Los Angeles Preps: Crespi

Prep basketball: Top 20 rankings

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
6:16
PM PT
Another prep basketball season is in the books after the CIF State Championships took place last weekend in Sacramento. The Southland was well represented at the gathering, with four teams in attendance up North. Three programs prevailed and brought home some hardware for their respective trophy cases.

Let's take a look at how the Southland's premier programs stacked up against each other this season. Some of the teams will look familiar. Others not so much. Here are the final ESPNLosAngeles.com rankings.

1. (1) Mater Dei (34-2): The Monarchs went wire-to-wire as the top-ranked team. Are we surprised? No, not really.

2. (4) Alemany (33-4): There's no substitute for experience, and with seniors Max Guercey and Marqueze Coleman in the mix the Warriors know this all too well.

3. (2) Long Beach Poly (28-3): Pieces of the puzzle appeared in place. The Jackrabbits, however, were their own worst enemy when it mattered most, the playoffs.

4. (6) Loyola (26-6): Bad news: Seniors Julian Harrell, Justin Childress and Jacob Hazzard are gone. Good news: Sophomore Parker Jackson-Cartwright returns.

5. (5) Serra (31-3): With Daddy Ugbede out on the court, the Cavaliers were capable of beating anyone. The senior was a threat underneath and out on the perimeter.

6. (3) Taft (29-4): Anthony January was a high-profile transfer at the start of season for the Toreadors. The senior wing, of course, lived up to most of the hype.

7. (7) Etiwanda (30-3): With sophomore point guard Jordan McLaughlin in the fold, the Eagles figure to be just fine for years to come. More than fine, in fact.

8. (16) Price (26-9): Seemingly no one around played a tougher schedule. Once postseason play rolled around, the Knights were a battled-tested group. And then some.

9. (11) La Verne Lutheran (25-8): The Trojans relied on Grant Jerrett. The Arizona commit and McDonald's All-American could take care of business by himself.

10. (17) St. John Bosco (25-8): The Hamilton brothers, junior Isaac and sophomore Daniel, often times played as if they were seasoned veterans for the Braves.

11. (10) Mayfair (27-6): Senior wing Dion Wright did a little bit of everything for the Monsoons once the playoffs started. He did most of it extremely well too.

12. (9) Pacific Hills (30-5): Brandon Taylor might have been considered an underrated point guard early on this season. The senior changed the perception in the playoffs.

13. (8) Orange Lutheran (22-11): A mid-season injury to Gabe York was difficult to deal with. Once the senior guard was healthy, there was not stopping the Lancers.

14. (12) Pasadena (27-7): The Bulldogs knew they had a reliable presence in senior Blake Hamilton. During their playoff run, everyone else learned the same exact thing.

15. (14) Mission Viejo (25-6): When football and basketball players finally come together, it can be a dangerous combo. Go ahead and ask opponents of the Diablos this year.

16. (18) Crespi (24-8): It was tough to figure out the Celts. They managed to defeat Alemany twice, Price one time and Loyola once. This group might have peeked too early.

17. (13) Calabasas (28-4): The season was dedicated to assistant coach Joe Frazier, in a coma after a motorcycle accident. The Coyotes did their mentor proud from start to finish

18. (15) Inglewood (23-12): Starting five consisted of juniors Charles Lockwood, Kristopher Randall, Randy Onwuasor, Edward Scott Jr. and Nicholas Smiley. Watch out.

19. (NR) Bishop Montgomery (23-5): Playing in highly competitive Division IV took its toll on the Knights. They were a battered and bruised bunch come postseason play.

20. (NR) Village Christian (32-3): The Crusaders were on a crusade, apparently. They came out of nowhere and opened some eyes en route to winning a Division V state title.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Roundup: Third-seeded Taft loses

March, 10, 2012
3/10/12
11:39
PM PT
The Woodland Hills Taft boys’ basketball team, seeded third in the Southern California Regional Division I playoffs, was upset Saturday night by visiting Fresno Bullard, 70-63.

Taft led by nine points at the half and appeared headed to a semifinal meeting against second-seeded Long Beach Poly, but Bullard opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run en route to outscoring the Toreadors, 48-32, in the second half.

Kris Yanku scored 18 points to lead Taft and Anthony January had 14 before fouling out with 25 seconds remaining.

Corey Silverstrom scored 23 points to lead Bullard to its biggest victory in program history.

In Division II:
Inglewood 60, Elsinore 55 -- The fifth-seeded Sentinels knocked off the fourth-seeded Tigers and earned a semifinal matchup Tuesday at top-seeded La Costa Canyon. Second-seeded Mayfair advanced to the semifinals in the bottom half of the bracket, knocking off San Joaquin Memorial, 49-48, and will host third-seeded San Diego Lincoln.

In Division III:
San Diego Cathedral Catholic 89, Oak Park 79 (2OT) -- After letting a four-point lead slip away at the start of the fourth quarter, Oak Park climbed back from a seven-point deficit with two minutes remaining to force the first overtime. The fifth-seeded Eagles then hit a buzzer-beating 3-point shot to force the second extra period. Oak Park scored the first three points of the second overtime before the fourth-seeded Dons seized control for good.

Pasadena 77, Bell 44 -- Pasadena senior shooting guard Blake Hamilton scored 23 of his 25 points in the opening half as the second-seeded Bulldogs built a 53-17 lead. Pasadena will meet sixth-seeded St. John Bosco in the semifinals Tuesday at Monrovia High. St. John Bosco upset third-seeded Calabasas in another quarterfinal.

In Division IV:
Pacific Hills 62, Crespi 54 – The fifth-seeded Bruins trailed by nine points at the half but stormed back over the final two quarters to beat the fourth-seeded Celts. Pacific Hills will meet top-seeded Gardena Serra in Tuesday’s semifinals. Serra knocked off ninth-seeded San Diego Francis Parker, 53-31.

La Verne Lutheran 57, Visalia Central Valley Christian 52 – Lutheran forward Grant Jerrett scored 27 points to lead the second-seeded Trojans to the victory. Lutheran advanced to play Price, a 67-51 winner against La Jolla Country Day in another quarterfinal. Lutheran beat Price by two points in the regular-season finale.

In girls’ Division I:
Summit 45, Corona Santiago 44 – The fifth-seeded SkyHawks held on to beat the fourth-seeded Sharks. Summit took a six-point lead with 1:37 remaining, but Santiago sophomore Chrishae Rowe converted a four-point play with a minute left to pull the Sharks back to within two. Summit didn’t give up the lead, however, and moves on to a semifinal meeting Tuesday against top-seeded Mater Dei.

Second-seeded Brea Olinda will host third-seeded Long Beach Poly in the other semifinal.

In Division II:
Foothill 50, Ventura 48 – A steal and layup by Dayanara Armenta with 2:49 remaining gave fifth-seeded Foothill a 45-36 lead, and the Knights held on to beat fourth-seeded Ventura. Foothill will meet top-seeded Lynwood in one semifinal, while second-seeded J.W. North and sixth-seeded Palisades will play in the other.

Looking ahead in CIF state playoffs

March, 6, 2012
3/06/12
3:47
PM PT
Coaches never like to look ahead. But sportswriters do.

Here are some interesting potential match-ups in the CIF State Boys Basketball Southern California Regional playoffs that begin on Wednesday night.

Few teams have been able to beat Mater Dei, the top-seeded team in the Division I regional bracket. Woodland Hills Taft, the No. 3 seed team in the Division I playoffs, might be the one team to give Mater Dei some trouble if the two teams meet in the Division I regional championship game.

Taft has never made it past the semifinals of the CIF State regional playoffs. But first-year coach Jason Hart has his kids playing with a ton of confidence and freedom. This could be the year Taft dunks its way to the Southern California Regional final and perhaps a spot in the state championship.

No team from California has been able to beat Mater Dei this season. The only two losses for the Monarchs were against Grace Prep from Texas and Gill St. Bernard’s from New Jersey.

(Read full post)

Prep basketball: Top 20 rankings

March, 5, 2012
3/05/12
5:08
PM PT
With the Southern Section and Los Angeles City Section playoffs in the books, the premier programs from the greater Los Angeles area turn their collective attention toward the Southern California Regional Playoffs this week. First-round play starts Wednesday night as teams begin their bids for a berth in the CIF State Championship game.

That said, let's take a quick look at how some of the best of the best from right here in the Southland stack up against each other. Without further adieu, here's the latest edition of the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 rankings.

1. (1) Mater Dei (29-2): Have gone wire-to-wire atop of our rankings and show no signs of slowing down.

2. (2) Long Beach Poly (26-2): Revenge-minded Jackrabbits would like another shot against Mater Dei.

3. (5) Taft (28-3): Not much competition in Los Angeles' City Section. Division I state will be different though.

4. (6) Alemany (28-4): All signs pont to the Warriors making an appearance in Division III state title game.

5. (7) Gardena Serra (29-2): The top seed in Division IV and distinction is worthy given body of work.

6. (4) Loyola (24-5): Wouldn't be least bit surprised to see the Cubs make some noise in Division I play.

7. (3) Etiwanda (29-2): Eagles are overlooked in Division I with Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly around.

8. (9) Orange Lutheran (21-10): Gabe York receives the headlines while Payton Banks waits in the wings.

9. (10) Pacific Hills (28-4): Brandon Taylor is one of the most underrated seniors in Southern California.

(Read full post)

Prep basketball: Top 20 rankings

February, 27, 2012
2/27/12
4:39
PM PT
The goal for many of the Southland's premier programs at the start of the season was simple: Win a Los Angeles City Section or Southern Section championship. And with title games taking place later in the week, the time has come for teams to follow through with the plans they made months ago.

Unfortunately for some, lofty aspirations of taking home some hardware never materialized this year. Torrance Bishop Montgomery, Los Angeles Westchester along with La Verne Damien and Los Angeles Windward fall into that category as each program had their respective season end last week.

That said, let's take a look at the teams whose postseason hopes remain alive and well.

1. (1) Mater Dei (27-2): The Monarchs made it to the final four in Division 1-AA. No surprise there. Now let's see if they can seal the deal with a trophy.

2. (2) Long Beach Poly (25-1): Etiwanda in the Division 1-AA semifinals is the only thing standing between the Jackrabbits and a berth in the marquee game.

3. (3) Etiwanda (29-1): Jordan McLaughlin is a sophomore. He certainly doesn't play like an underclassman though and averages more than 17 points per game.

4. (4) Loyola (24-4): Give the Cubs some credit. They did not overlook anyone in the Division 1-AA bracket and a showdown against Santa Ana Mater Dei awaits.

5. (5) Taft (27-3): Los Angeles Dorsey does not figure to give the Toreadors much trouble in the City Section title game this weekend. A championship is a formality.

6. (6) Alemany (27-4): The Warriors figured to go as far as senior point guard Max Guercy would take them. Low and behold, they are in the Division 3-A finals.

7. (7) Gardena Serra (28-2): There were no easy games in Division 4-AA and the Cavaliers can vouch for that fact. Next up: La Verne Lutheran in the title game.

8. (8) La Verne Lutheran (23-6): Expect a big Division 4-AA finals game from Grant Jerrett. The senior and Arizona commit is overdue for a memorable performance.

10. (14) Orange Lutheran (17-10): Arizona-bound senior Gabe York is healthy once again. That does not bode well for Capistrano Valley in the Division 1-A semifinals.

10. (10) Pacific Hills (27-4): The Bruins had better be prepared for Jose Estrada in Division 4-A. The junior from Montebello Cantwell-Sacred Heart can flat-out score.

11. (15) Mayfair (22-5): Seemingly a sure thing to win it all in Division 2-A. The highest seeded team left in the bracket for the Monsoons is No. 5 Wildomar Elsinore.

12. (17) Capistrano Valley (25-4): Lack of respect has been a driving for the Cougars in Division 1-A. An upset victory over Orange Lutheran would quiet the skeptics.

13. (20) Calabasas (26-3): The Coyotes have flown underneath the radar for a while now in Division 3-AA. Suppose it's about time they receive an acknowledgment.

14. (11) Price (22-8): No shame in losing to Gardena Serra in the Division 4-AA semifinals. Plus, the Knights played one of the more competitive schedules around.

15. (12) St. John Bosco (22-7): An upset at the hands of Oak Park in the Division 3-A semifinals ended the season a bit sooner than expected for the talented Braves.

16. (19) Crespi (23-7): The Celts were one only basket away from defeating La Verne Lutheran and making an appearance in Division 4-AA championship game.

17. (NR) Mission Viejo (26-3): The Diablos have been on the verge of entering the poll for weeks. They have finally arrived and are a force to be reckon with in Division 1-A.

18. (NR) Pasadena (24-6): Damien received most of the headlines in Division 3-AAA this season. The Bulldogs, however, are the ones standing in the end during postseason play.

19. (NR) Royal (23-6): In terms of peaking at the right time, the Highlanders figured things out just in the nick of time in Division 2-AA. They're one win away from the finals.

20. (NR) Thousand Oaks (21-8): Must be considered the surprise of the playoffs so far. Lancers have knocked off No. 1 and No. 8 seeds to reach the Division 2-AA semifinals.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Lutheran holds off Crespi in semis

February, 24, 2012
2/24/12
9:51
PM PT


LA VERNE -- As his team scrambled on defense in the final seconds, La Verne Lutheran basketball coach Eric Cooper's heart didn't skip one beat. Or so he says.

Cooper has seen late-game theatrics far too often this season to be fazed by another frantic finish, but he might be due for a trip to the cardiologist in the offseason after Friday night's thriller at the University of La Verne.

McDonald's All-American forward Grant Jerrett missed two free throws with 14 seconds remaining, and Crespi raced to the other end looking for the tie or the win. Michael Milligan's runner didn't fall, Jerrett grabbed the rebound and heaved the ball into the air, securing a 51-49 victory and a trip to the CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA championship game for a meeting against top-seeded Gardena Serra at Anaheim Arena. The date and time is scheduled to be announced Monday.

It was the second consecutive nail-biter for two-time defending state champion Lutheran (24-6), which escaped with a 50-48 victory at Oaks Christian in the quarterfinals.

"It's been like that all season. We had a quadruple overtime game, two double overtime games," Cooper said smiling. "That's the type of season we've had. If Crespi would have made the last shot to send the game into overtime, it wouldn't have fazed me. That kind of stuff has been happening to us."

Jerrett, an Arizona signee, finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks.

"With Grant, you've always got a chance," Cooper said.

Sophomore point guard Brian Beard Jr. sank a desperation 3-pointer from about 40 feet out as the shot clock expired to give the second-seeded Trojans a seven-point lead with less than two minutes remaining. It grew to nine points with 1:10 left.

(Read full post)

Fab Five playoff games this weekend

February, 23, 2012
2/23/12
3:41
PM PT
Southern Section Division 1A

Mission Viejo (25-3) vs. West Ranch (17-10): Top-seeded Mission Viejo travels to play eighth-seeded West Ranch in the quarterfinals on Friday night. Can West Ranch pull of the upset? Mission Viejo plays tough defense. Opposing teams are scoring an average of 54.5 points per game against the Diablos. In the playoffs, the Mission Viejo defense is even better, surrendering only 44.5 points per game. Mission Viejo had an 18-game winning streak at one point during the season. West Ranch has a legitimate big man in 6-foot-7 forward Ako Kaluna. He is averaging 16.1 points per game and coming off a 29-point performance against Edison in the second round of the playoffs. West Ranch as a team is averaging 70.4 points per game and 86.5 points per game in the playoffs.

El Toro (22-8) vs. Crescenta Valley (25-4): This should be a tight one. Fifth-seeded El Toro is on the road against fourth-seeded Crescenta Valley. The Falcons are coming off a 67-55 win over Warren in the second round. Dylan Kilgour, Davis Dragovich and Cole Currie each scored in double figures for Crescenta Valley. They combined for 51 of the Falcons’ 67 points against Warren. Kilgour led the way with 19 points. El Toro’s Cody White scored 24 points in his team’s 76-48 win over Huntington Beach in the second round.

Division 2AA

Riverside Poly (21-8) vs. Thousand Oaks (20-8): The Lancers won their biggest game of the season, knocking out top-seeded Ocean View in the second round of the playoffs. Heck, it might have been the biggest win of the playoffs. Now 15th-seeded Thousand Oaks is home against No. 8 Riverside Poly in the quarterfinals. Tanner Fanjoy went off for Thousand Oaks against Ocean View, hitting seven 3-pointers and scoring 27 points. The Lancers were 11-for-12 from 3-point territory as a team. They probably can’t rely on that kind of performance again, but coach Richard Endres is used to preparing teams for deep playoff runs. Poly Riverside narrowly beat Ayala, 44-42, in the second round.

(Read full post)

Crespi edges Bishop Montgomery

February, 21, 2012
2/21/12
11:47
PM PT
ENCINO -- There was some blood, plenty of sweat and a teardrop or two after the CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA playoff game between Crespi and Bishop Montgomery on Tuesday night.

Spinnin’ wheel’s spinnin’ true.

In the fourth quarter, Crespi’s Michael Avery had to change his uniform, from No. 4 to No. 1, because it had blood on it. Teammate London Perrantes had to carry his team in the fourth quarter after two Celts fouled out. Bishop Montgomery’s Lamond Murray Jr. didn’t feel much like talking after his team was eliminated from the playoffs.

Crespi won the game, 73-67, and advanced to the semifinals. The Celts will play La Verne Lutheran on Friday night at the University of La Verne.

After building a 21-point lead in the third quarter, Crespi, the No. 19 team in the ESPN Los Angeles basketball rankings, had to hold off a furious comeback by Bishop Montgomery, the No. 9 team in the ESPNLA rankings, in the fourth quarter.

“I’ll take it,” Crespi coach Russell White said. “As long as you’re not trailing at the end.”

Crespi led nearly all the way. Bishop Montgomery was up, 3-2, in the first quarter before Crespi went on a 10-2 run and never looked back. The Celts were up 15-8 after the first quarter and led 32-24 at halftime.

The Knights cut the Crespi lead to five points in the final period, but that was as close as they would get.

“We made some defensive stops,” Murray said. “We played a lot harder than in the first half.”

(Read full post)

L.A. North: The top 10

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
4:15
PM PT
The Golden League is proving to be the giant killers in the Southern Section Division 1AA playoffs. Palmdale, Knight and Quartz Hill all pulled off first-round stunners. Quartz Hill scored the biggest shocker of the first round, knocking out fifth-seeded Oxnard.

As a result, Oxnard drops out of the L.A. North top 10 and Oaks Christian enters.

The Lions are in the quarterfinals of the Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs and meet La Verne Lutheran on Tuesday. Eric Cooper Jr., Lutheran’s highly touted junior, has a broken finger and is questionable for Tuesday night’s playoff game.

Seventh-seeded Oaks Christian, meanwhile, has won four games in row and is holding its playoff opponents to an average of 41.5 points per game.

Here is a look at the L.A. North top 10:
  1. (1) Woodland Hills Taft (25-3): The Toreadors are riding a 15-game winning streak and won their first-round City Section Division I playoff game over West Adams, 80-20. Taft plays Birmingham in the second round Wednesday night in a San Fernando Valley showdown. The two teams have met twice already this season. Taft won both games by a combined score of 137-105. The last time they met on Feb. 8, Taft won, 63-47.
  2. (2) Alemany (25-4): The Warriors won their first two Southern Section Division 3A playoff games and are in the quarterfinals. They beat Artesia in the first round, 87-61, and routed Azusa in the second round, 90-45. Top-seeded Alemany plays Bishop Amat on Tuesday.
  3. (3) Calabasas (24-3): The Coyotes advanced to the quarterfinals of the Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs after eliminating Palos Verdes, 53-38. Top-seeded Calabasas has a nine-game winning streak and plays Lakeside on Tuesday night.
  4. (4) Royal (21-6): The Highlanders won their first-round Southern Section Division 2AA playoff game and play Villa Park in the second round. Royal knocked out Miller, 65-38, in the first round and has a six-game winning streak.
  5. (5) El Camino Real (19-7): The Conquistadores beat Van Nuys, 62-21, in the first round of the City Section Division II playoffs. El Camino Real plays San Pedro in the second round on Wednesday.
  6. (6) Providence (24-4): The Pioneers won their Southern Section Division 5A playoff game, but their second-round win over New Roads from Santa Monica ended with a fight and was called with a little more than two minutes to play. Providence had a bye in the first round and won its second-round game, 57-43, over New Roads. The Pioneers will play the winner of Monday night’s game between Lancaster Baptist and Shalhevet.
  7. (8) Oak Park (22-7): The third-seeded Eagles are in the quarterfinals of the Southern Section Division 3A playoffs and play sixth-seeded Atascadero. Oak Park beat Littlerock, 63-24, in the first round and Estancia, 74-39, in the second round. Oak Park’s average margin of victory has been 37 points in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
  8. (9) Crespi (22-6): The Celts won their first two Southern Section Division 4AA playoff games setting up an interesting quarterfinal match-up against Bishop Montgomery. Crespi, the sixth-seeded team in the playoffs, is home against Bishop Montgomery, the third-team team in Division 4AA. Both teams have been ranked in the ESPNLA top 20 all season.
  9. (10) Village Christian (26-2): The Crusaders are in the quarterfinals of the Southern Section Division 5AA playoffs and play Bethel Christian. Second-seeded Village Christian beat Bellarmine-Jefferson, 61-38, in the first round and Mojave, 87-51, in the second round. The Crusaders are averaging 74 points per game in the playoffs and giving up 44.5 points per game.
  10. (NR) Oaks Christian (22-5): The Lions won their first two Southern Section Division 4AA playoff games, including an impressive, 63-57, win over Chaminade in the second round. Oaks Christian plays a banged up La Verne Lutheran team, the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, in the quarterfinals.

L.A. North: Five playoff games to watch

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
3:27
PM PT
Bishop Montgomery (23-4) vs. Crespi (22-6): The Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs are filled with interesting matchups this week. Third-seeded Bishop Montgomery travels to play sixth-seeded Crespi in the quarterfinals Tuesday night. Crespi stumbled at the end of the Mission League season, falling from first place to third place and going 2-5 in the final seven games of league. But Crespi has won its first two playoff games and is coming off a 62-56 win over Sierra Canyon on Friday night. The return of Michael Milligan Jr., who missed three games with a concussion, has helped the Crespi cause. He scored a team-high 21 points against Sierra Canyon in the second round. Bishop Montrgomery, meanwhile, has won five games in a row, but narrowly escaped with a one-point win over Morningside in the second round. Bishop Montgomery won, 55-54, after Larry Taylor III hit a pair of free throws with five seconds remaining in the game. Don’t expect a lot of points in this one. Strong defense will be preached throughout the game.

Harvard-Westlake (20-9) vs. Serra (26-2): The Wolverines have a chance to knock off the top-seeded team in the Division 4AA playoffs. Their win over JSerra Catholic in the second round was a little too close for comfort though. Harvard-Westlake won, 53-49, but nearly blew a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter. JSerra outscored Harvard-Westlake, 19-7, in the final period, but the Wolverines held on to advance. Another area of concern is that only four players scored for Harvard-Westlake against JSerra. The big three for Harvard-Westlake, Derick Newton, Zena Edosomwan and Josh Hearlihy combined to score 49 of their team’s 53 points. Serra has won 11 games in a row and held its first two playoffs opponents to 30 points or less. Playoff opponents are scoring an average of 27.5 points per game against Serra. Edosomwan can score 27 points by himself. He will need significant help if Harvard-Westlake is going to pull off the upset.

Oaks Christian (22-5) vs. La Verne Lutheran (21-6): The Lions have won seven of their past eight games, including a 63-57 win over Chaminade in the second round of the Division 4AA playoffs. They have a great shot at knocking out La Verne Lutheran, the second-seeded team in the playoffs. Not only is Oaks Christian on a hot streak, but La Verne Lutheran might not have one of its best players for the game Tuesday night. Eric Cooper Jr., the team’s second leading scorer at 16.2 points per game and top 3-point shooter, has a broken finger. He might not play in the game against Oaks Christian. Playing without Cooper hasn’t affected the Lutheran offensive output that much. The team is averaging 70 points per game in the playoffs. Oaks Christian has a balanced offensive attack led by Chass Bryan’s 15.3 points per game.

Mater Dei (25-2) vs. Palmdale (20-6): It’s a tall order, but Palmdale can shake up the Division 1AA playoffs with a win over top-seeded and national power Mater Dei in the second round. The teams from the Golden League have proven to be a force in the Division 1AA playoffs so far. Quartz Hill eliminated fifth-seeded Oxnard and Knight ousted 15th-seeded Los Alamitos in the first round. Palmdale, the first-place team from the Golden League, has won 12 games in a row and might surprise Mater Dei. Senior Ryan Wright leads Palmdale with 15.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. However, Palmdale is on the road and Mater Dei has a 12-game winning streak of its own against significantly tougher competition. The Monarchs haven’t lost since Jan. 7 to Gill St. Bernard from New Jersey. It’s a longshot for Palmdale, but that’s why they play the games.

Saugus (19-9) vs. Norco (15-13): Megan Dawe scored 24 points in her team’s 57-29 win over Claremont in the first round of the Southern Section Division 2A playoffs. She needs four more points to set the school record for scoring. Gabby Conn holds the Saugus record with 1,267 points over her high school career at Saugus. Dawe, who’s headed to New York University for college, already has the single-season scoring record at Saugus with 562 points. Seventh-seeded Saugus might have a couple of more games left in its season as well. The Centurions have won three games in a row and 10 of their past 11. Norco is 4-5 in its past nine games, but beat Citrus Hill, 50-42, in the first round of the Division 2A playoffs.

Prep basketball: Top 20 rankings

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
3:01
PM PT
Postseason play is well underway and the action has been fast and furious. That said, it's about time for the premier programs from the Southland to separate themselves from the rest of the pack in the Southern Section and Los Angeles City Section playoffs.

Over the next couple of days, the semifinal showdowns will begin to materialize as teams move toward division championships. So let's take a look at the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 rankings.

1. (1) Mater Dei (25-2): Katin Reinhardt or Xavier Johnson, pick your poison. Limiting the effectiveness of one of the two is possible. Stopping them both isn't.

2. (2) Long Beach Poly (23-1): Highly-touted junior Roschon Prince does a little bit of everything, and does it well, for the Jackrabbits.

3. (3) Etiwanda (27-1): Here's where things get interesting in Division 1-AA for the Eagles. Santa Monica and Long Beach Poly loom large en route to finals.

4. (4) Loyola (22-4): With a collision course seemingly set with Mater Dei in the all-important Division 1-AA semifinals, the Cubs can't afford to look too far ahead.

5. (5) Taft (25-3): On deck, Lake Balboa Birmingham in the Los Angeles City Section playoffs Wednesday. The Toreadors will not have any troubles in this one.

6. (6) Alemany (25-4): La Puente Bishop Amat stands between the Warriors and a berth in the Division 3-A semifinals. Chances are, they will not be denied.

7. (7) Gardena Serra (26-2): Cavaliers will have their hands full with North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake's Zena Edosomwan in a Division 4-AA game Tuesday.

8. (8) La Verne Lutheran (21-6): Road trip to Westlake Village Oaks Christian on Tuesday night figures to be a speed bump along the way in Division 4-AA play.

9. (9) Bishop Montgomery (23-4): It is not easy to win at Encino Crespi. It will be interesting to see if the Knights are up to the challenge in Division 4-AA on Tuesday.

10. (10) Pacific Hills (25-4): Freshman phenom Aaron Holiday and North Hollywood Campbell Hall could play the role of spoiler. The Bruins are well aware of that fact.

(Read full post)

Prep basketball: Top 20 rankings

February, 13, 2012
2/13/12
1:25
PM PT
With regular-season play in the books, the Southland's premier programs will take a day or two and regroup before the focus turns toward the postseason.

That said, let's take a look at some of the top teams from the greater Los Angeles area as preparations begin for the Southern Section and Los Angeles City Section playoffs later this week.

At this stage of the game, it's win or go home.

1. (1) Mater Dei (24-2): No real surprise here, Monarchs remain atop the poll. Moreover, they appear poised to take home the Division 1-AA title.

2. (2) Long Beach Poly (22-1): If anyone is capable of giving the top-ranked team a run for its money, perhaps it's the talented Jackrabbits.

3. (4) Etiwanda (26-1): There will be no easy games in Division 1-AA play for the Eagles. Questions about just how good they are about to answered.

4. (6) Loyola (21-4): Signs point to the Cubs meeting Mater Dei in the Division 1-AA semifinals. With a finals berth on the line, anything can happen.

5. (5) Taft (24-3): Anthony January's nickname is "Dinnertime." Odds are, the senior wing will be hungry during the City Section tournament.

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L.A. North: The top 10

February, 13, 2012
2/13/12
9:44
AM PT
The Woodland Hills Taft boys basketball team won its 14th game in a row and earned the top seed in the City Section Division I playoffs. The Toreadors remain atop the L.A. North top 10.

Alemany stumbled at the end of the Mission League season losing to Harvard-Westlake, but the Warriors still won the Mission League championship and is the No. 1 seed in the Southern Section Division 3A playoffs.

Westlake lost its last three games in the Marmonte League season and dropped out of the L.A. North top 10.

Village Christian cracked the top 10 for the first time and enters at No. 10.

Here’s a look at the L.A. North top 10:
  1. Woodland Hills Taft (24-3): The reigning City Section champs earned the No. 1 seed in this year’s playoffs and will face West Adams Prep in the first round Friday night. Taft has a 14-game winning streak and has not lost since Dec. 30. Newark Memorial beat Taft, 55-49.
  2. Alemany (23-4): The Warriors lost their Mission League finale, 81-62, to Harvard-Westlake. Still, Alemany is the Mission League champs at 10-2 and the No. 1-ranked team in the Southern Section Division 3A poll. The loss didn’t affect Alemany’s seeding in the Division 3A playoffs. The Warriors are the No. 1 seed and play Artesia on Wednesday in the first round.
  3. Calabasas (23-3): The Coyotes have won eight games in a row, including 65-61 over Westlake in the Marmonte League finale. Calabasas won the Marmonte League championship with a 13-1 record, the only loss coming to Westlake, 51-50, on Jan. 11. Calabasas was the No. 1-ranked team in Division 3AA and the top seed in the Division 3AA playoffs.
  4. Royal (20-6): The Highlanders ended Marmonte League play with a five-game winning streak. Royal beat Agoura, 78-55, in the league finale Thursday night.
  5. El Camino Real (18-7): The Conquistadores are the No. 1 seed in the City Section Division II playoffs and have a five-game winning streak. El Camino Real finished in second place in the West Valley League standings. The only team that gave ECR any problems was Taft, the top seed in the City Section Division I playoffs. A potential semifinal match-up against Kennedy, the co-champions of the Valley Mission League, looms for El Camino Real.

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Prep basketball: Top 20 rankings

February, 6, 2012
2/06/12
12:47
PM PT
The all-important final week of regular-season play is upon us, which means some of the Southland's premier programs must remain focused on the task at hand. Looking too far ahead, to upcoming play in the postseason that is, could prove to be disastrous.

That said, let's take a look at how the best of the best from out here in the greater Los Angeles area stack up against each other. There was a shakeup in the bottom half of the top 10 and multiple teams ranked in the teens are on the verge of joining elite status.

1. (1) Mater Dei (22-2): La Verne Lutheran was supposed to present some problems. It did not happen. The Monarchs ended up winning by five points.

2. (2) Long Beach Poly (20-1): Jackrabbits' lone loss came back in the first week of December. There have been no signs of slowing since then, of course.

3. (7) Alemany (22-3): The Warriors keep getting the job done. With two games left in the regular season, they're poised to take home the Mission League title.

4. (4) Etiwanda (24-1): As Jordan McLaughlin tends to go, so do the Eagles. The standout sophomore guard is averaging more than 17 points per game.

5. (5) Taft (22-3): Questions about the Los Angeles City Section frontrunner recently started to surface. A victory over Los Angeles Loyola provided answers.

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North: Boys' basketball Top 10

February, 5, 2012
2/05/12
10:54
PM PT
El Camino Real is on a roll and beat Renaissance Academy, one of the top programs in Southern California, in the Alemany To The Rack Showcase on Saturday. The Conquistadores moved up a couple of spots, from No. 8 to No. 5, in the L.A. North top 10 rankings.

Crespi is struggling of late and has lost two straight games. The Celts are barely clinging to the No. 10 spot in the L.A. North poll.

Renaissance Academy had two tough games last week, against La Verne Lutheran and El Camino Real, and lost both games, dropping the Wildcats out of the top 10.

Oxnard has won 11 games in a row and can wrap up an undefeated Pacific View League season this week. The Yellowjackets enter the top 10 for the first time this season at No. 7.

Here is a look at the L.A. North top 10:
  1. (1) Woodland Hills Taft (22-3) – The Toreadors have a 12-game winning streak including 73-57 over Loyola, the No. 3 team in the ESPN Los Angeles high school basketball rankings, in the Nike Extravaganza on Saturday. Taft is no slouch at No. 5 in the ESPN LA poll. Perhaps a little boost in the rankings is in order.
  2. (2) Alemany (22-3) – The Warriors have an eight-game winning streak and knocked off Price, the No. 11 team in the ESPN Los Angeles rankings, for the second time this season. Alemany had the benefit of home-court advantage in an 82-76 win in the To The Rack Showcase on Saturday night. The Warriors beat Price, 91-69, in the Santa Monica tournament on Dec. 9, the third game of the season for Alemany.
  3. (3) Calabasas (21-3) – The Coyotes have a six-game winning streak, all against Marmonte League opponents, and are coming off a 48-45 win over Thousand Oaks on Friday night. Calabasas has two more Marmonte League games before the start of playoffs, Monday night against Newbury Park and Thursday against Westlake.
  4. (4) Royal (18-6) – The Highlanders are keeping pace with Calabasas in the Marmonte League standings, but still trail by a game with two games left to play. Royal has won three games in a row, but had a close call against Thousand Oaks last week, 53-51.
  5. (8) El Camino Real (16-7) – The Conquistadores put in a little extra work this weekend with an impressive 57-54 win over Renaissance Academy in the Alemany basketball showcase. El Camino Real has won three games in a row and seven of its past eight.

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