There’s not much movement this week, but expect that to change in the next two weeks as section playoffs tip off around the state. Red-hot Windward of Los Angeles and Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove are this week’s newcomers. Rancho Cucamonga win over Etiwanda also creates rankings and playoff ramifications.
By Ronnie Flores
Contributing: Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens
(Updated through games played Saturday, Feb. 9; previous ranking in parentheses)
1. (1) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 24-2
As expected, the Jackrabbits earned a top two seed in the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA playoffs, the state’s toughest sectional championship bracket. Since Poly was ranked behind Mater Dei in recent weeks in the section’s weekly poll, it’s no surprise the team was seeded No. 2. With Etiwanda’s upset loss to unranked Rancho Cucamonga last week, however, the difference between Mater Dei’s and Poly’s draw is quite noticeable. With No. 7 Centennial earning the No. 3 seed and with unranked Mission Viejo and Rancho Cucamonga earning the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds, respectively, that means Poly will potentially be facing state-ranked Loyola of Los Angeles in the quarterfinals and another state-ranked program in the semifinals, whereas Mater Dei potentially won’t see a team that has consistently been ranked in the state top 20 until the final. Poly closed out its regular season with Moore League victories over Long Beach Wilson (79-49) and Long Beach Millikan (85-51) and the Jackrabbits’ coaching staff is feverishly instructing its players to take the postseason one game at a time. Poly opens against 12-12 Palmdale.
2. (2) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 26-1
The Monarchs have been ranked ahead of Long Beach Poly in the CIF Southern Section’s weekly poll, so it’s not surprising Mater Dei was awarded the top seed in the loaded CIFSS Division I-AA playoff bracket. In our ratings system, however, Poly hasn’t done enough (both losses to nationally ranked out-of-state foes) to warrant being dropped from its preseason position as the top-ranked team in the state. The Monarchs wrapped up their regular season with an unbeaten slate through the Trinity League. With junior Stanley Johnson having an off-night against Orange Lutheran, senior Elijah Brown led the way with 19 points in a 71-54 win. In Mater Dei’s 47-37 victory over Servite of Anaheim, nobody scored in double digits, as Brown and Mario Soto combined for 15 points. The Monarchs will open the postseason against 15-11 Roosevelt of Eastvale.
3. (3) Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 26-0
As expected, the Knights finished the regular season with a perfect record after 74-34 romp past St. Bernard of Playa del Rey. Point guard Justin Bibbins led the scoring with 17 points with Lamond Murray Jr. getting 15 points and five rebounds. While Long Beach Poly and Mater Dei figure to battle it out for the CIFSS Division I-AA title, just as much attention may be on Bishop Montgomery, the top seed in the CIFSS Division IV-AA bracket. The perfect record should be tested – other top seeds include Price of Los Angeles, JSerra of SJ Capistrano, Serra of Gardena and La Verne Lutheran – with the big question to be answered if the Knights win the title: Will they or won’t they request to be put into the CIF Open Division for the regional and state playoffs? The team’s first playoff game is Wednesday vs. Whittier Christian of La Habra.
4. (5) Salesian (Richmond) 23-3
After its big win over Sheldon of Sacramento two weeks ago, the Pride closed out their regular season with wins over St. Mary’s of Berkeley (67-44) and De Anza of Richmond (91-69) and moved up a spot after previous No. 4 Etiwanda was upset. Jabari Bird, who’s expected to be named to play in the 2013 McDonald’s All-American Game, led the way with 17 points against St. Mary’s. Senior Mario Dunn, one of the state’s most underrated guards, led the way in the non-league win over De Anza with 12 points. Salesian will enter this week’s Tri-County Rock League playoffs riding a 13-game winning streak.
5. (6) Sheldon (Sacramento) 20-5
The Huskies move up a spot this week after rebounding from the loss to No. 4 Salesian with two Delta River League victories. Even though Sheldon has more overall losses than both Etiwanda or Centennial, the team has ventured out of the Sacramento region to play against quality competition and thus is able to be ranked ahead of both of those Inland Empire programs. Sheldon beat Ponderosa of Shingle Springs 74-35 despite Washington-bound Darin Johnson sitting out with a leg injury. Two nights later, Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills was beaten by a nearly identical score (74-47), as underrated Antonio Lewis (15 points) and San Diego State-bound Dakari Allen (12 points) led the Huskies in the scoring column. Johnson was back in the lineup against Oak Ridge and Sheldon fans hope he comes up big this week in the regular season finale against state-ranked Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove.
6. (4) Etiwanda (Rancho Cucamonga) 22-3
A 61-59 loss to Rancho Cucamonga last week dropped the Eagles into a tie for first in the final Baseline League standings and then they lost a coin flip and fell to a No. 6 seed in the CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs. Still, we do not think they should be behind No. 3 seed Corona Centennial in the rankings. A loss to Rancho by two points is just not as bad as a four-point loss to M.L. King (which Centennial suffered in the previous week). Plus, Etiwanda has a 76-39 win over Rancho from earlier in the season. After losing the one game, the Eagles came back to down Glendora 60-25 behind Davis Nuaimi and Kenny Barnes, who each scored 11 points. Their first playoff game is Friday vs. Highland of Palmdale.
7. (7) Centennial (Corona) 25-2
After Etiwanda fell earlier last week to Rancho Cucamonga, the Huskies played as if they knew they could grab the No. 3 seed in the CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs when they went out and beat Santiago of Corona 75-62. Sedrick Barefield and Sam Finley again led the way with 21 and 20 points, respectively. While it does look like Centennial has a favorable path to reach the semifinals (where a game against Long Beach Poly could happen), the team needs to be careful in its first playoff game on Friday against Jordan of Long Beach. Moore League teams like Jordan have been known to pull off some shockers in the playoffs in recent seasons.
8. (8) Bullard (Fresno) 22-2
The Knights possibly could have moved up this week if Etiwanda had been dropped further, but we decided to leave the Eagles in front of Centennial (which is a team that has a win over Bullard). The upcoming CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs should sort that out anyway. As for Bullard, its march to the top seed in the CIF Central Section Division I playoffs (the team is two-time defending champion) continued last week with victories over San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno (64-32) and Sanger (77-27). There is a testy game coming up on Friday against Edison of Fresno, which is just one game behind Bullard in the County/Metro League standings. That game is at Edison, too.
9. (9) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 21-3
Big-time sophomore Ivan Rabb racked up a near triple-double with 22 points, 16 rebounds and nine blocks to lead the Dragons past Modesto Christian of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section 71-62 in a nonleague matchup of top Northern California schools. O’Dowd also won last week against Mt. Eden of Hayward (67-50) and Berkeley (64-53). Despite such a strong week, there was nowhere for the Dragons to move up in this week’s rankings. O’Dowd ends its regular season this week with contests vs. San Leandro and Castro Valley.
10. (10) St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 19-6
A 79-61 triumph over Santa Margarita of Rancho Santa Margarita concluded the regular season for the Braves, who ended 8-2 in the Trinity League with both of the losses to Mater Dei. Daniel Hamilton topped the scoring with 23 points and had 10 assists plus eight rebounds. St. John Bosco will now turn its attention to winning the CIFSS Division III-A playoffs. The team is seeded No. 1 and opens at home against Buena Park.
11. (11) Loyola (Los Angeles) 20-6
The Cubs’ 51-24 loss to Etiwanda at the Nike Extravaganza combined with Etiwanda’s subsequent league loss to Rancho Cucamonga and Etiwanda losing the tie-breaker means that they had to fall all the way to the No. 7 seed in the CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs. That also means that Loyola likely will play Long Beach Poly in a monster quarterfinal game. The Cubs captured the Mission League title (one of the toughest to win in the state) with an 89-79 victory in overtime against Alemany of Mission Hills. Trey Mason scored 24 points while Thomas Welsh had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Loyola. This week’s playoff opener comes at home against Montebello.
12. (13) El Camino Real (Woodland Hills) 25-2
The Conquistadors are smarting a bit from their No. 2 seed in the upcoming CIF L.A. City Section Division I playoffs. No. 18 Westchester was awarded the top seed despite having four more losses and being ranked behind ECR in most local polls. The section’s selection committee felt Westchester played stronger competition and it’s not hard to overlook the fact El Camino Real was in Division II last season, whereas Westchester is a perennial contender in Division I. The Comets also have won 10 section titles and six Division I state titles under coach Ed Azzam. Unlike the CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs, however, there is not much difference between the two sides of the city bracket and both the semifinals and finals will be held at Cal-State Dominguez Hills. ECR took care of business by closing out the regular season with wins over Granada Hills (71-35) and Taft of Woodland Hills (70-51) and opens the postseason against 14-13 Canoga Park.
13. (14) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 19-5
It’s time for the Monarchs to get ready for the West Catholic Athletic League playoffs. Despite recent loss to Serra of San Mateo, they won the round-robin title by one game over the Padres (which is the team most figure they will face in the playoff final). Mitty won its final regular season outing 78-49 over Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco behind All-American Aaron Gordon’s 29 points. The team will start the WCAL playoffs Tuesday vs. Valley Christian of San Jose.
14. (17) Serra (San Mateo) 21-3
The Padres are able to move up three spots this week right behind Mitty after winning two more WCAL games last week following their big win over the Monarchs. This move also is because both previous No. 12 Brentwood and previous No. 16 Pacific Hills lost to new No. 16 Windward in recent Alpha League games. Serra crushed Valley Christian of San Jose 68-32 in its final regular season outing as Henry Caruso and Eddie Stansberry hit for 16 and 15 points, respectively. This week, the Padres play St. Francis of Mountain View in the first-round of the WCAL playoffs.
15. (12) Brentwood (Los Angeles) 23-3
It was a tough week for the Eagles as they dropped a 55-54 game to Windward of Los Angeles that created a three-way tie for first-place in the Alpha League between the two schools and Pacific Hills. With Windward being a CIFSS Division IV-AA playoff team and with Brentwood and Pac Hills both being in the Division IV-A bracket, Pac Hills and Brentwood flipped a coin to determine the higher seed. Brentwood lost the coin flip and heads into the playoffs as the league’s No. 2 representative, seeded No. 2 behind Pac Hills. Coach Moose Bailey’s team opens the playoffs against Malibu. Brentwood still remains the highest-ranked Alpha League team because it defeated Pac Hills in its latest head-to-head matchup and has five less overall losses than Windward.
16. (NR) Windward (Los Angeles) 18-8
The Wildcats jump into the top 20 this week after their thrilling 55-54 comeback win over previous No. 12 Brentwood that created a tri-championship in the tough Alpha League between those two programs and Pacific Hills. Windward trailed Brentwood by 12 points entering the fourth quarter, had not scored more than 12 points in any quarter and shot 16 percent from the field in the first half. Coach Miguel Villegas’ club went wild in the final period, scoring 30 points, including 14 from guard Charles Dawson, who finished with a team-high 22 points. Windward’s losses are offset by quality wins over teams such as No. 9 Bishop O’Dowd and it lost to No. 4 Sheldon and No. 5 Salesian when sophomore Mason Shepard was still rounding into form following an off-season injury. Windward also beat Brentwood and Pac Hills during the second-round of league play and will open the postseason against 17-11 Ribet Academy.
17. (16) Pacific Hills (Los Angeles) 20-4
The Bruins lost a game two weeks ago and didn’t drop last week, but they drop one spot this week even though they defeated Viewpoint of Calabasas 83-49 to close out the regular season. Coach Ivan Barahona’s team lost in the second-round of league play to both Brentwood and Windward, but won the coin flip with Brentwood and is the No. 1 representative from the Alpha League in the CIFSS Division IV-A playoffs. As a result, Pac Hills earned the division’s No. 1 overall seed and a first-round bye. The Bruins will face the Notre Dame of Riverside/Marshall of Pasadena winner in the second round on Friday.
18. (19) Westchester (Los Angeles) 24-6
After closing out the regular season with big wins over rival Fairfax (68-47) and L.A. University (84-40), the Comets move up one spot in this week’s rankings, right behind the Pacific Hills team that has a win against them. Westchester clinched its sixth consecutive Western League title with the win over Fairfax, as senior Kevin Rutledge led four Comets in double figures with 15 points. A 31-3 run to begin the third quarter turned a relatively close game against Uni into a rout to clinch an unblemished 12-0 league mark. Elijah Stewart scored 14 points to lead Westchester, which will open the postseason against 12-17 Fremont of Los Angeles.
19. (20) De La Salle (Concord) 21-3
Although the Spartans lost big to Deer Valley of Antioch in December, they’ve now done enough to be ranked higher, especially since Deer Valley dropped a game last week to Heritage of Brentwood. It’s not exactly as if De La Salle was at full strength at the time of that loss, either. In last week’s games, the highlight of course was head coach Frank Allocco reaching 600 all-time varsity wins (including his years at nearby Northgate of Walnut Creek). That one came in a 64-29 romp past Livermore with Michael Inman topping all scorers with 17 points. The Spartans can clinch an outright East Bay Athletic League title with a win on Tuesday against Granada of Livermore and will end the regular season Friday at home against California of San Ramon.
20. (NR) Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove) 21-4
The Eagles jump back into the fray and will once again get another chance to shake up the rankings by knocking off Delta River League rival Sheldon on Tuesday. In the first round of league play, Sheldon won by six points, 85-79. Last week, Pleasant Grove downed Folsom (63-42) and Jesuit of Carmichael (77-63) to set up the league title showdown. Pleasant Grove can now be ranked higher than Hart of Newhall (loss last week to Canyon of Canyon Country) and De La Salle can now be ranked ahead of Deer Valley because the Wolverines have been shaky in recent weeks with close wins and it finally caught up to them against Heritage of Brentwood when Kentucky-bound Marcus Lee was battling a bout of the flu. Deer Valley will have its chances to jump back in the top 20 in the CIF North Coast Section playoffs, but has to show that it’s more than a two-man team.
Teams That Dropped Out:
Previous No. 15 Deer Valley (Antioch), No. 18 Hart (Newhall).
Teams on the Bubble:
Army-Navy (Carlsbad) 21-4
Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) 22-3
Chaminade (West Hills) 20-6
Crespi (Encino) 19-8
Deer Valley (Antioch) 19-5
Hart (Newhall) 24-2
J.W. North (Riverside) 23-3
La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 22-4
Mission Viejo 24-3
Modesto Christian 23-3
Price (Los Angeles) 22-3
Rancho Cucamonga 23-4
Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) 18-8
San Leandro 20-4
Serra (Gardena) 20-6
St. Augustine (San Diego) 19-4
Village Christian (Sun Valley) 23-3