Saturday CIF Boys Basketball Picks & Previews

Posted on March 20, 2013 by

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Mater Dei of Santa Ana has gotten big minutes in many games from freshman M.J. Cage, who battles Etiwanda's Sheldon Balckwell (3) and Kenny Barnes (23) during SoCal Open Division final. Photo: Andrew Drennen.

Mater Dei of Santa Ana has gotten big minutes in many games from freshman M.J. Cage, who battles Etiwanda’s Sheldon Balckwell (3) and Kenny Barnes (23) during SoCal Open Division final. Photo: Andrew Drennen.

It’s not Aaron Gordon vs. Stanley Johnson, but assuming both have their moments it will be other players who likely will decide Mitty vs. Mater Dei showdown for first open division title. Pac Hills, Redondo are favored in D4 and D2, respectively.

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By Ronnie Flores
Contributing: Mark Tennis

All games being played at Sleep Train Arena (formerly known as ARCO Arena and Power Balance Arena) in Sacramento, home (for now) of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. Note that Cal-Hi Sports’ predictions went 8-2 last year but were only 6-4 in 2011. Other recent years were 7-3 in 2010 and 9-1 in 2009.

Boys Division IV — 12 p.m.
Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 32-3 vs. Pacific Hills (Los Angeles) 28-4

State Championship History: The Cardinals are 0-3 in state title games. All three losses (1989, 1996, and 2007) have come in Division IV. The school also is 0-2 in CIF state football bowl games. Pac Hills is 1-1 all-time in CIF state title games and 1-2 if you count when the school was known as Bel Air Prep. In 1998, Pac Hills beat Brookside Christian of Stockton and lost to Ripon Christian in 1994. Bel Air Prep lost to Menlo of Atherton in 1989 with all three appearances coming in Division V.
Analysis: This is a game of contrasting styles and both teams want to impose theirs on the other team. It would seem Pacific Hills, which wants an up tempo game with its guards penetrating to the basket, would have a better chance to do it than Cardinal Newman, which wants to spread the floor and slow down the pace. Just because the Cardinals are decided underdogs, don’t count them completely out. Coach Tom Bonfigli felt his team played only one poor half all season long, the second half against state power Salesian of Richmond in its section title game when Newman lost 65-34 after trailing by a point at halftime. Pacific Hills probably is going to attempt to force tempo by trapping and if the Cardinals can’t handle the pressure they’ll be in trouble. Bonfigli thinks his team can, especially on a court that is 10 feet longer than regular high school courts. On the flip side, Cardinal Newman has to show it has the foot speed to stay in front of Pac Hills’ outstanding trio of guards. If it doesn’t, it could be a long afternoon for Newman.
Predicted score: Pacific Hills 79, Cardinal Newman 64

Boys Division II — 4 p.m.
College Park (Pleasant Hill) 27-5 vs. Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) 27-8

State Championship History: This will be College Park’s first CIF state final after losing by two points to Montgomery of Santa Rosa in its section semifinal, then taking advantage of Mitty and Newark Memorial being in the open division and winning the NorCal D2 title. Redondo is making its first appearance in a state title game. The Seahawks, who do have a CIF girls basketball title in their history, were previously 0-2 in boys’ regional final appearances.
Analysis: Similar to the Division I game, this is a matchup of teams looking for their first ever state title. The main difference is, not too many predicted this would be the two teams competing for the state title in this division. College Park won the most exciting regional final game, defeating Dublin 93-90, in overtime, on a 3-pointer by Peter Schoemann (who averages 6.3 ppg) with 6.8 seconds remaining. College Park won despite being out-rebounded 64-38 and making only 21-of-41 free throws. If the Falcons get out rebounded by a near 2-to-1 margin against Redondo Union, they’ll likely lose because Redondo is a good shooting team. The Seahawks converted 34-of-47 free throw attempts in its section title and regional title games combined and have been shooting well from 3-point range in recent games. Both teams rely on their perimeter players, so if 6-foot-7 Sebastian Linder of Redondo Union makes an impact it will be a big boost because he struggled (0 points, 4 turnovers) in the regional final. We wouldn’t be surprised to see another wild finish, although Redondo Union has been finishing games strongly after struggling against good teams in that department early in the season.
Predicted score: Redondo Union 57, College Park 50

Boys Open Division — 8 p.m.
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 28-5 vs. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 33-2

State Championship History: This will be Mitty’s fifth appearance in a CIF state title game. Behind Aaron Gordon (now a senior), Mitty won two consecutive CIF Division II state titles in 2011 and 2012. Ironically, Mitty lost two consecutive Division II state title games to Mater Dei in 2007 and 2008 when Aaron’s older brother, Drew, was the Monarchs’ star player. One of those games (2007) went to overtime and also was notable because the CIF later admitted that Mitty had one point on a free throw that was missed on the scoreboard. As for Mater Dei, no boys’ team in CIF history has won or made more appearances in a state final than the Monarchs. Mater Dei is 9-4 all-time in state final appearances with all coming in Division I and Division II. The past two seasons, Mater Dei has won the Div. I state title and looks to become the first team to win a major division title three consecutive seasons.
Analysis: The marquee game of this year’s CIF state championships has plenty of storylines and is unpredictable. Each team will be gunning for its third consecutive CIF state title and to be known as the first-ever Open Division state champion. Mater Dei survived the loaded SoCal Open Division bracket and avenged its only in-state loss by routing Etiwanda, 60-37, in the regional final after losing to the Eagles by three points in the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA title game. Despite not shooting well in the first half of the rematch against Etiwanda, Mater Dei’s team defense has been stellar and the team has plenty of strong, capable athletes. A key player who will be missing with injury for Mater Dei is junior Mario Soto, who didn’t attempt a field goal in the win over Etiwanda and is one of those strong bodies. Mater Dei did a great job defensively on Etiwanda star guard Jordan McLaughlin, but trying to stop Mitty’s Aaron Gordon is a whole nother ballgame. The CalHiSports.com Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year as a junior dominated in the NorCal Regional finals against a supremely talented Sheldon team with 29 points, 22 rebounds and three blocked shots. In Mitty’s last two state title game victories, Gordon has gone for 51 points and 41 rebounds. Mater Dei won’t completely stop him, but Mater Dei has to put multiple bodies on him because he gets to so many loose balls and keeps them alive for his team. One thing to watch for is the refs calling it real close because oftentimes Gordon towers over players for a rebound and is called for an over-the-back foul. On defense, Gordon is also responsible for the opposition’s best scorer, and in this case that’s Stanley Johnson. If there is any player in the state capable of offsetting Gordon’s production, it’s Johnson but he’ll need streaky Elijah Brown to be on his game offensively. Mitty, on the other hand, will need somebody to step up (nobody else averages double digits scoring) although Gordon’s presence alone gives the team confidence in everything it does.
Predicted Score: Archbishop Mitty 69, Mater Dei 68

Comments or corrections? Email markjtennis@gmail.com.