Friday CIF State Finals

St. John Bosco players and coaches get their CIF state championship photo taken at center court after victory over San Ramon Valley. Photo: @CIFState /

St. John Bosco continues CIF Southern Section domination in D1 and grabs its second state title with hot-shooting win. It’s a seventh state title, meanwhile, for the Bishop Montgomery of Torrance girls in its D1 triumph vs Bishop O’Dowd. Other big winners at the Golden 1 Center were Alemany of Mission Hills (Boys D3), Caruthers (Girls D3), Athenian of Danville (Boys D5) and Oakland (Girls D5).

Note: We hope you enjoy this free post on Next week’s final state rankings in all divisions boys and girls, 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 boys basketball analyst, Ronnie Flores, did the breakdowns for D1 boys & D5 boys. Our lead girls basketball analyst, Harold Abend, did the breakdowns for D1 girls & D3 girls. Editor and publisher Mark Tennis did the rest.

The big question in the competitive equity era of CIF basketball competition is what state division a quality team gets placed in for the regional playoffs. Will it be in a higher division as a low seed or in a lower division as a high seed?

That often times is the main factor in dictating which teams ultimately win state titles. Then when the CIF selection committee chooses to place only four teams from the massive CIF Southern Section in the open regional, that means the eventual champ in D1 will be one of the teams that doesn’t win big in the CIFSS open playoffs. For the third consecutive season, a CIFSS open division participant won this game in convincing fashion after performing a bit under expectation level at the section level. If the format remains the same, expect teams from the CIF’s largest section to continue to win.

That team this year is St. John Bosco of Bellflower, the state’s No. 3 ranked team and one that rebounded nicely in the regional playoffs after a 1-2 mark in the CIFSS Open Division Pool Play playoffs. The Braves took down San Ramon Valley of Danville, 78-62.

Brandon McCoy of St. John Bosco talked about being back home for the CIF D1 state final. He is an Oakland native and moved south only about a year and a half ago. Photo: Mark Tennis / Cal-Hi Sports.

Many teams come into the big arena setting that is the Golden 1 Center with the depth perception in mind and figuring it will shoot under its season percentage from behind the arch. That mantra didn’t apply to the Braves, as they shot 11-of-22 from 3-point land en route to a 16-point victory over the state’s No. 16 team.

Bosco’s victory was the seventh straight in this division for a CIF Southern Section team. Ironically, San Ramon Valley was the last NorCal entrant to win in this division back in 2015 when it upset Chino Hills and super junior and future NBA player Lonzo Ball.

St. John Bosco (28-7) took a 28-11 lead after the first quarter after shooting 5-for-7 from the 3-point line and that eight minutes was basically the difference in the ballgame. San Ramon Valley, which lost in the North Coast Section open semifinals to NorCal No. 1 and open game participant Salesian, was too talented and battle-tested to not bounce back, but it just never could close the gap enough to tighten up Bosco’s players or get the crowd behind the team looking for the big upset. San Ramon Valley, which competes in NorCal’s toughest league (East Bay Athletic League), gave a valiant effort after the first quarter blitz.

Junior guard Mason Thomas hit three 3-pointers in the second period and St. John Bosco got a bit laxed, as the Wolves trailed 36-28 at intermission. At that point, Thomas had 13 points and Bosco’s Jack Turner also had 13 points.

San Ramon Valley (29-8) scored 17 points in each quarter of the second half, but St. John Bosco continued to shoot well from the outside, answered every San Ramon Valley mini-run and outscored the Wolves by three points in the third period and by five in the fourth quarter. With 3:30 remaining in the game, SRV was down 65-56, when Bosco reserve Max Ellis hit a 3-pointer to essentially put the game away before the starters were removed in the last minute to a nice ovation. Ellis made 2-of-3 shots from behind the arch and as a team the runner-ups from the Trinity League shot 30-of-51 from the field (59 percent). The Braves beat nemesis Mater Dei of Santa Ana in the SoCal regional final to avenge two losses to the Monarchs during the regular season, including one at Arena in Los Angeles. Bosco coach Matt Dunn felt his team’s brutal schedule and big arena experience was key against a tough opponent who had a vocal crown behind it.

“It felt like they got it to within two points, when they were down 12,” said Dunn, who also won a CIF state crown at Damien of La Verne in D3 the same year San Ramon Valley defeated Chino Hills. “Getting up in the first quarter was a factor and getting out on the break really played a big part in that. I think we’re still getting better as a team. After the Mater Dei game (on Jan. 6), Jack, Brandon and Elzie really improved in making their teammates better. We might of had three assists that night and today with had 17.”

The Loyola-Chicago bound Turner finished with a game-high 20 points, including 4-of-5 on 3-pointers, with four rebounds and four assists. Elzie Herrington, a junior, continued his fine all-around regional play with 12 points, five rebounds, seven assists two steals and two blocks. Sophomore Brandon McCoy, one of the most gifted talents in the country, had his usual highlight plays, and finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.

“I try to get our guys hyped with a big play, because when we play with good energy, we are going to win,” McCoy said.

San Ramon Valley, which lost in the NCS open semifinals to NorCal No. 1 and open game participant Salesian, got a fine outing rom junior and leading player Luke Isaak, who concluded a stellar campaign with 18 points. The only other double-digit scorer for the Wolves was Thomas, who didn’t score in the second half and finished with 13 points. San Ramon Valley, which was looking for its second state CIF crown in four attempts, shot 40 percent (22-of-55) from the field.

“It’s been an amazing experience with these guys,” said San Ramon Valley coach Brian Botteen. “They showed resiliency and fight and go down as one of the four best teams in school history.”

St. John Bosco won in second state title, the first one coming in D2 in 2014, the same year Trinity League rival Mater Dei of Santa Ana won its fourth consecutive CIF State crown with a perfect 35-0 record. That Bosco team was led by future NBA players Tyler Dorsey and Daniel Hamilton.

As for Dunn, he made CIF history by becoming the fourth coach ever to win state titles at two different programs, joining Frank Allocco (Walnut Creek Northgate & Concord De La Salle), Harvey Kitani (L.A. Fairfax & Rolling Hills Prep) and Steve Singleton (Compton Dominguez & Eastvale Roosevelt). When asked about the individual coaching accomplishment, he blushed a bit as his team gave him an impromptu appluase on the media podium.

“I know it sounds cliche, but it means I have been fortunate to coach some really good players.”

It’s trophy time and medals time for the Bishop Montgomery of Torrance girls after their triumph in the D1 state final on Friday over Bishop O’Dowd. Photo: @CIFState /

D1 Girls

Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 52, Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 40

The way that CIF Southern Regional Division I champion and top-seeded Bishop Montgomery started out in its title game match-up with Northern Regional D1 champion and second-seeded Bishop O’Dowd, it was looking like the Knights’ girls were going to run away and hide.

To their credit, after falling behind 35-12 near the end of the first half, the Dragons could have totally folded, but they didn’t and fought back to make it a more respectable outcome.

With the victory, Bishop Montgomery (23-5) won its seventh state championship in eight appearances, but the six previous titles have been in enrollment-based divisions and all were in Division III with 2003 the last time the school captured a crown.

Head coach Reina Ale addresses the media after team’s victory in CIF D1 state final. Photo: Mark Tennis / Cal-Hi Sports.

That legacy includes Bishop Montgomery winning a state record tying four straight state championships from 2000-03 and two straight in 1996-97. This title gets them to No. 3 all time behind Brea-Olinda of Brea with 10 and Stockton St. Mary’s with eight, and in a potential tie with Archbishop Mitty that will be playing for its seventh state championship on Saturday in the Open title game.

Bishop Montgomery junior standout Jordin Blackmon scored the game’s first six points, and after hitting a three-pointer from behind the NBA three-point arc, she had 11 points in the first 3:29 of the first quarter and the Knights had a 13-3 lead the Dragons never recovered from.

O’Dowd found away to slow Blackmon down, but in a game where baskets were at a premium due to tough defense by both teams, she still finished with a game-high 15 points plus six rebounds. Senior Cyriah Coleman had two of the three Knights’ three-pointers and added 14 points and six rebounds.

“I just have three words for tonight’s game. We did that,” said a grinning second-year head coach Rheina Ale, a 2008 graduate of Bishop Montgomery, and an outstanding player in her four-year varsity career, who took over for 2003 graduate and star Noelle Quinn, who moved on to the WNBA as a head coach. Ale has certainly carried on from Quinn and re-kindled the tradition of Knights girls basketball.

“We started the game with intensity,” Ale continued. “I always like to say we’re a second half team, and it kind of frustrates me because the start of the game is so important, but today we came out on fire, pushing the ball, making easy layups, and the start of the game really set the tone for the rest of the game.”

In some respects, it’s a good thing Bishop Montgomery came out smoking hot, because after it built the previously mentioned 23-point second quarter lead, O’Dowd cranked up its patented defense and with 5:38 left to play the Dragons had cut the lead to 42-33 and looked like they were poised to make a final run.

However, senior Tiara Jones (nine points, seven rebounds) and sophomore Sophia Dignadice scored consecutive baskets to up the Bishop Montgomery lead to 46-36 lead and at that point the starch was pretty much out of O’Dowd.

“We let the momentum get to us in the first half,” said Bishop O’Dowd head coach Malik McCord, who has a CIF Open Division state title on his resume from 2013. “Especially when the ball wasn’t going in the basket.”

Sophomore Jayla Stokes led Bishop O’Dowd with 11 points and six rebounds but she was the only player to reach double figure scoring.

Just like the Carondelet NorCal title game victory when O’Dowd shot the ball very poorly, it was only 15-of-57 (26.3-percent) from the field overall, 3-for-11 on three- pointers and only 7-of-12 from the free-throw line.

Bishop Montgomery didn’t do much better at 39.6 percent from the field. However, unlike the Carondelet game when O’Dowd senior Nyah Greenwood had 21 rebounds and sophomore Devin Cosgriff added 13 boards, and the Dragons enjoyed a 20-plus rebounding advantage, in this game the bigger and taller Dragons only enjoyed a 39-36 advantage, and the leading rebounder was 5-foot-4 senior Savannah Jones with nine.

For Ale, she took over as a young coach in her early 30s stepping into a program that was beginning to re-build under Quinn, and in the highly competitive world of girls basketball in Southern California that’s a pressure packed situation, but she’s faced the challenge head on and succeeded. Some didn’t feel she was ready but Bishop Montgomery athletic director and boys head coach Doug Mitchell, who has captured four CIF state championships and has 798 career coaching wins according to the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book, didn’t see it that way.

“To be honest, it hasn’t been an easy two years for me,” Ale said. “I had a lot of doubters and people that didn’t think I’d be ever able to do this, but one thing I admire and love about Coach Mitchell is that every good coach needs a start somewhere and all I needed was a shot. He knew me in high school and was my counselor. He took a chance on me.”

It’s been a chance that’s certainly paid dividends.

Bishop Montgomery was a Top 10 team all season in the Cal-Hi Sports rankings but dropped down to No. 13 in favor of Open teams, but that possibly is going to change for the final expanded rankings.

Boys D3

Alemany (Mission Hills) 63, Santa Cruz 53

While the Warriors completed a phenomenal run in the CIF Southern Section D3A and CIF D3 playoffs with championships in each, they had to scramble to even get eligible for the post-season.

In the CIFSS, teams need to be .500 to be in the playoffs. Alemany had a hard time in the super-tough Mission League (1-6 record against teams like Harvard-Westlake, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and others) so to become eligible the team added an extra game — a win over Muir of Pasadena — and then another game that was going to be a forfeit but counted on the win total.

Head coach Mike Dulaney accepts CIF D3 state title trophy after his team at Alemany got past Santa Cruz. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Regardless, once this group got the chance, it proved to the right team for the right division. Alemany captured its second state title with the previous crown coming also in D3 in 2012.

“We had to play and beat them,” head coach Mike Dulaney said of the late-season win against Muir. “But yes, it really was a situation of once we got the gate open we got going, beginning with a win (in the CIFSS playoffs) on the road.”

Santa Cruz (27-7), which like Alemany had a previous CIF D3 state title (in its case 2005), didn’t get blown out at any point but trailed 30-20 at halftime an 45-30 after the third quarter.

Alemany (23-15 not counting forfeits) took its 30-20 lead at halftime after scoring the final five points of the second quarter. It was 25-20 with 1:30 left when there was a scary moment for the Warriors due to sophomore big man Samuel Mbingazo going to the floor with an ankle injury. Instead of Santa Cruz taking advantage, Alemany did and Mbingazo returned in the second half with a taped up ankle.

Mbingazo and running mate Bourgeois Tshilobo both blocked two shots and both grabbed eight rebounds. They also made it very tough for Santa Cruz to convert on anything in the paint, other then sophomore Demarco Hunter. The 6-foot-5 Hunter put his stamp on the game with 22 points and 12 rebounds.

The one player coming up with the biggest impact was senior guard Michael Lindsay. He is an athlete with a football scholarship to Idaho State and also is the nephew of NBA legend Reggie Miller as well as one of the greatest female players of all-time, Cheryl Miller. Lindsay made 2-of-3 on three-pointers, 9-of-15 on two-pointers and had a game-high 25 points. He said his uncle texted him earlier in the morning to have a good game.

“I just had to stay ready, relaxed, play your game, be confident and then get the win,” Lindsay remarked when asked about playing well in a big arena setting like Reggie and Cheryl always did.

Santa Cruz head coach Lawan Milhous said he team had faced the type of length that the Warriors showed, but on this day just did not respond like it had in earlier matchups.

“You have to give to them,” Milhous said. “The difference is that we allowed their length to bother us. It dictated the outcome of the game.

“This group in December set a goal that we could get here and they did. We came up short in our section game (lost by one-point to Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco in CCS D3), fought all the way through and then get to this point.”

Dulaney talked about his team playing in the Mission League and how it prepared it for how the season would end, but also credited the Cardinals.

“We knew it would be a battle,” he said. “They are a solid team. We prepped well, and our game plan pretty much stuck.”

Girls D3

Caruthers 54, Granada Hills Charter 48

It was a David versus Goliath match-up in the CIF Division III state championship, and while in the past these types of contests were often a small private school taking on a large enrollment school, in this affair it was two schools from the public sector facing off with massively unequal enrollment numbers.

Caruthers, a public school just southwest of Fresno with an enrollment of around 650 was matched up with Granada Hills Charter, a public school with one of the largest enrollments in the state with around 4,600 students, but the only place size was a factor was with the Caruthers bigs matching up and outplaying the Granada Hills front line in a victory for the girls from the Central Section.

Celeste Mack of Caruthers fights for position against Brigita Bulotaite of Granada Hills Charter during CIF D3 girls state final. Photo: Willie Eashman.

The other thing that was big for Caruthers was a large, raucous contingent of Blue Raiders’ fans, including what looked like the entire student body that made the trip north to the state capital to cheer on their girls.

It was the second CIF state championship for Caruthers after it won the Division V title in 2019.

This time it was much different. In 2019, Caruthers was the No. 3 seed in Division V before rolling to the title with a 62-38 victory over Riverside Ramona. This time the Blue Raiders were up two notches division-wise and came in as the No. 14 seed, one of the lowest seeds we can remember winning a state championship. They also only had one senior who was a major contributor and only two seniors on the roster with one out with an injury.

“When we got here the first time the team was experienced, and we had seniors that had been battle-tested and played together for four years,” Caruthers head coach Anna Almeida remarked. “This team is so young so it feels equally as great as 2019 because we had to earn it.”

The Blue Raiders went into San Francisco’s legendary Kezar Pavilion in the regional final to face top-seeded University of San Francisco and came away with a 58-55 victory

In the state championship, sophomore Emmi Almeida, the daughter of the head coach, led Caruthers with 21 points and nine rebounds, plus six assists. Senior Gizelle Aguirre hit three three-pointers and finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.

Jaylee Moore, a 6-foot-1 Caruthers power forward, was matched up with Granada Hills’ 6-foot-4 senior post Brigita Bulotaite, who had 19 points and 12 rebounds in the Highlanders 58-56 victory over Bakersfield Christian in the SoCal D3 title game. In this game it was the freshman Moore more than holding her own against Bulotaite. Moore finished with nine points, four rebounds and four assists while limiting the Highlanders’ post to 10 points and six rebounds before Bulotaite fouled out.

“The girls understood the mission. Get to know what we’re playing against and be able to get through them,” said Almeida. “We came out wanting to take it to them in the first two minutes, and then make whatever adjustments are needed, and the team responded to that.”

It was 16-8 after one quarter but by halftime Granada Hills Charter had cut it to a 29-24 deficit. The Highlanders got it to 31-30 on a three-pointer by sophomore Alyssa Badua, but the Blue Raiders responded. With the score 35-32, Almeida scored eight straight points and Caruthers closed out the third quarter with a 12-2 run to make it 47-34 heading to the fourth, and that pretty much sealed the deal.

Besides Bulotaite, the Highlanders got a team-high 15 points (two three-pointers) from senior Karma Paez and 11 points and six rebounds from senior Gabriella Arellano.

Granada Hills Charter (21-12) became the first team from the Los Angeles City Section to make a CIF state championship game appearance since Harbor City Narbonne won the 2001 Division I title.

“It’s been a long time since an LA City team has played for a state championship but these girls belonged here,” said first-year head coach Rai Colston. “We just couldn’t get over the hump. They seemed to have an answer each time we made any kind of run.”

For Coach Almeida, who has been at the Caruthers helm for nearly 20 years, being able to win a state championship with her daughter as star of the game was an ultimate accomplishment.

“Coaching her has been special, and we would always talk about doing this together, and I couldn’t wait to be here with her,” Coach Almeida said in conclusion. “To be able to do this here is really special because I got what I’ve spent 19 years at Caruthers waiting for.”

Players and coaches from Athenian of Danville get their CIF D5 state championship photo taken after their win on Friday. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Boys D5

Athenian (Danville) 67,
Verdugo Hills (Tujunga) 49

In a matchup of two programs playing for a CIF state crown for the first time, it was the small school from the CIF North Coast Section that showed it had a fine team with a tougher schedule that paid dividends at the end of the season.

Right off the bat, it was evident Athenian (28-8) was the taller and quicker team, as it got to the rim off the dribble time and time again, and also kept the Dons from many easy back-door buckets, which is a staple of their guard-oriented attack.

Athenian went up 18-12 after one quarter and Verdugo Hills (25-12), the L.A. City Section D2 champs, was looking to take the lead for the first time in the game after scoring five points to open the second quarter. That’s when 6-foot-2 senior Luca Evans went on his own personal 9-0 run for Athenian, which never looked back thereafter. Evans, who has attended the school for seven years, made consecutive 3-pointers and finished the surge with a conventional 3-point play to make the score 27-17.

“Nobody is surprised by what Evan did,” said Athenian coach Jordan Boreman. “He’s been doing that since he was a freshman. Even is our leader and a captain.”

The lead eventually grew to 36-20 at halftime, as the Owls, runner ups in the North Coast Section D5 playoffs to D3 No. 16 seed Head-Royce (Oakland), didn’t have too much trouble with the half court trap. They were able to easily look over the top of the press or use their superior foot speed to find an opening in the defense.

Every time Verdugo Hills tried to get its deficit under 10 points, Athenian answered with a timely bucket, including a 3-pointer right before the third quarter by sophomore Koen Feyock (10 points) to make the score 52-37 heading into the fourth period. He hit another 3-pointer when the Dons threatened at 54-42 with 4:40 remaining in the game and the outcome was never in doubt from there.

Athenian dared the Dons to shoot from the outside instead of allowing anything easy off Verdugo Hills’ passing, which is a team strength, and the strategy paid off in the big arena setting. Verdugo Hills, which hasn’t won a league title since 1959 but had a vocal and supportive fan base come up to Sacramento, was 17-of-67 from the field, including 7-of-34 from the 3-point line. The Owls, meanwhile, made 24-of-44 field goals, including an emphatic slam dunk in the closing minute by 6-foot-6 junior Teni Salako to appease Athenian’s active student body section behind the home basket.

Salako finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and four blocks for the Owls. Lucas had a game-high 20 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and three blocks. Six-foot-2 senior guard Surya Devasenapathy gave the Dons fits despite his 10 turnovers, as he finished with 15 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Verdugo Hills had three players score in double-figures, led by 5-foot-7 senior Jabez Agustin, who made five of the Don’s seven 3-pointers. Five-foot-11 senior Alexander Martinez added 12 points, while 6-foot-3 post Georges Abdulnour finished with 11 points.

“I thought our boys came out like champions today,” said Boreman. “They are smart, hard-working and have good habits. There is good basketball in the Tr-Valley and in Danville.”

“That was a good team we played, we tip our hats to them” said Verdugo Hills coach Jared Gibson. “They shot well and deserved that credit. We shoot a lot of threes and it affected us. I thought we had to make 12 to have a shot at it. I am really proud of these guys (here).”

Girls Division V

Oakland 56, Montgomery (San Diego) 50

There’s something about CIF Oakland Section girls basketball teams playing in state finals. They very rarely lose.

Daijha Teague’s quickness and dribble penetration were a thorn in the side of the Montgomery defense throughout the CIF D5 final. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Oakland High’s girls played with that same type of confidence in their victory over the Aztecs that their predecessors from Fremont, Oakland Tech and themselves in previous years. It started right away with a three-pointer from freshman Tyliana Velasquez and a nifty hoop from senior Daijha Teague. The Wilcats also benefited from the inside dominance of junior center Ojilugo Egeonu.

It is the second CIF state title for Oakland (23-10), following a win in the 2019 D3 final over McFarland. For the Oakland Section, it also improved its record in girls state finals to a remarkable 9-1. The only loss for any team from the section came in 1989 in D1 when Morningside of Inglewood (with all-time great player Lisa Leslie) defeated Fremont of Oakland. That was a rematch from the year before in 1988 when the Tigers beat Morningside and completed a 28-0 season.

“The talent is all over Oakland,” said Wildcats’ first year head coach Nita Simpson. “It’s big here, too, at our school.”

Simpson came to Oakland from AIMS College Prep and brought Egeonu with her. She was too much for Montgomery and ended with 15 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks. Teague, a four-year player for the Wildcats, flirted with a triple-double as well with 15 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

The Aztecs, who had a 14-game win streak snapped and ended 25-12 overall, survived their slow start to only trail by 32-27 at halftime, but could never seriously threaten Oakland’s early lead.

“At the start of the third quarter they hit a three on their first possession and that changed the momentum of the second half,” said Montgomery head coach Bracy Smith.

Smith said earlier in the post-game press conference: “We fought hard all season overall. We just didn’t hit free throws down the stretch.”

Velasquez had three more three-pointers after the first one went down and was the Wildcats’ only other double-figure scorer with 12 points. Kyla Smith also hit a couple of baskets after Egeonu fouled out with a little less than four minutes left in the game.

Oakland’s girls knew they had a chance to go far in D5 after their three Oakland Athletic League losses to Oakland Tech, which was the 2023 D1 state champions.

“Playing Tech was tough but we thought we played well,” Teague said. “It set the standard for us. We wanted to play better in every game after that.”

Paula Zumstein did her best to be the equal to Egeonu for Montgomery. The sophomore power forward connected for 21 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and blocked six shots. Jordan Whitehead added 14 points and five rebounds.

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

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

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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