Los Angeles Preps: Marion Clark

I.E.: Boys' basketball playoff primer

February, 16, 2012
2/16/12
4:30
PM PT
With the best Inland Empire boys’ basketball teams placed in the top four divisions of the Southern Section playoffs, here’s a rundown of what to look for beginning with Friday’s first-round games.

DIVISION 1AA

Background: The Inland Empire is well known in this division. The region has sent a representative to the championship game the last three years. Long Beach Poly beat Corona Centennial last season, Mater Dei toppled Etiwanda the year before and Riverside King upset Mater Dei in 2009.

Best Shot: If third-seeded Etiwanda is to continue that trend, the Eagles will likely need to find a way to beat second-seeded Long Beach Poly. They lost to the Jackrabbits in the Division 1AA semifinals last season and again nine days later in the second round of the SoCal Regional playoffs. There are few high school coaches who squeeze more out of their players than Dave Kleckner at Etiwanda, however.

Best first-round game: Highland at Silverado. A good old- fashioned high desert showdown as 11th-seeded Silverado brings a 16-game winning streak into the postseason. The Hawks will need to find a way to slow Highland senior guard Joseph Prince, who is averaging 23.4 points. Prince, who played the last two seasons at Glenbrook North High in Northbrook, Ill., scored a season-high 37 points in the regular-season finale last week against Lancaster.

Darkhorse: Rancho Verde didn’t land on the same side of the bracket as top-seeded Mater Dei, so that can already be considered a victory. In the last three seasons, the Mustangs lost all four postseason meetings against Mater Dei, with three losses in the section playoffs and another in the SoCal Regionals. Rancho Verde is seeded 10th and drew a good challenge in the opener against visiting Montclair. A possible second-round game against seventh-seeded Eisenhower looms.

DIVISION 1A

Background: A team from the I.E. has qualified for the semifinals in this division the last three seasons, Redlands East Valley a year ago, Colony in 2010 and Chino Hills in 2009. In the last final appearance by an I.E. team, Riverside King beat Etiwanda in the 2008 championship game at Honda Center.

Best Shot: The I.E.’s streak of semifinalists could be in serious jeopardy. The highest-seeded teams in this division are No. 7 Chino Hills and No. 10 Vista Murrieta, and they would meet in the second round should they win their openers. The good thing is, one I.E. team would be guaranteed a trip to the quarterfinals.

Best first-round game: Corona at Arroyo Valley. Both these teams have held their own against good competition this season. Corona tied for fifth in the highly competitive Big VIII League and Arroyo Valley finished runner up in the San Andreas League, losing both games to league champion Cajon by a combined six points.

Darkhorse: Vista Murrieta has shown it can reach up and bite a good team if they’re not paying attention. The Broncos beat Murrieta Valley by 13 points in a Southwestern League game last month and the Nighthawks are seeded third in Division 2A. Davin Guinn, a 6-5 senior forward for Vista Murrieta, is one of the top players in the division. He matched his season high with 32 points in the rematch against Murrieta Valley last week.

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