Not one but two teams from Huntington Beach finish in the top 20 for the final rankings. Among those getting nods in expanded version are Alemany, Troy, Bellarmine-Jefferson and Pleasant Grove.
There really weren’t any surprises in this year’s five CIF state championship games contested at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento.
The way ESPNHS POWERADE FAB 50 No. 8 Mater Dei handled Berkeley 57-40 in the D1 title game, based on what teams did against the Monarchs in the Southern Regional playoffs, re-shuffled the rankings of the Northern California teams, but not that much.
Many of the assembled pundits thought the Bishop O’Dowd game with Laguna Hills might be a test for the Dragons, but coach Malik McCord’s girls showed why many consider them a possible top five national team coming into next season.
In the end, four of the five CIF state champions got into the top 40 final rankings and writeups. D5 champ Brookside Christian was considered as well, but had to be behind one too many D1 teams from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section.
(Through CIF state championship games played on Saturday, March 24)
(Contributing: Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens)
(Previous rating in parentheses)
1. (1) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 34-3
With her performance at the CIF state championships and then the McDonald's All-American Game, Canadian-born UCLA-bound Nirra Fields showed why the Monarchs’ fans were treated to a special talent, even if just for one season. A team with no true post that used USC-bound Jordan Adams down low, despite her favoring an ankle that never allowed her to be more than 70 percent up to the title game, Mater Dei repeated as the state’s top team. Next year is a question mark but there’s a reason Kevin Kiernan is the all-time leader with six state titles at two different schools.
2. (2) La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 32-1
The argument for the Torreys to be behind Mater Dei stems from the fact they split with Long Beach Poly, with the win over Poly coming in the second toughest division of the Nike TOC that Country Day won. Another team without a true post was in most California girls basketball analysts’ minds the best overall team veteran coach Terri Bamford has ever had. She didn’t have Candice Wiggins, but Kelsey Plum and the University of San Diego-bound Hood twins, Maya and Malina, showed everyone how much they had in a supreme performance to defeat Salesian in the D4 state title game. The Hoods will be gone but Plum remains, as does guard Tia Kanoa, a solid sophomore contributor that should blossom.
3. (3) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 31-4
The Jackrabbits get to stay in front of Bishop O’Dowd mostly based on their strength of schedule and the fact they have a 68-45 victory over the Villa Maria Academy (Pennsylvania) team that beat O’Dowd. They split with La Jolla Country Day, lost by a point to Windward when that team was at full strength and No. 1 in the rankings, and played Mater Dei tough in the Division I Southern Regional title game after avenging a loss in a semifinal victory over Brea Olinda. Leading scorer and undeclared Destiny King, who has several D1 offers, will be gone, as are several other senior contributors, but coach Carl Buggs always has 10-plus girls that can play. Junior Keyla Morgan (11.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg) will return along with sophomore Arica Carter and her all-around solid game.
4. (4) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 30-3
The team with the most upside of all the top teams in California is the Dragons. Only three seniors graduate and all five starters will return. Junior 6-foot-2 K.C. Waters had an off year as a sophomore, but not as a junior. Oderah Chidom a 6-foot-4 post, is continuously improving. Junior point guard Ariel Bostick has improved dramatically from last season – and for the freshman duo of Aisha Thomas and Aisia Robertson, the sky’s the limit. Another frontline player that is steadily developing, 6-foot-4 Breanna Brown, will gives coach Malik McCord the state’s best and one of the nation’s top front lines next season.
5. (6) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 28-5
Don’t ever count out a team coached by Sue Phillips. The Monarchs started shaky and had a couple of stinker losses, but as Phillips told Cal-Hi Sports after the Monarchs won hers and the schools fifth state championship. “I’ll take losses early to get our system in place to win in March.” Pepperdine-bound Amanda Lovely graduates, but super sophomore Kelli Hayes will return, as does junior point guard Vanessa Garner, who missed the last two games with a knee injury, and junior shooting guard Emily Dinger, the team’s leading 3-point shooter.
6. (7) St. Mary’s (Stockton) 30-4
The other team with tremendous expectations for next season is coach Tom Gonsalves’ Rams. Regina Camera is the only starter that graduates. Six-foot-2 junior Courtney Range and fellow juniors Unique Coleman and Onome Jemerigbe will return, as does very talented sophomore power forward Charise Holloway. Prior to a mid-February home victory over Bishop O’Dowd, Gonsalves told Cal-Hi Sports he had what he felt might be his best incoming freshmen next season as well. The coach himself, however, may not be back. He’s applied for the opening at Fresno State.
7. (8) Brea-Olinda (Brea) 26-7
The Ladycats get to move up one spot for the final rankings due to strength of schedule and how they fared in the CIF Division I Southern Regional playoffs against highly ranked teams. Pepperdine-bound Keitra Wallace and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo-committed Taylor Spears and a host of other seniors will depart, leaving first-year coach Kim Cram-Torres with some holes to fill. Highly-regarded junior point guard Anna Kim will return as does sophomore Erin Perry and freshman Shaylissa Jarrett.
8. (5) Berkeley 29-3
Based on what they showed in the D1 state title game and what other teams did down the stretch, the Yellowjackets have to drop a few spots for the final rankings. With Cheryl Draper announcing at the state championships she would not be returning to coach next season, coupled with the departure of Arizona State-bound team leader Elisha Davis and fellow seniors Jasmin Guinn and Garysha Youngblood, the future at Berkeley seems a little uncertain. Junior power forward Rachel Howard will be the top returner with sophomore Desire Finnie and junior GaryAnna Youngblood needing to step up.
9. (9) Serra (Gardena) 30-4
Don’t look for a huge drop from a team next season that gave La Jolla Country Day a very tough game in the CIF Southern Regional D4 title game. Leading scorer and rebounder and UNLV-bound 6-foot-2 post Rejane Verin graduates, as does guard Simone Taylor, but coach McKinsey Hadley should have a lot of returning talent. Among those back should be Simone’s little sister, junior Siera Taylor, and junior Deandrea Toler. Both started and were major contributors. Junior 6-foot-3 center Tatiana Howard also returns and will need to pick up her scoring.
10. (10) Windward (Los Angeles) 29-5
Even with things unraveling at the end for 2011 State Coach of the Year Steve Smith’s Wildcats, it was still a great season, and in particular for Jordin Canada, who truly established herself as one of the nation’s top sophomores, at guard or at any position overall. Imani Stafford is still committed to Texas despite a coaching change so we’ll have to watch those developments. Paris Baird will also be gone, off to San Jose State. There are some questions but Smith still returns a ton of talent, led by Canada and junior 3-point specialist Courtney Jaco.
11. (11) Summit (Fontana) 28-4
It’s not often can you say a team ended the season with an impressive loss but that was the case for the Skyhawks as they gave Mater Dei of Santa Ana its closest contest during the state playoffs as they lost by just 10 in the SoCal Division I Regional semifinals. Summit also went a perfect 10-0 in Sunkist League play and captured the CIFSS Division IAA championship with a win over Huntington Beach. Despite averaging less than 50 points per game, the Skyhawks had three players average in double digits as senior Jillian Alleyne led the way at 14.5 points per game.
12. (12) Santiago (Corona) 31-2
Winners of 30 straight to start the season, the Sharks lost their first game in the CIFSS semifinals to Mater Dei of Santa Ana and then two games later lost to Summit of Fontana by one point in the second-round of the D1 South regional playoffs. Earlier in the year, they defeated the Skyhaws in the championship game of the Best of the West Tournament. Junior Chrishae Rowe averaged 19.3 points per game while Shiana Carrington averaged 11.9.
13. (13) J.W. North (Riverside) 30-6
The Huskies gave favored Archbishop Mitty a strong test in the CIF Division II state final so there’s no need to drop them at all for the final rankings. It was a magical run for coach Leonard De Coud and company following J.W. North’s 4-21 record from a year ago. Of course, new players coming in fueled the turnaround, but getting to the state final was much more about how the team didn’t fold up the tents after losing to Lynwood in a CIFSS final. Leading scorer Brittany Crain will be missed next season, but top talents Pricilla Brooks, a 5-foot-10 power forward, and Simone De Coud, a 5-foot-5 point guard, will be back.
14. (14) Carondelet (Concord) 27-4
Hannah Huffman departs for Notre Dame plus several other seniors, including Melissa Russi, graduate, leaving sophomore standout point guard Natalie Romeo as the nucleus for what looks like could be a rebuilding year. Still, veteran coach Margaret Gartner always seems to have girls that never lack hustle or a desire to win. They could still give Mitty and Stockton St. Mary’s a tussle. This year’s team sure did against in Mitty in a two-point loss in the D2 North semifinals.
15. (NR) Huntington Beach 26-6
This was a smallish team of mostly outside shooters that peaked during the last month of the season. The Oilers move up in the final rankings despite losing by 28 points to Mater Dei in the CIF D1 South playoffs because they won in their previous game by 20 points over San Diego High, the D1 champion from down there, and also because of an avenging win in the playoffs over El Toro. Huntington Beach also topped a very good Edison team to win a Sunset League title.
16. (NR) Edison (Huntington Beach) 23-4
The Chargers are a tricky team to rank because at full strength, which they were for most of the season, they were clearly a top 10 team for the state. Then the two Samuelson sisters – Karlie and Katie Lou – were both sidelined with complications from mono. Edison did lose in the playoffs by 72-49 to Brea Olinda, but gets a bump for the final rankings because of some of the early wins, such as one against Etiwanda and another against Villa Maria Academy of Pennsylvania. Karlie will be a junior next season while Katie Lou will be a sophomore.
17. (19) Etiwanda 23-4
Going a perfect 10-0 in Baseline League action, the Eagles’ season-best 10-game winning streak and the season came to an end in the CIFSS Div. IAA quarterfinals with a five-point loss to Long Beach Poly. Three of their four losses came against teams that finished the season with 31 wins while the other loss came against Edison of Huntington Beach. One of the wins was over Summit of Fontana.
18. (18) Salesian (Richmond) 31-5
Despite getting soundly beaten by La Jolla Country Day in the D4 state title game, the Pride looks to have a very bright future. Sophomore Mariya Moore (16.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 6.9 assists) validated her very high 2011 Girls of Summer ranking, and she will have just about everyone back with her next season. Look for freshman MaAne’ Mosley (12.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg) to have a breakout season.
19. (20) Miramonte (Orinda) 31-2
The Kelly Sopak-coached Matadors lose three senior stars from a team that made 298 shots from 3-point land, including 127 from Rider-bound Janine Loutzenhiser. One of the long-range shooters, junior point guard Carly Gill, will be back, as is 5-foot-9 sophomore guard Megan Reid. Both of Miramonte’s losses this year were to D3 state champ Bishop O’Dowd with the best win being the one on the road at Sacramento in the D3 North semifinals.
20. (16) Foothill (Tustin) 28-6
For the third time in program history, the Knights hoisted a section title banner as they won the CIFSS Division IIA title and advanced to the SoCal Division II regional finals before a loss to J.W. North of Riverside. The biggest postseason win came in the regional semifinals over Lynwood, which had earlier topped J.W. North in the section final. Standout senior Molly Greubel (17.2 ppg) will be headed to UC Davis next season.
21. (17) Lynwood 26-6
Veteran coach Ellis Barfield couldn’t get all the way back to a state championship game, but provided the Lady Knights are allowed to stay in Division II next season, they may very well be a contender again. Four senior contributors graduate, led by standout guard T’keya Mason, but in reality more talent returns than leaves on a trademark Barfield team that had nine girls that could score. Look for 6-foot-2 junior center Amber Blockmon to produce even more next season.
22. (15) Laguna Hills 26-9
The 3-point shooting that led to the upset of foul-prone San Diego Mission Bay in the D3 Southern Regional title game was nowhere to be found, nor were coach Jim Martin’s Hawks able to generate much of any offense in the loss to O’Dowd in the D3 state final. Still, it hadn’t been since 1997, when they beat Newark Memorial 41-40 in the D2 title game, that the girls from the hills of Southern Orange County made this much noise in the state championships. They had to drop for the final rankings, but a top 25 finish isn’t too shabby.
23. (NR) Mission Bay (San Diego) 26-7
Many predicted the Buccaneer girls would go to Sacramento to face O’Dowd, but the dream of coach Sade’ Wiley-Gatewood and her girls went away with the defeat to Laguna Hills. Keyahndra Cannon moves on the Arizona but 5-foot-10 junior Briteesha Solomon (24.4 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 8.4 steals 3.5 blocks, 3.2 assists), who scored 28 points in the Laguna Hills loss, will be back next year. Several other underclass stars, including 6-foot-2 freshman center Onjalise Hilliard, also should return.
24. (NR) Alemany (Mission Hills) 31-4
Two overtime losses to Laguna Hills out of four total gets the Lady Warriors a spot behind Mission Bay for the final expanded rankings. The only other losses were to Long Beach Poly and No. 37 Chaminade when that team was hot. Coach Bryan Camacho loses four seniors, but will return his top player, highly-regarded 6-foot-1 sophomore Hannah Johnson.
25. (NR) El Toro (Lake Forest) 27-4
Co-champions of the South Coast League with Laguna Hills, the Chargers reached the semifinals of the CIFSS Division IA playoffs and had a win early in the season over Huntington Beach. Senior Alyson Doherty averaged 15.3 points per game while junior Whitney Williams averaged a team-best 16.6.
26. (NR) St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 27-8*
Sophomore 6-foot-1 star Gabby Green never really recovered from her broken ankle suffered last summer playing for Team Taurasi even though she averaged 13 points and six rebounds per game after returning in late January. The result was coach Nate Fripp’s girls lost the NorCal D4 catbird seat to Bay Shore Athletic League rival Salesian. Shannon Mauldin graduates but returning with Green will be fellow sophomore 6-foot star Mikayla Cowling (11 points and seven rebounds a game). Look for St. Mary’s to battle it out with Salesian again in 2012-13.
27. (NR) Hanford 25-5
A victory over Stockdale of Bakersfield continued the Bullpups’ dominance in the CIF Central Section, this time with a D1 title. They then played well in a 56-49 loss to Long Beach Poly in the regional playoffs. If it weren’t for some earlier losses, Hanford certainly would have finished higher. Next year, the team could be better due to the return of leading scorer Bayli McClard and top point guard Brooke Johnson.
28. (NR) Sacramento 26-7
Playing in a Metro League that saw three teams win at least 24 games this season, the Dragons went a perfect 14-0 as they twice defeated Florin and Kennedy. Senior Jasmine Ware pumped in a team-best 14.4 points per game and led the Dragons to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title.
29. (NR) St. Bernard (Playa del Rey) 26-10
This team has a tremendous upside in what looks like could be a big battle next season for Southern California D4 supremacy. The top returning player for coach Bo Corona could also be one of the nation’s top sophomores, 6-foot-2 Lajahna Drummer. The ESPNHS Girls Basketball No. 2 post and No. 6 overall player from the Class of 2014 had per game averages of 16.0 points and 12. 5 rebounds. Speedy 5-foot-3 sophomore guard Chyanne Butler also will be back, alonh with Chenelle Pelle, a 6-foot-2 sophomore power forward.
30. (NR) Troy (Fullerton) 19-8
Led by juniors Alecia Dimas and Gabriella Hanson, the Warriors went undefeated in the Freeway League and reached the quarterfinals of the CIFSS Division IA playoffs. They had wins over Canyon of Anaheim, Narbonne and Canyon Springs of Moreno Valley and were closer than most in losses to Brea Olinda and Mater Dei.
31. (NR) Narbonne (Harbor City) 28-7
Coach Victoria Saunders got a darn good performance from the Lady Gauchos in a season that started with a respectable showing in the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree. Saunders’ two best players, Kim Pickett and Tori Breshers, both graduate, so next season is a bit of a question mark. Look for freshman guard Latecia Smith to improve on her averages of 8.8 points from this season.
32. (NR) Bellarmine-Jefferson (Burbank) 24-9
The Guards had a few stinker losses early but down the stretch they played everyone tough. They had the honor of ending the career of one of the state’s all-time leading scorers, sending out Michelle Miller of Pasadena Poly in the CIFSS Division 4AA playoffs. Rishonda Napier leaves for Southern Illinois, and Jasmine Smith graduates as well, and with those two accounting for over 85 percent of the scoring means next season is a question mark.
33. (NR) Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 23-5
Junior Meghan McIntyre was one of four players to average double-digit scoring as she averaged a team-high 15.3 points per game. Besides going undefeated in Tri-Valley League play, the Lions had quality wins against St. Bernard of Playa del Rey, Chaminade of West Hills and Carondelet of Concord.
34. (NR) St. Ignatius (San Francisco) 26-6
It was sort of a case of the Wildcat girls winning the games they were supposed to win and losing to teams they should have as well, with one exception, a 55-49 win over state champion Mitty in January with the Cal-Hi Sports caravan in the house in San Francisco. They also only lost 49-48 to Mitty in the CCS D2 title game. Leading scorer Maria Kemiji-McDonald and a ton of seniors are gone, but 6-foot-1 freshman Josie Little will be much improved and the team should be competitive next season.
35. (NR) San Diego 27-6
This was supposed to be a year in which the Cavers were going to make some noise. Unfortunately for the San Diego faithful, it never really materialized with the girls losing in the first-round of the D1 South regional playoffs to Huntington Beach. With San Diego State-bound Tia Dixon, point guard Alexis Harris, and 6-foot-1 post Amie Callaway all graduating, next year may be a rebuilding one for coach Lonnie Jones.
36. (NR) Kennedy (Sacramento) 26-9
After finishing in a tie for second-place behind Sacramento in the Metro League, the Cougars had an impressive post-season that saw them capture the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship with a win over Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills. Led by junior Lynette Johnson, they also got wins over Deer Valley of Antioch and Gunn of Palo Alto before a loss to Berkeley ended their season one game shy of playing for the D1 state title.
37. (NR) Chaminade (West Hills) 24-5
The Eagles played everyone tough this season. Four of their five losses came to ranked teams (two to Alemany) and one was out of state at the Nike TOC. They had solid wins over Alemany, Huntington Beach and St. Bernard among others. Leading scorer Annie Tarakchian graduates and will join Poly’s Michelle Miller at Princeton.
38. (NR) Ventura 26-5
Senior guard Sam Meyer knocked down nearly 15 points per game for the Cougars, who lost by just 50-48 to Foothill of Tustin in the CIF D2 regional playoffs. Key wins included three against league-rival Buena after the Bulldogs won in the first meeting between the teams. The Cougars also beat CIF Central Section D1 runner-up Stockdale of Bakersfield.
39. (NR) Modesto Christian 27-7
Valerie Moore averaged a team-best 15.9 points per game as the Crusaders reached the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship game, then picked up wins over Acalanes and Terra Nova of Pacifica before having the season end with a loss to Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland in the NorCal Division III regional semifinals.
40. (NR) Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove) 22-10
The Eagles played one of the toughest schedules in Northern California and stood up to it very well. The playoff losses were to Kennedy of Sacramento and Berkeley while four of the regular-season losses were to Sacramento, Windward, St. Mary’s of Stockton and Berkeley. There also were wins over Terra Nova of Pacifica, Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills (twice), San Diego and CIF D5 state champ Brookside Christian.
Corrections or comments? Email Mark.Tennis@espn.com.