New Cal-Hi Sports Girls BB Top 20

Rejane Verin (second from left) and the rest of the Gardena Serra girls have earned a return trip to the CIFSS championships in Anaheim. Mark Tennis/ESPNHS

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Serra of Gardena posts two eye-opening wins and goes from unranked to No. 16 in this week’s rankings. The Cavaliers take on No. 1 Windward in CIFSS final.

The Cal-Hi Sports caravan was busy last week covering mostly boys in the CIF North Coast Section and CIF Central Coast Section, but we did have an opportunity to take in the Carondelet of Concord versus Northgate of Walnut Creek quarterfinal matchup in the NCS that preceded the host De La Salle boys game in Concord.

The Cougars led from start to finish, bolting out to a 24-9 lead after one quarter en route to an 87-58 victory.

Notre Dame-bound senior guard Hannah Huffman led the way with 22 points and seven rebounds with three assists. Super sophomore Natalie Romeo added 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Senior Melissa Russi chipped in with 11 points.

Top-ranked Windward, meanwhile, proved that no matter how good you are, a poor shooting night in the playoffs can keep a game close, especially against a quality opponent like St. Bernard of Playa del Rey, which moved up to D4 after finishing as the D5 state runner-up last season.

Windward prevailed 59-52 in the CIF Southern Section Div. 4AA semifinal, but it was anything but a cakewalk.

“It’s a good thing Imani (Stafford) showed up and that Jordin Canada wasn’t going to let us lose,” Windward coach Steve Smith told Cal-Hi Sports.

“We were 2-for-18 on threes and they dared us to shoot it,” continued Smith.

Stafford, who is still not totally at full tilt after rehabbing the summer and fall, missed several layups and only finished with 10 points, but the 6-foot-7 Texas-bound post had 21 rebounds, six blocks, and altered several shots that missed.

Sophomore Canada had a game-high 19 points (four rebounds, three steals, two assists) and along with Stafford, the pair keyed a 13-4 run that pushed the Wildcats' lead to 50-37 early in the fourth quarter and sealed the deal.

(Through games played on Saturday, Feb. 25)

(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. (1) Windward (Los Angeles) 27-3

Coach Smith has been raving about the play of sophomore Kristen Simon. “Next year, this will be her team, but right now she’s our second-leading scorer and rebounder coming off the bench as the sixth girl.” Against St. Bernard, Simon had eight points and 10 rebounds. Earlier in the week, in a 66-49 win over JSerra of San Juan Capistrano, she had 11 points and nine rebounds. Next up is a CIFSS D4AA championship game matchup with new No. 17 Serra of Gardena, a 73-62 upset winner of second-seed and previous No. 17 Oaks Christian of Westlake Village.

2. (2) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 26-3

Except for one very talented guard and another D1 bound player, the Monarchs barely broke a sweat in two CIFSS Division 1AA blowout wins last week, 74-41 over Temecula Chaparral and 83-39 over Rialto. In the win over Chaparral, UCLA-bound star Nirra Fields equaled the opponents’ total, and tied the school single-game scoring record along the way with 41 points. Fields, who was chosen for the McDonald’s All-America game, added six rebounds and six steals, while tying the school-record total of another former McDonald's All-American, Kaleena Mosqueda, set in 2008. Jordan Adams missed the game after having the wrong knee brace. Against Rialto, Washington State-bound Alexas Williamson buried 8-of-10 on 3-point shots en route to a career-high 34 points. Next up is a semifinal showdown with No. 7 Santiago on Tuesday afternoon at Anaheim Arena. A win would likely mean a title game versus Long Beach Poly.

3. (3) La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 26-1

It’s difficult to swallow a 78-17 defeat, especially by a school that’s won two state championships, but that’s what happened to Christian of El Cajon in a running clock win by the Torreys who led 45-1 at the half. Kelsey Plum had 37 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and five steals. Maya Hood played two minutes. Next up is a CIF San Diego Section Div. IV semifinal contest versus a San Diego Horizon team Country Day beat 77-25 two weeks ago.

4. (4) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 28-2

The CIFSS D1AA top-ranked Jackrabbits beat Silverado of Victorville 79-45, and then got a tussle from Etiwanda before posting a 53-48 victory. Against Etiwanda, coach Carl Buggs’ girls trailed 27-19 at the half and 39-35 after three quarters. Junior Keyla Morgan put the team on her shoulders, scoring all of her team-high 15 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer with 3:10 to play that got Poly within a point. Her steal on the ensuing Etiwanda possession led to a coast-to-coast layup that gave the Jackrabbits a 49-48 lead with 2:42 remaining in the game. As the funnel narrows in the super-tough D1AA field, the girls now face No. 11 Brea-Olinda in the semis at Anaheim Arena on Tuesday evening. With a win, a potential face-off with Mater Dei, something they didn’t get last year in the playoffs after an early exit, would be next.

5. (5) St. Mary’s (Stockton) 26-3

The Rams continue to dominate their way to a potential fifth straight CIF Sac-Joaquin Section championship. In their Division II playoff opener, the Rams set a season-high for points as they defeated Vacaville 111-54. Courtney Range scored a game-high 35 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. Range once again led St. Mary’s with 17 points in a 82-40 win over Inderkum of Sacramento for the team’s 21st win in a row. Looking to not just capture another section title but their fourth straight state title, the Rams play Florin of Sacramento in the D2 section semifinals on Tuesday night at the University of the Pacific.

6. (6) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 24-3

Not much changed from Hayward Area Athletic League play to the NCS Division III playoffs as the Dragons posted an 80-28 running clock win over Sonoma Valley of Sonoma. Standout junior K.C. Waters led the way with a double-double 17 points and 13 rebounds. Fellow big Oderah Chidom also had 17 points. It may not go to a running clock, but it is doubtful Acalanes of Lafayette will extinguish the Dragons’ fire in the semis. The matchup that looms is a potential title game this weekend with what could be a 28-0 Miramonte of Orinda.

7. (7) Santiago (Corona) 30-0

With two wins last week, the Sharks moved to an even 30-0 while advancing to the CIFSS Division I-AA semifinals where they will face No. 2 Mater Dei of Santa Ana on Tuesday night. Chrishae Rowe scored 20 points as they opened the week with a 62-47 second-round win over Wilson of Long Beach. In the quarterfinals, they faced Troy of Fullerton and Rowe once again led the offense with a game-high 21 points in a 55-41 win. Since January 4 of last year, Santiago has won 45 out of their 46 games with a two-point road loss to Brea Olinda in the CIFSS Division I-AA quarterfinals ending the season last year. Even if they lose to Mater Dei, the Sharks’ season should continue in the regional playoffs.

8. (8) Summit (Fontana) 24-3

Soaring through the CIFSS Division I-A playoffs, the Skyhawks have found their way to the semifinals and a matchup against Burbank after wins last week over Pacifica of Oxnard and Downey. After a 75-40 second-round road win over the Tritons, Summit picked up a much closer 62-54 win over the Vikings. Jillian Alleyne scored a game-high 24 points for the top-seeded Skyhawks. Last season, they were eliminated in the second-round of the CIFSS Division I-AA playoffs by Santiago of Corona. It’s obviously a bit easier in Division I-A.

9. (9) Berkeley 22-2*

The Yellowjackets had a good workout in their 67-41 defeat of Foothill of Pleasanton in the NCS Div. I playoffs. Jasmin Guinn led the way with 16 points, Garysha Youngblood had a double-double 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Arizona State-bound Elisha Davis added 13 points. With No. 12 Carondelet moving back down to Division II, there’s little hope of anyone stopping Berkeley in the NCS D1 field. Brentwood Heritage will try in the semifinals and then either Antioch Deer Valley or Fremont Mission San Jose will try in the finals.

10. (10) Lynwood 23-4

The Lady Knights may only be the No. 5 seed in the CIFSS Division 2AA playoff, but we predicted weeks ago they may not only win these playoffs, but are looking like a strong candidate to go even further. This past week, veteran coach Ellis Barfield got his team into the semifinals with a 63-40 win over University of Irvine and a 61-38 victory against a solid No. 4 seed Anaheim Canyon. Shahana Zeigler led the way against University with 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and T’keya Mason added 16 points and six rebounds. The Canyon game saw Barfield’s girls go down 10-0 and then fight back to a 23-23 halftime tie. Then, they came on strong with a 20-5 third quarter run to take control. Priscilla Lopez had 13 points, Zeigler scored 12 and Tanya Simpson added 10 points. Next up is a semifinal with top seed and 27-3 Keppel of Alhambra, a 57-56 winner over Canyon Country Canyon. Keppel’s only losses are to La Jolla Country Day, Alemany and Chaminade.

11. (12) Brea Olinda (Brea) 23-5

Keitra Wallace netted 15 of her 22 points in the second-half to pace the Ladycats to an impressive 72-49 victory over previous No. 11 Edison of Huntington Beach. Although the Chargers were not anything close to being at full strength with both Samuelson sisters (Karlie, Katie Lou) out due a battle with mono, it still was a solid win for Brea and propelled the team into this week’s semifinals against No. 4 Long Beach Poly. The Ladycats won their other playoff game last week 57-50 against Lutheran of Orange.

12. (13) Carondelet (Concord) 24-3

After the win against Northgate, the Cougars advanced to the NCS D2 semifinals against Alameda. They also moved up one spot in this week’s state top 20. With a likely win in the semis, Carondelet would then face the winner of the Dougherty Valley of San Ramon at Petaluma Casa Grande matchup. Casa Grande enters that game with a 29-1 record and could be 30-1 facing the Cougars.

13. (14) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 22-5

The good news about the CCS playoffs is that the top four seeds in all divisions get a double-bye. The bad news is winning a quarterfinal game doesn’t qualify for the Northern California regionals since the CCS only sends two teams instead of four. It’s not likely coach Sue Phillips’ girls would be upset by San Jose Lynbrook in the semifinals, so a probable third matchup with St. Ignatius in the title game and a high seed to the NorCals seems on the docket. Last week, in its only game, Mitty had a running clock 71-20 win over crosstown Leigh.

14. (15) St. Ignatius (San Francisco) 24-4

If the Wildcats are going to reverse the 63-47 loss two weeks ago to Mitty, they’ll need team leader Maria Kemiji-McDonald to have a big-time game, similar or better than the double-double 24 points and 11 rebounds she posted in a 68-32 CCS Div. II quarterfinal win against Westmont of Campbell. She’ll also need help that she didn’t get a lot of last time, particularly from 6-foot-3 freshman post Josie Little. She had 18 points and seven rebounds versus Westmont.

15. (16) Mission Bay (San Diego) 22-6

There are only two things you can say about the Buccaneers’ win over crosstown Madison in the San Diego Section Div. III playoffs. First, is that there were all 9s in the final score of 99-9, and second is ouch! At least in the quarterfinals, Coronado made it respectable in falling 69-43. Briteesha Solomon had a triple-double 30 points, 10 rebounds and 12 steals against Coronado. Next up is a semifinal against a Cathedral Catholic of San Diego team Mission Bay beat twice this season by 20 and 31 points.

16. (NR) Serra (Gardena) 26-3

Pressure defense and balanced scoring helped the Cavaliers post a pair of impressive wins in the CIFSS Div. 4-A playoffs. They won in the quarterfinals 73-62 over previous No. 17 Oaks Christian and then took down Bellarmine-Jefferson of Burbank 71-54 in the semis. Bell-Jeff got into that game with a win over 24-4 Chaminade of West Hills. Caila Hailey and Rejane Verin led a group of five players in double figures with 14 points each against Bell-Jeff. Serra earned its way to a title game showdown this week against No. 1 Windward. If the girls keep playing like they did last week, Windward is going to have to bring its “A” game to avoid the upset.

17. (18) J.W. North (Riverside) 26-4

The Huskies’ remarkable turnaround from last year’s four-win season continues as they won two more CIFSS Division II-AA playoff games last week. Pricilla Brooks was one of four in double figures with a team-high 17 points as they opened up a 46-6 halftime lead on the way to a 74-27 second-round win over Cypress. Brittany Crain then led the way in the quarterfinals with a team-high 19 points in a 63-48 win over Thousand Oaks. J.W. North meets perennial power Ventura in Tuesday’s semifinals.

18. (19) Alemany (Mission Hills) 29-2

The Warriors topped Diamond Ranch of Pomona 46-34 in the CIFSS Div. 3-AA semifinals. They trailed 24-19 at halftime and came back with sophomore Hannah Johnson ending up as the top scorer with 10 points. Alemany, which has a win over Etiwanda and has two wins over a Chaminade of West Hills team it also has beaten twice, will next play Laguna Hills in the section championship. With a win and a possible top seed in the CIF Division III Southern California regional playoffs might be waiting. We currently have Mission Bay higher in the our rankings, but at 30-2 it’s easy to see Alemany getting that top seed.

19. (NR) El Toro (Lake Forest) 26-2

We’re going with the Chargers for this spot heading into their CIFSS Division I-A semifinal on Tuesday against Huntington Beach. The Oilers, who would basically get this spot if they win on Tuesday, lost to El Toro earlier in the season. The fact that El Toro also has wins over the two teams it has lost to – Canyon of Anaheim and Laguna Hills – is another reason for a ranking. In the team’s 58-47 win over Villa Park in the quarterfinals, Whitney Williams was stout with 23 points.

20. (20) Etiwanda 24-3

Losing by just five points to No. 2 Long Beach Poly keeps the Eagles in the top 20. They actually led 48-44 with 3:25 left behind Ashtyn Anderson’s 18 points and eight rebounds. They also won a CIFSS Division I-AA playoff game last week 50-45 over Buena of Ventura. If certain teams finish strong, Etiwanda could even move up several spots in the next few weeks.

Dropped Out: Previous No. 11 Edison (Huntington Beach); No. 17 Oaks Christian (Westlake Village).

On the Bubble:

Bellarmine-Jefferson (Burbank) 23-8; Canyon (Anaheim) 21-8; Chaminade (West Hills) 24-5; Edison (Huntington Beach) 23-4; Foothill (Santa Ana) 23-5; Hanford 22-4; Huntington Beach 24-4; Miramonte (Orinda) 27-0; Narbonne (Harbor City) 26-6; Rialto 25-2*; Sacramento 25-6; San Diego 23-5; St. Bernard (Playa del Rey) 23-7; St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 22-6*; Stockdale (Bakersfield) 25-3.

Corrections or comments? Email Mark.Tennis@espn.com.