By Harold Abend
Contributing: Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens
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The Bishop O’Dowd team that was atop the Cal-Hi Sports preseason rankings and ranked No. 1 in the nation by just about everyone certainly made a statement in a dismantling of Los Angeles Windward in the first CIF Open Division state title game.
This is the same Windward team that the week before in the Southern California regional final took apart Mater Dei of Santa Ana in front of the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan, and that’s a Mater Dei team that was No. 1 in the nation for most of the season after winning the top division of the Nike TOC.
So despite three losses, the Dragons are right where they were to start, atop these rankings and probably the best team in the nation, although they didn’t finish No. 1 in any of the national polls.
“All I know is those three losses,” Dragons’ head coach and State Coach of the Year candidate Malik McCord told Cal-Hi Sports when questioned about the team’s record prior to a January 12 home game in which they crushed Berkeley St. Mary’s 67-49.
After that third loss, a 15-point setback to Windward, O’Dowd won 24 straight with the only real close game being a 54-48 win over La Jolla Country Day at the MLK Day event at Stockton St. Mary’s.
One can only conjecture about what might have been if floor general and San Diego State-bound point guard Ariell Bostick had not come home for an important family affair, and then the Dragons lost two close games at the TOC to teams that couldn’t get by Mater Dei.
Had O’Dowd won the TOC’s top division and come in unbeaten in the first matchup with Windward, the whole banana may have been in a different split.
When asked the tough question after the Open Division state title victory, Bostick responded humbly with a smile, and without hesitation.
“I did have some regrets but this is about me growing as a young lady. I heard about (the questions), but the important thing is my teammates and my coaches supported me.”
“We all supported her,” McCord chimed in.
After the way they’ve looked since the wake up call in the first loss to Windward, there’s little doubt as to which is California’s top team, and nationally it’s still a “what if.”
“We’ve had a few bumps in the road but we feel like we’re the best team out there now,” McCord remarked. “Nobody (in the nation) can beat us right now the way we’re playing.”
(Through games of 3/23/13) (Previous rankings in parentheses)
1. (3) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 30-3
There will be a lot of gaps to fill next season with four Division I players leaving. Besides Bostick, McDonald’s All-American, USA Gold Medal Team member and Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalist Oderah Chidom is off to Duke, and Cal-bound and previous State Freshman of the Year KC Waters and Virginia Tech-bound Breanna Brown also graduate. Two talented sophomore guards return, Asha Thomas and Aisia Robertson.
2. (1) Windward (Los Angeles) 32-1
Shooting 3-pointers at Sleep Train Arena usually doesn’t work that well and coupled with the defense of O’Dowd inside and out spelled doom for the Wildcats in the second meeting in Sacramento. The good news is although Courtney Jaco leaves for USC, everyone else returns for the second year in the tenure of head coach Vanessa Nygaard.
3. (2) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 30-2
The Monarchs lose Karlie Samuelson, who goes off to Stanford, but Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalist Katie Lou Samuelson will be back as will sharp-shooting point guard Andee Velasco and a slew of other returners. In fact, if everyone head coach Kevin Kiernan had on the roster returns, he would have 17 players back for next season. Look for this team to be very high in the preseason rankings, possibly even No. 1, and competing for a state title once again.
4. (4) Santiago (Corona) 29-2
There will definitely be some question marks next season. The Oregon-bound Chrishae Rowe era is over after the 5-foot-10 senior guard graduates after scoring 2,062 career points as a Shark. Another senior guard and double-digit scorer, Shiana Carrington, is also gone. The good news is that talented 6-foot-3 junior center Monique Billings returns after averaging 12.8 ppg, 11.4 rpg and 3.4 blocks.
5. (5) St. Mary’s (Stockton) 32-3
One of the most difficult choices of the final rankings was where to rank the Rams along with St. Mary’s of Berkeley and CIF Division I state champ Long Beach Poly. While Poly would have the edge if one looked at scores between the Jackrabbits along with Dillard of Florida (the Rams lost to Dillard, Poly beat Dillard by 23), we ended up going by the head-to-head results, which was St. Mary’s of Berkeley getting a win over Poly and St. Mary’s of Stockton getting a win over the team from Berkeley. It also helped the Rams’ for the final rankings the way O’Dowd handled Windward since they only lost to O’Dowd by eight points the week before and were leading at halftime.
6. (6) St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 30-5
Mikayla Cowling still has one more year before heading off to Cal and will be joined by one of the nation’s most highly regarded juniors, 6-foot-1 Gabby Green, who will return next season after averaging 16.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 steals and 4.0 assists per game this season. Another key returner will be 5-11 junior Taylor Berry (9.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
7. (7) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 26-5
Once the Jackrabbits got past Etiwanda in the CIF SoCal D1 playoffs and avenged their loss to the Eagles from the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA playoffs, it seemed they were destined to go on and win the state title. And while there is a big difference from Division I compared to the Open Division, it is a CIF state title and the accomplishment is hard to top no matter where a team ends up in a ranking list.
8. (8) Miramonte (Orinda) 27-3
Another team that will be highly regarded entering next season are the young Kelly Sopak-coached Matadors, who came darn close to winning their Open Division game with Stockton St. Mary’s before falling by a single point. Everyone except senior guard Carly Gill returns. They’ll be led by 5-foot-10 State Freshman of the Year candidate Sabrina Ionescu (13.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 49. assists, 3.9 steals, 42 three-pointers), freshman 5-foot-10 freshman Uriah Howard (10.6 ppg, 5.0 pg), and freshman Keanna Delos Santa (10.1 ppg and 62 three-pointers).
9. (9) Etiwanda 28-4
The highlight of the season for the Eagles clearly came when they upset Mater Dei in the CIFSS Division I-AA semifinals and knocked the Monarchs from being No. 1 in the state and the nation. They lost in the final to Santiago and then got beat again by Long Beach Poly in the D1 South bracket, but the Mater Dei win and the first win over Poly showed real strength. If the Eagles had gotten past Poly and won the D1 state title, they probably would have finished No. 4. Instead, their overall season lands them just behind Miramonte.
10. (10) Bishop Alemany (Mission Hills) 32-5
Head coach Bryan Camacho became only the second girls coach other than Kevin Kiernan of Mater Dei to win a state title at more than one school after his Warriors took the CIF Division III state championship. It comes after he won the 2009 Division V title at Burbank Bellarmine-Jefferson. Loyola Marymount-bound Leslie Lopez Wood graduates and a few other seniors are gone, but Camacho has a deep roster of returning players eager to step up.
11. (11) Chaminade (West Hills) 31-4
UC Santa Barbara-bound Mi’Chael Wright, Mount Union-bound Robyn Brown, and a third senior Cassie MacLeod and their combined 35 point per game are gone leaving two starters that return, 6-foot-3 junior post Devan Stanback (7.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and outside shooting junior Kaylie Fandino. This was the greatest year in school history for head coach Kelly Dimuro and her girls, but following it up next year will be very difficult.
12. (12) Carondelet (Concord) 26-4
Sometimes an early season head-to-head loss is overlooked in the final rankings, and although the Cougars finished strong with a 20-point win over Archbishop Mitty in the Northern Regional Open Division opener, and then a five-point loss to No. 5 St. Mary’s at Stockton in the semifinals, veteran head coach Margaret Gartner and her girls remain intact and directly behind the team that beat them in the title game of the West Coast Jamboree Platinum Division. Highly regarded junior Natalie Romeo will return next season as does Makenzie Cast, her backcourt mate.
13. (14) Lynwood 29-5
When Lynwood went from Division I to Division II with the talent that veteran head coach Ellis Barfield has had the last three years, it was apparent to most California girls basketball analysts he would get a state title, and that’s exactly what happened behind the play of three solid starters, two of whom are going on to play in college, CSU Bakersfield-bound Alize Lofton and CSU Northridge-commit Amber Blockmon.
14. (15) Serra (Gardena) 27-6
The Cavaliers won their first CIF Division IV state title against a field that didn’t have either Windward or St. Mary’s of Berkeley, but other than that was as deep a group of top teams as even Division I. Michigan-bound Sierra Thompson, Oregon-committed Deandrea Toler and Caila Hailey were all seniors and led the way with a combined 44.1 points per game.
15. (16) La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 18-12
Like Lynwood and Gardena Serra, the Torreys get a bump past Salesian in the final rankings. Everyone wrote off the limited roster of Terri Bamford and her girls when they were placed in the Open Division, but Washington-bound Kelsey Plum made some believers with her performances in a 20-point win over Troy and then a six point loss to Windward in the SoCal Regional semis.
At the end of the day, other than one win in four tries against St. Mary’s of Berkeley, the Pride just didn’t have any other win strong enough to keep them ahead of Lynwood or La Jolla Country Day for the final rankings. Still, it was another outstanding season for coach Stephen Pezzola and his girls, who will be back next year among the state’s best with Mariya Moore (35 points in the D4 state final) and others returning.
17. (17) Troy (Fullerton) 25-5
Despite a 51-31 loss to La Jolla Country Day in the first round of the CIF Southern Regional Open Division playoffs, it was still an excellent season for head coach Roger Anderson and his girls of Troy. Two of the losses were to Santiago and one was to Mater Dei and there also was an 11-point win over Long Beach Poly. Anderson loses 43.8 points a game scoring to graduation so next year is more of a question mark.
18. (18) Ridgeview (Bakersfield) 29-4
Led by Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalist Erica McCall, the Wolfpack captured the CIF Central Section Division II championship with a win over Garces of Bakersfield. They were then one win away from playing for a state championship, but the season season ended in the Division II SoCal regional final with a loss to eventual state champion Lynwood, a team they defeated earlier in the season. The Wolfpack also rang up a win against D4 state champ Serra of Gardena during the season, but had a bad loss to Stockdale.
19. (19) Canyon Springs (Moreno Valley) 23-10
Playing a tough schedule that included playing in an Inland Valley League that also featured Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley and J.W. North of Riverside, the Cougars had more than their fair share of losses but when the games meant the most they shined as they captured the CIFSS Division IA championship with some impressive wins. Other quality wins during the season were against section champs Clovis West of Fresno and Narbonne of Harbor City. Junior Cheyenne Greenhouse led the team averaging 18.6 points per game.
20. (20) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 24-6*
After winning the first CIF Central Coast Section Open Division (with a triumph over eventual D2 state finalist St. Francis of Mountain View), the Monarchs were placed in the NorCal Open Division where they lost in the first round to Carondelet. Coach Sue Phillips’ squad, which won the D2 state title in 2012, should start higher in the next preseason rankings due to the return of high-flying forward Kelli Hayes and her 17 points per game.
THE NEXT 20 TEAMS (in order):
21. JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 24-7
With a solid season that includes a win over La Jolla Country Day plus five of the seven losses to ranked teams and the other two to teams with D1 players on the roster gives the Lions the nod for the first spot in the next 20. Sophomore CoCo Miller averaged 19 points per game while junior Courtney Vaccher came in at 12.9. This is a team therefore that could be closer to Mater Dei next season in the Trinity League.
22. J.W. North (Riverside) 24-7
Despite a few bad losses, the Huskies did have two wins over Canyon Springs and Mark Keppel while both of those teams defeated Vista Murrieta so the Huskies seemed to fit nicely right ahead of the Broncos in our final rankings. During the postseason, the team lost to Lynwood in the CIFSS Division IIAA finals and to Ridgeview of Bakersfield in the SoCal Division II regional semifinals as senior Priscilla Brooks averaged 18.7 points per game this season and senior Kamille Diaz finished her high school career averaging 16.8 points per game.
23. Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) 27-7
Led on offense by senior Serafina Maulupe and her 17.1 points per game, the Broncos twice defeated Murrieta Valley to go undefeated the Southwestern League before having their hopes of a section title and then again of a state title ended with losses to Canyon Springs of Moreno Valley. Helping them fit in this spot is that they defeated Millikan of Long Beach in the second round of the Division I SoCal Regional.
24. Millikan (Long Beach) 27-5
Starting their season at the Brea Ladycat Classic, the Rams showed early on that they would have an impressive season as they defeated Narbonne of Harbor City and Canyon Springs of Moreno Valley before losing to Troy. Before losing twice to Long Beach Poly and finishing in second place in the Moore League, they also defeated Serra of Gardena and Bishop Montgomery of Torrance while their last win of the season came against Clovis West of Fresno in the opening round of the SoCal Division I regional.
25. St. Bernard (Playa del Ray) 26-7
Despite dealing with a bunch of injuries all season, the Vikings put it all together for an impressive run at the end of the season. They reached the CIFSS Division IVAA semifinals before having to face Windward of Los Angeles and then they were one win away from playing for a Division IV state title before losing to eventual state champion Serra of Gardena. Junior Chyanne Butler averaged 20.5 points per game for the Vikings, who had just one senior on the roster and could be looking at starting next season inside the top 20 of our preseason rankings.
26. Oaks Christian (Westlake Village)
Along with going undefeated in Tri-Valley League, the Lions had some big wins this season but also had their season come to an early end as they lost to St. Bernard of Playa del Rey in the CIFSS Division IVAA quarterfinals. Starting the season with two losses, the Lions put together three wins in a row over Vista Murrieta of Murrieta, Mater Dei Catholic of Chula Vista and Stockdale of Bakersfield in their most impressive stretch this season. They also had wins over Canyon Springs of Moreno Valley and Chaminade of West Hills during a challenging schedule.
27. Berkeley 22-12
Everyone wrote off the Yellowjackets except the girls themselves, and the result was that despite the fact they were overmatched in the CIF Division I state title game loss to Long Beach Poly, they found a way to get back to the D1 title game. Rachel Howard goes on to the University of San Francisco, but head coach Cheryl Draper will have some key returners in 5-foot-10 junior forward Desire Finnie and sophomore point guard Jaiamoni Welch-Coleman.
28. Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley) 25-3
Of the Mustangs’ three losses, two were to Troy and the other was to a Colorado Rock Canyon team that went fairly deep in that state’s 5AA playoffs. Other highlights included a win over J.W. North of Riverside and Canyon Springs, plus a road win over a Brea-Olinda team that beat Sacramento. All of that is enough for Rancho Verde to finish in the top 30 for the state. The team went out in the CIFSS Division I-AA quarterfinals, but at Long Beach Poly proved losing in that round is no disgrace.
29. Clovis West (Fresno) 23-6
The Golden Eagles didn’t have any real stinker losses but they did have a 17-point loss to a Canyon Springs team that Rancho Verde beat by 13 points. Despite the fact they won the CIF Central Section Division I title and then went out in a first round Southern Regional Division I two-point loss to Millikan, they fall in behind Rancho Verde due to overall resume. Coach Craig Campbell always has a solid team and he will return all four of his four top scorers.
30. Sacramento 27-5
Starting the season by capturing the St. Hope’s Classic championship with a win over Brookside Christian of Stockton, the Dragons were unable to end their season with a state championship as they lost in the opening round of the NorCal Open Division regional playoffs after capturing the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title with a win over Florin of Sacramento. They also finished third in the West Coast Jamboree’s Platinum Division with wins over Hanford and Berkeley and they went undefeated in Metro League play, which included two wins over a Kennedy of Sacramento squad that also ended the season in the top 40.
31. Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 28-5
Coach Stephen White’s Trojans, like most teams, suffered a loss to Mater Dei of Santa Ana early in the season before bouncing back with a win over Hanford and then going undefeated in the Delta River League. In the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs, they reached the semifinals and in the Division I state playoffs they defeated Wilcox of Santa Clara and got revenge for an earlier loss to Heritage of Brentwood to earn a trip to the NorCal Division I finals where they lost to Berkeley. This season also was the eighth in a row that the Trojans won over 20 games.
32. Heritage (Brentwood) 26-6
Coach Dan Swan’s team lost in the CIF North Coast Section Division I final to Monte Vista of Danville, but that was a team the Patriots beat earlier in the season. They also posted two wins over Berkeley during the season and beat Oak Ridge earlier in the season, which was the same team they lost to by one point in the NorCal D1 playoffs. St. Mary’s-bound 6-foot-3 post Sabrina Engelstadt graduates and will be missed next season.
33. Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 26-7
It was an up and down season for the Irish and first-year head coach LyRyan Russell, but the girls darn near won a fifth state championship before falling 46-40 to Alemany in the Division III title game. The Irish girls took some tough losses, including one to St. Francis and former coach Brian Harrigan, but they also beat Mitty twice to share the regular season championship with the Monarchs in the West Catholic Athletic League.
34. Mark Keppel (Alhambra) 27-6
Head Coach Joe Kikuchi and his Aztecs have a couple of bad losses (West of Torrance and Monroe of North Hills), but they own a win over D3 state titlist Alemany and the rest of their losses are to teams ranked ahead of them, including three setbacks to J.W. North. The top returner will be lightning quick sophomore point guard Lauren Saiki.
35. Hanford 23-5
Coach Tom Parrish’s career leading this program deserved a better finish considering what he did over the last seven seasons. Parrish resigned after a communication error with CIF Central Section commissioner Jim Crichlow contributed to the team being left out of the CIF Division I SoCal playoffs. Hanford had lost to Clovis West in the semifinals but would have made the field based on its season resume. This included a win over L.A. City champ Narbonne, a split with Sacramento and a win over Heritage. Bayli McClard was the team’s top player and is a leading candidate to be on this year’s elite all-state team.
36. Kennedy (Sacramento) 24-9
The Cougars’ season may have ended with back-to-back losses but they played St. Mary’s of Stockton tough in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I finals and Berkeley in the opening round of the Division I state playoffs. Playing in the same league as Sacramento, the Cougars finished second behind the Dragons and they also went to the West Coast Jamboree where they got revenge for an earlier loss t against Christian Brothers of Sacramento. Lynette Johnson finished her senior season leading the team in points with 17.5 per game.
37. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 26-9*
The young Trailblazers’ losses were all to larger schools but the Division V state champions finished the season winning 11 straight after a two-point loss to No. 6 St. Mary’s at the Nike Extravaganza that was followed by a loss to Windward. In the SoCal Division V title game, they squeezed out a one-point win over a San Diego Horizon team that beat Bishop’s. The top returner of a slew of girls coming back is 6-foot-1 sophomore Kennedy Burke.
38. Bishop’s (La Jolla) 20-13
Coach Marlon Wells had his Knights play a tough schedule but they do own a win over Las Vegas Bishop Gorman and another over Vista Murrieta. Of the 13 losses, 12 are to out of state top teams or to teams ranked higher than them in the rankings, and the other loss is to Horizon. Columbia-bound 6-foot-3 Devon Roeper will be missing next season, but junior star and leading scorer and second leading rebounder Imani Littleton (21.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg) should be back.
39. Mater Dei (Chula Vista) 20-7
The Crusaders had a solid season that ended in a 60-52 loss to JSerra in the Southern Regional Division IV playoffs. Top wins were over Bishop Gorman and Canyon Springs. Alexandria Young moves on to the University of San Diego and bulldog guard Brittani Lusain graduates but head coach David Monroe gets his leading scorer, 5-foot-10 junior Kandiss Barber (16.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg), back next season.
40. St. Francis (Mountain View) 24-9
No one had the Lancers on the radar screen to begin the season but with four-time state championship head coach Brian Harrigan in his second year at the helm it was no surprise the Lancers had the kind of season they did, culminating in a state championship Division II appearance that makes it the greatest season in school history.
(*not including forfeits)
For more teams, CLICK HERE to see the final divisional state rankings.
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