to-back girls Open Division state championships since the CIF went to an Open Division in 2013, and it’s Sierra Canyon for 2019 and 2022, but the twist there is that it was with two years in between when COVID wiped out the state championships.

Prediction: Etiwanda 59, Archbishop Mitty 57 (OT)

Division I Girls
State No. 13 Bishop Montgomery of Torrance 22-5 (SoCal) vs. State No. 14 Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland 24-6 (NorCal), Friday 6 p.m.

Bishop O’Dowd has a pretty young group but two of its top players that were key in the Dragons’ thrilling CIF Northern Regional Division I 48-47 victory over Carondelet are seniors — floor general Savannah Jones and wing Nyah Greenwood. Jones led O’Dowd with 16 points and four assists, and Greenwood did miss a lot of what head coach Malik McCord called “chippies” around the basket, but more than made up for it with 21 rebounds to go with 14 points. Sophomore Devin Cosgriff, who has been on the radar screen of D1 college programs since her freshman year, hit the game winner against Carondelet with 3.5 seconds left. Sophomore Jayla Stokes also could be a factor on Friday night.

This is just the second season for Reina Ale as the head coach at Bishop Montgomery. Photo:

When Bishop Montgomery came up to Northern California to play in the NCAA Certified Scholastic Girls California Live 23 event last June in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, it was pretty evident head coach Rheina Ale had a talented group of mostly young players. One game we saw was against Bishop O’Dowd. The player that has gotten the most attention from a recruiting standpoint is junior guard Jordin Blackmon. To get to the Golden 1 Center takes depth and the Knights’ girls have it. Blackmon had 22 points in the 74-60 victory over La Jolla Country Day in the SoCal D1 semifinal win and 11 in the 71-68 victory over Brentwood in the SoCal D1 title game. Senior Tiara Jones had 15 points against Country Day and 20 versus Brentwood, sophomore Sophia Dignadice led the way against Brentwood with 21 points, and freshman Armanyie Reed had 13 points against Country Day and 15 versus Brentwood.

Bishop Montgomery will be looking for its seventh CIF state championship in eight appearances but all have been in enrollment-based divisions and all were in Division III with 2003 the last time the Knights captured a crown. They won four straight from 2000-03 and two straight in 1996-97. If the Knights girls can win the title it would get them to No. 3 all time behind Brea-Olinda with 10 and St. Mary’s (Stockton) with eight, and in a potential tie with Archbishop Mitty that will be playing for its seventh. Head coach Reina Ale took over for 2003 graduate and star Noelle Quinn,who moved on to the WNBA as a head coach. She has certainly carried on from the tradition.

Bishop O’Dowd has a 3-2 record in CIF state championship games with all the appearances coming under head coach McCord. The last was in 2015 in D2. Bishop Montgomery was a Top 10 team in the rankings all year before through no fault of its dropping last week when Open teams went ahead of them. This could be a defensive battle with O’Dowd having a solid defense, but Bishop Montgomery appears to have more offense and that’s where the slight advantage goes.

Prediction: Bishop Montgomery 60, Bishop O’Dowd 57

Division II Girls
Harvard-Westlake of Studio City 18-18 (SoCal) vs. Colfax 34-2 (NorCal), Saturday at 2 p.m.

This is one of the biggest differences in win-loss records for two CIF state finalists in any boys or girls game that we can remember in the 45 years of attending the event. But it is not going to be an upset if Harvard-Westlake wins. First, the Wolverines are from the same Mission League as national power Sierra Canyon and second they were a semifinalist in the CIF Southern Section D1 playoffs and were the only semifinalist from that bracket that was placed in D2 for the regional/state playoffs. Second, it’s a team that has had a knack for posting avenging wins. The Wolverines wouldn’t have even qualified for the regionals if they hadn’t rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Redondo of Redondo Beach, 50-47, in the CIFSS D1 quarterfinals and Redondo was a team they lost to, 52-38, earlier in the season.

Colfax head coach Rexanne Simpton reacts after team avenged an earlier loss in defeating Pleasant Valley (Chico) in NorCal final. Photo: Jordan Georgeson / Gold Country Media.

In Tuesday’s SoCal D2 final, Valentina Guerrero played for the first time since Jan. 16 when she broke her nose and scored 15 points while wearing a facemask in the 50-38 win against league rival Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks). Head coach Melissa Hearlihy also won the 838th game of her career. She moved to No. 2 on the Cal-Hi Sports all-time state list in the team’s earlier SoCal regional win of 54-45 over top seed Oak Park. That game also was a reversal from an earlier game as Harvard-Westlake had lost to Oak Park, 64-62.

This is Harvard-Westlake’s third appearance in a state final. Hearlihy’s team won the D4 title in 2010 and finished 33-1 when she later was named State Coach of the Year. The Wolverines haven’t been back since but have had top-level Open Division teams, including the recent years when All-American Kiki Iriafen (now at Stanford) was leading the teams. This year’s leading scorer has been junior Deana Thompson (16.8 ppg).

Colfax gained a trip to its second straight CIF state title game with a big road win on Tuesday, 52-48, over Pleasant Valley of Chico. Staying on the theme of avenging wins, the Falcons also did that by overcoming a 10-point first half deficit vs the Vikings. One of their two losses was to PV, 58-48, early in the season. Head coach Rexanne Simpton was the D3 State Coach of the Year last year after the Falcons finished 34-3 after their loss to Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga in the D3 state final. Los Osos was from the same league as national powerhouse Etiwanda so this year’s D2 opponent is similar in that regard. Colfax, in fact, was the only team in the state last season with 34 wins and that would be the team’s total again if it can’t get past Harvard-Westlake.

One of the great stories of the section and regional playoffs in the state was the Colfax duo of Kaia Diedrichs (senior) and Maya Smiley (freshman) playing in huge basketball and soccer games at the same time. They both won section titles in both sports on consecutive days and in the regionals the Falcons gave up a home game so that the pair could play a regional soccer playoff game in the afternoon in San Francisco and then a regional basketball game across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County in the evening. A loss in the soccer game ended that craziness, but Diedrichs was at her best on the court vs Pleasant Valley with a team-high 18 points. Juliette James also scored well in the paint and went over 1,000 career points a couple of weeks ago.

Colfax should have an advantage with lots of fans at the G1C, but Harvard-Westlake’s defense and its strength of schedule may be too much.

Prediction: Harvard-Westlake 48, Colfax 44

Division III Girls
Granada Hills Charter of Granada Hills (SoCal) 21-11 vs. Caruthers 24-8 (NorCal) Friday at 2 p.m.

Caruthers has a lot of players who can score and contribute led by senior combo guard Gizelle Aguirre, a player who can both shoot the three and get to the basket. Sophomore Emmi Almeida is an outside threat as well and is a solid defender. Other players to look for are sophomore post Celeste Mack and freshman power forward Jaylee Moore.

The Highlanders have two double-digit scorers, senior guard Karma Paez and senior post Brigita Bulotaite. Paez leads the team at 12.9 points per game and Bulotaite is at 11.3 points per game, plus she leads the team at 7.6 rebounds per game. She led the Highlanders with 19 points against Bakersfield Christian in the regional final.

We got a Direct Message on Twitter/X from Caruthers assistant coach Larry Trigueiro looking for some trivia about the lowest seed ever to win a state championship. The answer is it would takes eons to research since the state playoffs are about 25 years older than MaxPreps has existed but if NorCal D3 No. 14 seed Caruthers does win it will have to be one of the lowest ever. Caruthers has made a shambles of the seedings, but it looked like it was wrong in their case from the second it came out. The Blue Raiders beat No. 3 seed Gilroy Christopher by 33 points, No. 11 Heritage (Brentwood) 44-40, they upset another Fresno-area team in the semifinals when they defeated 2023 D2 state champion Fresno Central 36-34, and then they went into San Francisco’s legendary Kezar Pavilion to face top-seeded University of San Francisco and came away with a 58-55 victory.

Granada Hills Charter, a school of around 4,600 students compared 650 of Caruthers, lost to Los Angeles Hamilton in the Los Angeles City Section Open Division and that send it to D3 South as the No. 5 seed. The Highlanders punched their ticket to Sacramento with a 58-56 victory at Bakersfield Christian. On paper Caruthers should be a huge favorite based on a season-opening 61-32 victory over Bakersfield Christian and only a seven-point loss to SoCal D1 finalist Brentwood. Caruthers also is 1-0 in state championships having won the 2019 D5 title. Granada Hills Charter is making its first appearance.

Prediction: Caruthers 66, Granada Hills Charter 59

Granada Hills Charter players and coaches had a happy ride home from Bakersfield Christian after they edged the host school to win first ever SoCal regional title. Photo: @GHCTK12 /

Division IV Girls
Grossmont of El Cajon 27-8 (SoCal) vs. St. Bernard’s of Eureka 29-5 (NorCal), Saturday 10 a.m.

This matchup wasn’t finalized until Wednesday night when St. Bernard’s defeated Arcata, 60-54, to win its first-ever NorCal regional title. The Crusaders will now take on Grossmont in the state final in what is the furthest distance between two girls state finalists in state history (771 miles). That’s probably a record for the boys too but we didn’t have time to check.

That extra day was needed because Arcata’s regional semifinal contest against Foothill of Palo Cedro was delayed due to poor travel conditions for Foothill going to the North Coast (where Arcata is). That game was played on Monday (Arcata won) and then the regional final was delayed to Wednesday.

St. Bernard’s has had one of the top players in the Humboldt-Del Norte region this year in Laila Florvilus, who has averaged 19.2 ppg. The junior guard is backed up by Madalyn Shanahan with 10.7 ppg. The Crusaders, who were placed in the D5 north bracket with a No. 1 seed after losing in the CIF North Coast Section D5 semifinals to a Cornerstone Christian of Antioch squad that made noise in the NorCal D3 bracket, have had some avenging wins on their slate and have a 90 computer ranking.

Like the Crusaders, the Foothillers also are making their first-ever CIF state finals appearance. They are a team that lost in the San Diego Section D1 finals to Cathedral Catholic and when they were placed down in D5 they also were handed a No. 4 seed. The Foothillers knocked out No. 1 seed Newbury Park in convincing fashion, 57-39, and then got past another San Diego Section school, Fallbrook, in the regional final, 56-52. Freshman Aakash Price leads Grossmont (152 computer ranking) in scoring with 11.3 ppg while senior Amethyst Price leads in rebounds (10.0) and also usually scores in double figures. It was freshman Jaliyah Flowers, though, who buried a tie-breaking three-point shot with 30 seconds left that was the difference vs Fallbrook.

It’s really difficult to get a solid read on these two teams from such different parts of the state. If Florvilus has a good game for St. Bernard’s, that may be the difference.

Prediction: St. Bernard’s 50, Grossmont 49

Division V Girls
Montgomery of San Diego 25-11 (SoCal) vs. Oakland 22-10 (NorCal), Friday 10 a.m.

Entering the regional playoffs, the Oakland Tech girls had a streak of three straight CIF state championships and were looking to tie the state record of four. That streak was snapped in the D2 North semifinals, but the city still has a shot at winning a state title with Oakland High girls in D5.

The Wildcats had three lopsided losses to Oakland Tech and two others to Sacred Heart Cathedral and Piedmont, but down in D5 (thanks competitive equity) have found their groove. In the regional final, O-High bounced Crystal Springs Uplands of Hillsborough, 62-50, as a No. 13 seed over a No. 7. Junior center Ojiugo Egeonu, who played last season at Oakland AIMS and transferred in along with new head coach Nita Simpson, had a dominant outing with 30 points. The Wildcats, who have a 186 computer ranking and have a CIF state title in their recent history (D3 in 2019), had to win all of their regional games on the road. Before Crystal Springs Uplands, the trips were to Half Moon Bay, Roseville (Valley Christian) and Woodland (Woodland Christian).

Montgomery was the CIF San Diego Section D3 champions and was placed in D5 along with SD Section D4 winner Escondido Charter. The Aztecs probably should have been higher than a No. 4 seed and proved that with two routs to open the regionals and then it was a much closer 41-39 win vs Immanuel of Reedley followed by a 55-51 win over Escondido Charter in the regional final. The team (No. 151 computer ranking) will take a 14-game win streak into the state final and is seeking its first state crown. Genevieve Whitehead buried seven 3-pointers vs Escondido Charter and had 21 points. The team’s leading scorer has been sophomore power forward Paula Zumstein (18 ppg), who had 12 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks in the region final. Jordan Whitehead also has shown explosiveness. She had 32 points in the section title game.

This one may boil down to how Oakland’s Egeonu does against Montgomery’s Zumstein. If they cancel each other out, the Aztecs could have the edge.

Prediction: Mongtomery 54, Oakland 51

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

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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