Teams getting a bump for the final, expanded rankings of the 2012-13 season include St. John Bosco, Pleasant Grove and El Camino Real. Here you’ll also see in-depth analysis on state-ranked teams you just can’t find anywhere else.
By Ronnie Flores
Contributing: Mark Tennis, Harold Abend, Paul Muyskens
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(After games played Saturday, March 23; Preseason ranking in parentheses)
1. (6) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 34-2
The Monarchs are the state’s No. 1 ranked team for the eighth time in the Gary McKnight era. McKnight’s areas of concern coming into this season were losing four key players off last year’s team and the youth at the center position. Mater Dei was able to overcome that not just because of ringleader Stanley Johnson, but with good team defense and marked improvement from Elijah Brown and Jordan Strawberry, whom McKnight feels is one of the most underrated point guards in Southern California. Considering the personnel on a team that lost to only one in-state foe (No. 2 Etiwanda) and later avenged it, this might be the finest coaching job ever for McKnight and his staff.
2. (8) Etiwanda 28-4
The Eagles stay put in the No. 2 position for the final ratings after Mater Dei defeated Mitty in the CIF Open Division state title game. They had a bad shooting night (14-of-52) in the SoCal Open Division final against Mater Dei, but did beat them earlier in the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA title game after defeating No. 3 Long Beach Poly in the semifinals. Point guard Jordan McLaughin was named co-CIFSS Div. I-AA Player of the Year and Sheldon Blackwell, one of the state’s top unsigned seniors, was also named all-CIFSS for the highest-ranked team in the program’s history.
3. (1) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 28-4
The Jackrabbits spent the season at No. 1 in the state from the preseason until they lost to Etiwanda, in overtime, in the CIFSS Division I-AA semifinals. Poly had a chance to reclaim the top spot but was defeated by No. 1 Mater Dei in the SoCal Open Division semifinals in a game in which the Jackrabbits shot poorly from the field. Some of our readers felt Poly’s No. 1 ranking was predicated on junior Kameron Chatman being eligible, but we knew he was going to be out until at least January 2 (that date ended up being March 16) and the team definitely had the personnel to make a serious run at No. 1 without him. Poly came up two games short, but still had a memorable season led by Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year candidate Roschon Prince, who helped Poly to a 114-16 record in four years as a starter.
4. (4) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 28-6
Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight was informed about a sarcastic tweet regarding Mitty’s bench complaining about the referees in the Open Division title game and how this tends to happen when Mater Dei plays in big games. He felt comments like that one takes away from the accomplishments of his players. The complaining was noticeable sitting near the Mitty bench and was even a bigger issue in last year’s state title game, where Sheldon seemed to focus on the refs too much. Regardless, Mater Dei had an excellent game plan and this season plenty of good teams shot poorly from the field against the Monarchs, more a result of Mater Dei’s good team defense than anything else. Besides Aaron Gordon, nobody else scored in double figures in the 50-45 Open Division title game loss. Still, Mitty stays put in the final rankings mainly because of its 70-50 victory over No. 5 Sheldon in the NorCal Open Division final.
5. (3) Sheldon (Sacramento) 27-6
After knocking off No. 6 Salesian of Richmond, 63-59, in overtime in the NorCal Open Division semifinal, the Huskies didn’t get double digit scoring from Darin Johnson (6 points), D’Erryl Williams (7) or Dakarai Allen (8) in the loss to Mitty in the regional final. That trio got most of the attention, but Sheldon’s other two starters, guard Antonio Lewis and wing Ryan Manning, would be stars at most other schools. Imagine how good Sheldon would have been if guard Armani Hampton wasn’t injured the whole season. The Huskies were a team to be reckoned outside of two early losses when they were dealing with injuries and didn’t have Johnson. They also beat CIF Division I state champ Pleasant Grove three times against no losses. Unlike in football where there was some debate in the Sacramento area about D1 champ Granite Bay being ranked higher than NorCal Open Division finalist Folsom, there’s absolutely none in basketball.
6. (2) Salesian (Richmond) 30-4
The Pride were No. 1 in the state going into the NorCal Open Division semifinals against Sheldon, but could not maintain a six-point lead and eventually lost in overtime. Considering Salesian opened the season ranked No. 2 in the state behind Long Beach Poly, the season was an overall success for the 2011-2012 Division IV state champions. All four losses were to quality teams (No. 5 Sheldon, No. 10 St. Augustine, No. 12 Bullard, plus Gonzaga of Washington, D.C.). McDonald’s All-American Jabari Bird garnered a majority of the headlines, but the backcourt of Mario Dunn (Montana) and Markel Leonard (Can Poly SLO) were ball hawks and potent offensive players that often times didn’t get the credit they deserved.
7. (17) Pacific Hills (Los Angeles) 29-4
Of all the small school SoCal Division IV powers, it looks like we ranked the correct one highest in the preseason, as the Bruins went on to capture the CIF Division IV state title with a 58-52 victory over a scrappy Cardinal Newman team that wouldn’t go away. The Bruins lost two early games to No. 15 Loyola and No. 26 Bishop O’Dowd, but were able to avenge their Alpha League losses to Brentwood and Windward during the second round of league play. Washington-bound Jahmel Taylor was the named the CIFSS Division IV-A Player of the Year, but we feel junior wing Namon Wright was one of the biggest snubs to the all-CIFSS teams. The big win in the regional playoffs came against No. 8 Bishop Montgomery, which prevents open division participant St. John Bosco from moving up any higher because the Braves lost to that same team.
8. (19) Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 32-2
The Knights couldn’t slow down Pac Hills’ quick trio of guards in the SoCal Division IV regional final, nor could they beat the Bruins on the boards in that four-point loss. Despite its season coming up short of a state title, Bishop Montgomery was one of the state’s best teams a majority of the season and began it with 29 consecutive wins. Everybody knows about wing Lamond Murray Jr. and sharpshooter Stevie Thompson Jr., but forward Ognjen Miljkovic was a player we really liked every team we saw this team. Montgomery climbed quite high in some national rankings, but did not defeat a team ranked above them in these rankings.
9. (5) St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 24-7
This is the spot where we begin to see movement in the rankings based on an entire body of work and less focus on the round of the state tournament a team advanced to. Bosco moves up three spots in large part because it owns a win over Ely of Pompano Beach, Florida at the Chick-Fil-A Classic. This is significant, because it’s Ely’s only loss of the season so far (it plays at the NHSI beginning April 4) and won the Florida Class 7A state title. It’s a quality win St. Augustine can’t match. St. John Bosco’s two losses to Mater Dei in league play also don’t look too bad since that team went on to capture the Open Division state title. Bosco was the only non-Division I team in the SoCal Open Division playoffs where it lost to No. 3 Poly in a one possession game.
10. (NR) St. Augustine (San Diego) 29-4
As stated last week, the Saints would finish in the top 10 in these rankings with a defeat of Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco in the CIF State Division III title game. That happened, but St. Augustine did not stay in front of St. John Bosco. The team was moved up in front of St. John Bosco last week because it was still playing and only had lost to two teams (No. 5 Sheldon and No. 30 Cathedral Catholic) four times. Despite the low number of losses, St. Aug needed overtime to defeat unranked Sacred Heart Cathedral and beat Chaminade by four points, whereas Bosco completely blew out Chaminade 80-56. Junior Trey Kell (30 points) saved St. Aug against Sacred Heart Cathedral with clutch shooting down the stretch.
11. (29) Westchester (Los Angeles) 29-7
Last week we mentioned the Comets would remain ahead of Bullard in the final ratings, but a deeper look at Westchester’s resume causes a two-spot drop. Losses to St. Joseph of Santa Maria and St. Anthony of Long Beach drops the Comets behind St. Aug, which won a state title and lost to only two teams all season long. Regardless, the season was a success for coach Ed Azzam, who won his 12th L.A. City Section title with a team considered a “year away” from returning among the state’s elite. With 12 players in the regular rotation, post-season honors are hard to sort out but look for senior Matthew Grant (14.2 ppg) and junior Nick Hamilton (10.8 rpg) on some honors squads.
12. (33) Bullard (Fresno) 27-3
A single loss to a lower ranked team (in this case No. 17 Centennial) makes for quite a successful season, especially when it includes a third straight section title. Bullard probably finishes inside the top eight had Salesian (which was at No. 1 in the second-to-last rankings of the season) played in the CIF Open Division title game. A heart-breaking loss to No. 11 Westchester shouldn’t damper Bullard’s overall season because Tony Amundsen’s program is now at the level where you can pencil it into the top 20 and next year he has junior Calvin Young and sophomore Austin Armstead back in the fold.
13. (NR) Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove) 28-6
The Eagles move up two spots after capturing the CIF Division I state title with a 73-57 victory over Santa Monica. Matthew Hayes led the way with 19 points. Malik Thames (16) and Cole Nordquist (13), two of the best unsigned seniors in NorCal, also played a big role in the program’s first state title. A December 29 loss to West Ranch of Valencia was the last time the Eagles lost to anyone else besides No. 5 Sheldon. The margin of victory over Santa Monica one week after the Vikings beat Loyola of Los Angeles was a statement for all of Sacramento basketball.
14. (23) Serra (Gardena) 26-7
The Cavaliers drop one spot in the final ratings to make room for a Pleasant Grove team which won its final game, but nonetheless Serra had a successful season. Despite bouts of what coach Dwan Hurt described as “selfish play” and an unfortunate incident where he lost funding because of a holiday tournament that went belly up, Serra still won its second consecutive CIFSS Div. IV-AA title. The Cavs should field another fine team next year with the return of all-CIFSS picks Tavarion Dawson and Ajon Efferson plus Ron Freeman, another junior who will take on a bigger role.
15. (14) Santa Monica 29-7
Wins and losses come with the territory, but it was hard not to have sympathy for two players at the CIF state championships. St. Joseph’s Marcus Harris missed two free throws moments before Horizona’s Ethan Underwood nailed a 3-pointer to win the Division V game at the buzzer and SaMoHi’s Jordan Mathews was in foul trouble throughout the Division I game and played only 12:23. Mathews probably needed a big game like he had in the SoCal regional final win over No. 16 Loyola in order for SaMoHi to defeat Pleasant Grove. Still, it was the Vikings’ best overall season in over 80 years and for the most part they lived up to their preseason billing.
16. (12) Loyola (Los Angeles) 25-8
The Cubs stay put in the final ratings after dropping three spots last week following their loss in the SoCal Division I regional final on a last second 3-pointer to No. 15 Santa Monica. We thought long and hard about moving the Cubs back in front of SaMoHi after it lost in the state title game because of its two earlier wins over the Vikings, but in the end SaMoHi went a round further and both teams had nearly the same amount of total losses. Besides, SaMoHi was in the game in those two losses and easily could have won had a few breaks went its way. Loyola will again field a fine team next season with center Thomas Welsh and point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright back for their senior campaigns.
17. (BB) Centennial (Corona) 26-3 (17)
Two weeks ago, Centennial moved back into the top 20, but there was simply nowhere for this young Huskies’ club to move up after losing to Silverado of Victorville in the CIFSS Division I-AA second round. The best team to not play in the SoCal or NorCal regional playoffs, Centennial beat both Division I state finalists (No. 13 Pleasant Grove and No 15 Santa Monica), but it’s what happened to Victorville in its next game that keeps Centennial in this spot. Silverado scored 28 points total in a loss to No. 2 Etiwanda after scoring 77 in the win over Centennial, which beat that same Silverado team 80-46 in its first meeting.
18. (NR) Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) 28-8
Jeremiah Headley woke up last Saturday morning as a sophomore back-up averaging nearly six points per game and went to bed seeing himself as the No. 1 play on ESPN SportsCenter. Headley’s 19 points, including two on that alley-oop slam, led Redondo past College Park of Pleasant Hill 54-47 in the CIF Division II state final. Other than a three-point loss to No. 36 Price, the rest of the team’s eight losses were to higher-ranked teams. Coach Reggie Morris Jr. also directed the boys to 21 straight wins to close the season. Redondo, which topped No. 28 J.W. North, 60-48, in the D2 SoCal regional final, also had a quality win during the season over No. 22 Modesto Christian.
19. (9) Deer Valley (Antioch) 26-6
Despite a 16-point loss to Pleasant Grove in the CIF NorCal Division I final, the Wolverines had a more than solid season. The highlight had to be two triumphs over No. 27 De La Salle, a team that has tended to rule them in recent years. Deer Valley’s one-two punch of guard Kendall Smith and center Marcus Lee was one of the best in recent Bay Area history as well. Smith averaged more than 22 points per game while Lee, a 6-foot-10 big man, averaged nearly 18 ppg with 19 rebounds and almost seven blocks. Lee will play next at Kentucky, although he has the McDonald’s All-America Game first.
20. (21) El Camino Real (Woodland Hills) 28-4
ECR finishes in front of Serra since Mater Dei defeated Mitty in the CIF Open Division state title game and finishes one spot above its preseason mark. The Conquistadors also get ratings credit for a blowout victory over No. 22 Modesto Christian. Led by L.A. City Section Player of the Year Michael Thomas and junior Julian Richardson, the Conquistadors reached the L.A. City Section Division I tile game where they lost to No. 11 Westchester, 65-59, before losing in the opening round of the SoCal Open Division playoffs to No. 1 Mater Dei.
NEXT 20 RANKED TEAMS:
21. (24) Serra (San Mateo) 25-6
The Padres now fall below El Camino Real since WCAL rival Mitty lost to Mater Dei in the CIF Open Division state title game. Half of Serra’s season losses came at the hands of Mitty, but the Padres were able to hand the Monarchs one loss as Henry Caruso scored 20 points to end Mitty’s WCAL winning streak at 24 games. After the third loss to Mitty in the CIFCCS Open Division final, Serra lost to No. 5 Sheldon in the NorCal Open Division playoffs.
22. (25) Modesto Christian 29-4
Co-coaches Gary Porter and Richard Midgely did a good job preparing the Crusaders for a strong surge late in the season. The team rolled to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title, blew out No. 26 Bishop O’Dowd in the NorCal Open Division quarterfinals and then lost to Mitty by just four points. Seniors T.J. Wallace and Raymond Bowles hope to continue to make Stockton-Modesto hoop fans happy in the coming years as both are headed to nearby University of the Pacific to play for new head coach Ron Verlin.
23. (BB) Lutheran (La Verne) 26-8
With four players averaging double figures in a five-guard offense, Brandon Lee’s Trojans got hot at the right time in the CIFSS Division IV-AA playoffs. Lutheran defeated No. 25 Windward and handed Bishop Montgomery its first loss of the season after 29 wins. The Trojans were competitive against No. 14 Serra in their section title game and saw their season end against eventual Div. IV state champ Pacific Hills.
24. (NR) Brentwood (Los Angeles) 27-5
The Eagles may have peaked a bit early, but they showed what they were capable of by routing eventual Division I state champ Pleasant Grove and defeating No. 20 El Camino Real during the regular season. Led by all-CIFSS picks Tra Holder and Brown-bound Leland King, Brentwood also defeated No. 7 Pacific Hills one out of three times, but saw its season come to an end with a 62-58 loss to No. 34 Mater Dei Catholic of Chula Vista after a poor seeding in the SoCal Division IV regional tournament.
25. (20) Windward (Los Angeles) 20-9
Overall it was a solid season for coach Miguel Villegas, but he’s still smarting a bit after not making the regional tournament for the second consecutive year. When point guard Jordan Wilson (Northern Colorado) was on, Windward was a force to be reckoned with, but the Wildcats were inconsistent up front with three sophomores and a freshman. They beat No. 26 Bishop O’Dowd and No. 39 Newark Memorial and split league games with Brentwood and Pac Hills before running into a hot La Verne Lutheran team in the CIFSS Division IV-AA quarterfinals.
26. (35) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 26-4
With regular season wins over No. 19 Deer Valley, No. 7 Pac Hills and No. 18 Redondo Union, O’Dowd looked like a serious threat to make a run at a state title. This young squad, however, was one and done in the NorCal Open Division playoffs when No. 22 Modesto Christian beat them by a sizable margin. Led by sophomore Ivan Rabb on the inside and sophomore Paris Austin on the outside, the Dragons finished undefeated in league play before capturing the North Coast Section Division III championship.
27. (7) De La Salle (Concord) 26-5
The Spartans were blown out by Pleasant Grove, whereas No. 24 Brentwood easily beat that team, so De La Salle must remain ranked behind the SoCal small school Division IV powers. A young Spartans’ team with three freshmen starters did finish first in the East Bay Athletic League, but also lost twice to No. 19 Deer Valley and did not have as many quality wins as those SoCal Div. IV teams, either.
28. (NR) J.W. North (Riverside) 31-4
The CIFSS Division II-AA champions beat the St. Augustine team that No. 29 Army-Navy lost to. Army-Navy also had a stinker loss to Santiago of Corona and J.W. North was able to avenge its bad loss to Rancho Verde, thus the Huskies are in front of the Warriors in the final ratings. Forward Dorian Butler was named CIFSS Div. II-AA player of the year and junior guard Deshon Taylor was also named all-CIFSS.
29. (NR) Army-Navy (Carlsbad) 29-5
The Warriors lost to Division III state champ St. Augustine, but were able to defeat No. 30 Cathedral Catholic. A stinker loss is the reason Army-Navy must remain behind J.W. North. Led by junior Devin Watson (23.6 ppg), the Warriors won the San Diego Section Division IV championship with a third win over No. 34 Mater Dei Catholic and advanced to the SoCal Division IV regional semifinals before losing to No. 8 Bishop Montgomery.
30. (16) Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) 29-5
Not many teams can say they own three wins over a state champion, but the Dons can. They defeated Division III state champion St. Augustine that many times during the regular season. Cathedral Catholic also played tougher overall teams than Cardinal Newman and another reason it gets the nod over the Cardinals is losing to No. 2 Etiwanda by just six points.
31. (NR) Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 32-4
In the CIF Division IV final against Pacific Hills, coach Tom Bonfigli’s club proved it could play on even terms for almost an entire game against an elite team like the Bruins. Where to put the team in the final rankings, though, isn’t that easy because there are no major wins against any other top 40 teams. Top players were 6-foot-6 senior Corey Hammell and 6-foot-1 senior Kenny Love.
32. (NR) Chaminade (West Hills) 27-8
The CIFSS Division III-A runner-ups were up and down, but overall had a fine year playing in the tough Mission League. Led by junior forward Jack Williams, one of the state’s top rebounders, and senior guard Jaron Martin, Chaminade advanced to the SoCal Division III regional final after St. John Bosco, which routed the Eagles in their section title game, was moved to the open division. Despite a few stinker losses, ‘Nade showed what it could do when on its game with wins over No. 15 Santa Monica and No. 20 El Camino Real.
33. (NR) Palisades (Pacific Palisades) 23-9
Pali’s biggest victory of the season was also its last win, defeating Mission Viejo in the opening round of the SoCal Division I Regional before losing to eventual state runner-up Santa Monica. Pali, led by senior Ammar Rehman (15 ppg), finished second in the Western League behind Westchester. Pali did own wins over No. 25 Windward and No. 36 Price, but some stinker losses prevents a higher final ranking.
34. (NR) Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista) 25-7
Kenny Caesar’s Crusaders battled their way to an unblemished record in Mesa League play before reaching the San Diego Section Division IV finals, where Mater Dei lost to No. 29 Army-Navy. Providing the biggest boost to its final ranking was Mater Dei’s victory over No. 24 Brentwood in the first round of the SoCal Division IV regional playoffs.
35. (BB) Crespi (Encino) 23-10
The Celts played tough competition and in a tough section playoff bracket and it’s reflected in the double-digit losses. Still, led by CIFSS Div. IV-AA Player of the Year London Perrantes and freshman Max Heidegger (who Frank Burlison named his freshman of the year among Southern Section and L.A. City Schools), Crepsi defeated No. 36 Price to quality for the regional before losing to No. 29 Army-Navy.
36. (30) Price (Los Angeles) 24-4
Led by Cal-bound Chance Murray, Price had a low number of losses and even beat Division II state champ Redondo Union, but suffered an untimely loss to No. 35 Crespi which kept it out of the regional playoffs. The makeup of this undersized club often kept Murray out of position and the Knights from being able to handle clubs with a lot of size such as No. 8 Bishop Montgomery.
37. (NR) Mission Hills (San Marcos) 29-5
The Grizzlies were routed by No. 36 Price, but they beat Inglewood when it counted most in the SoCal Div. I regional playoffs. Mission Hills also did well within its section, defeating El Camino of Oceanside for the San Diego Section Division I championship.
38. (15) Inglewood 20-11
The Sentinels did own an early win over St. John Bosco and beat No. 39 Newark Memorial, but a high number of losses and an upset by No. 37 Mission Hills in the regional playoffs prevents a higher rating. Xavier-bound Brandon Randolph had a fine season and wing Nicholas Smiley and guard Randy Onwuasor have the ability to play at the next level.
39. (18) Newark Memorial (Newark) 23-8
The final NorCal club to crack the ratings is in a similar boat as No. 40 Mission Viejo, which edged Crenshaw of Los Angeles for the final spot. Coach Craig Ashmore’s club played tougher overall teams than the Diablos (Windward, Inglewood, Mitty, Pleasant Grove) and played those teams close, but didn’t notch a big win you can point to help them earn a higher rating. The Cougars did win the CIF North Coast Section D2 title and then had to watch as both Dublin and College Park played in the NorCal D2 final with College Park advancing to the state final. Newark’s loss in the regional playoffs came in the open division.
40. (BB) Mission Viejo 26-5
The Diablos tied for first place in the South Coast League with El Toro, and spent some time in the state top 20, before losing to Inglewood in the quarterfinals of the CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs. Led by point guard Evan Zeller (20.9 ppg), Mission Viejo lost to No. 33 Palisades in the SoCal Division I regional and similar to Newark Memorial, there’s not a big win you can point to.
To check out the final 2012-13 boys basketball rankings by CIF division, CLICK HERE.
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