Sunday, March 27, 2011
State basketball: Five things from the CIF playoffs
By Tim Haddock
The best basketball player in California is a girl. If there was any doubt Mater Dei’s Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was the most talented basketball player in the state, she put it to rest in the championship game against Berkeley. After going scoreless for the first seven minutes of the game, she went on a scoring binge in the final minute of the first quarter and the entire second quarter. She scored 15 of her team’s 24 points in the first half. She helped her team erase a 12-point deficit and take a four-point lead into halftime. She ended up with a game-high 33 points. After the game, she said she wasn’t 100 percent healthwise. She hurt her quad in practice two days before the championship game. After hitting her first shot in the first quarter, she had a noticeable limp the rest of the game. Even when she was hobbled and playing on at best one-and-a-half legs, she was the best player on the court. The University of Connecticut will be in good hands for the next four years, as if it needed any more help to continue to be the best college basketball team in the country.
Wesley Saunders and Kenyatta Smith are going to make Harvard a force in basketball. Saunders from Windward and Smith from Flintridge Prep decided on the Ivy League for their college basketball careers. They probably could have played anywhere they wanted in the country. Saunders was highly recruited and guided Windward to the Division IV state championship. The 6-foot-6 forward scored 15 points and had nine rebounds in the state title game against Salesian. Smith’s size, at 6-8, made him an attractive recruit. He towered over his opponents through the Southern Section and state playoffs. Harvard hasn’t been to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament since 1946 and came within a last-second, desperation jumper from Princeton to going this year. Saunders and Smith might be the California connection to help end that drought.
Colorado is going to have some Southern California flavor come next season. After narrowly cracking the NCAA tournament field, Colorado will have an influx of So Cal talent to perhaps push them over the top. Leading the way is Woodland Hills Taft’s Spencer Dinwiddie. The point guard helped Taft win the LA City Section championship over longtime nemesis Westchester. But he will have some competition at the point at Colorado right out of the gate. Askia Booker from Price is also headed to Colorado. Booker led Price to the championship game of the Southern Section 3AA playoffs and lost to La Canada. If having two of the top point guards in the state heading to Colorado wasn’t enough, Damiene Cain, Harvard-Westlake’s 6-6 power forward is going to be a Buffalo next year. It’ll be fun to see how they do against Kansas.
A quartet of Southern California basketball stars are headed to ACC territory. Brea Olinda’s Kyle Caudill, Long Beach Poly’s Ryan Anderson, Etiwanda’s Jordan Daniels and Valencia’s Lonnie Jackson are all going to Boston College next year. Not that Boston College is any sort of juggernaut in ACC basketball -- Duke and North Carolina are the jewels of the ACC -- but maybe the So Cal foursome can turn the balance of power from the Big East to the ACC. Daniels and Jackson played against each other in the Southern Section playoffs. After the game, they couldn’t help talking about what it’s going to be like as teammates at BC. It’s not quite the Fab 5 that went to Michigan, but the foursome are among the top 35 players in California.
Is an open division coming to the CIF basketball playoffs? Probably not for a couple of years, but the discussions have begun. There has been plenty of griping from public schools about how unfair it is to have to compete against private schools and the kind of players they attract. Some believe having an open division in the basketball playoffs will create a level playing field or court as is the case in basketball. The current system has five divisions for each the boys and girls basketball teams in the state. That’s 10 state championships. Isn’t that enough? Know what would be interesting? A 64-team state tournament modeled after the NCAA basketball tournament, or at least the way it was before play-in games and the first four. If 64 isn’t enough teams, then how about two 64-team brackets, one for Northern California and one for Southern California. The winners meet for a one and only state champion. Not only would that be fun and easy to follow, but it would create plenty of debate for the schools that don’t make the tournament field. Then coaches would have something new to complain about.