Mater Dei is the team to beat in Southern Section’s top playoff division – LA Times

By Eric Sondheimer
Los Angeles Times

The Southern Section boys’ basketball pairings were released Sunday, so no more talk about potential or promise. It’s time to perform and show what’s been learned over the past three months. Here’s the rundown:

Division 1AA

Top seeds: 1. Santa Ana Mater Dei (24-1), 2. Long Beach Poly (24-3), 3. Corona Centennial (23-4), 4. Moreno Valley Rancho Verde (23-3).

The scoop: Mater Dei has been beaten in the final the last two years by Riverside King and Compton Dominguez, so there’s hope for the two likely challengers, Long Beach Poly and Corona Centennial. Both schools have the athleticism and talent at the guard position needed to play with Mater Dei. But Monarchs Coach Gary McKnight has come to enjoy the versatility and explosiveness of his guard trio of Tyler Lamb, Gary Franklin Jr. and Keala King. One might have a bad game, even two, but never three in the same game.

Upset threat: Los Alamitos.

The pick: Mater Dei.

Division 1A

Top seeds: 1. Chino Hills (25-2), 2. Los Angeles Loyola (23-2), 3. Lawndale Leuzinger (19-6), 4. Ontario Colony (21-6).

The scoop: The good news for Loyola is that the team it lost to twice, Harvard-Westlake, is not in the division. The Cubs need strong play from 6-foot-10 Tony Wroblicky to take pressure off their guards. Chino Hills hasn’t lost since Dec. 17 and is led by point guard Derek Brown, who signed with San Jose State. Leuzinger is a dangerous team, having played a tough schedule.

Upset threat: Temecula Chaparral.

The pick: Loyola.

Division 2AA

Top seeds: 1. Fontana Summit (25-2), 2. Huntington Beach Edison (22-4), 3. Anaheim Canyon (20-7), 4. Alta Loma (20-7).

The scoop: This is a wide-open division. Utah-bound J.J. O’Brien from Alta Loma might be the best player. He’s averaging 24.5 points. There are lots of former champions lurking, from Glendora to Fullerton Sunny Hills. And beware of Compton, which lost by only five points to Long Beach Poly last week.

Upset threat: Compton

The pick: Summit.

Division 2A

Top seeds: 1. Rialto Eisenhower (23-5), 2. Pasadena (20-6), 3. Alhambra Keppel (21-5), 4. La Verne Damien (19-7).

The scoop: Coach Steve Johnson guided Eisenhower to the championship last season over Loyola and has found capable replacements for last season’s standouts, with guard Bryan Bock among many contributors. Pasadena certainly has the athleticism and talent to match up with Eisenhower if it can get to the final.

Upset threat: Westlake Village Westlake.

The pick: Eisenhower.

Division 3AA

Top seeds: 1. Huntington Beach Ocean View (23-3), 2. Santa Ana Foothill (24-2), 3. Elsinore (22-4), 4. La Habra Sonora (23-6).

The scoop: Sorry, folks, this is Ocean View’s division to lose. The duo of Anthony Brown and Avery Johnson aren’t going to let their senior years come up short.

Upset threat: Palm Springs.

The pick: Ocean View.

Division 3A

Top seeds: 1. Gardena Serra (25-2), 2. North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (22-4), 3. Compton Centennial (21-5), 4. Cerritos Gahr (22-4).

The scoop: This is the toughest division in Southern California. There are three elite teams and four others capable of knocking off anybody. Serra is dealing with a tragedy. The father of senior guard Vaughn Autry died on Saturday of a health issue. His teammates will surely provide support. Harvard-Westlake is the hottest team and has made the most improvement, thanks to the development of 6-5 Erik Swoope. Centennial has the best player in guard Deonte Burton.

Upset threat: Gahr.

The pick: Harvard-Westlake.

Division 4AA

Top seeds: 1. Los Angeles Price (24-3), 2. Orange Lutheran (19-7), 3. Inglewood (17-8), 4. La Puente Bishop Amat (18-8).

The scoop: It’s going to take a giant upset for Price not to win. The Knights haven’t been playing as well as they did earlier in the season, but the playoffs should provide motivation, and Allen Crabbe and Richard Solomon can always bail them out.

Upset threat: None.

The pick: Price.

Division 4A

Top seeds: 1. Westlake Village Oaks Christian (17-8), 2. Encino Crespi (16-11), 3. West Hollywood Pacific Hills (16-10), 4. Riverside Woodcrest Christian (21-4).

The scoop: This division is an example that there are too many divisions. Crespi is seeded No. 2 but didn’t come close to beating the top two teams in the Mission League. There’s no definite favorite.

Upset threat: Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.

The pick: Oaks Christian.

Division 5AA

Top seeds: 1. Los Angeles Windward (19-7), 2. La Verne Lutheran (18-8), 3. Sherman Oaks Buckley (19-5), 4. La Canada Flintridge Prep (18-6).

The scoop: Get ready for a Windward-Lutheran final. Both schools are loaded with future college players.

Upset threat: Brentwood.

The pick: Windward.

Division 5A

Top seeds: 1. La Canada Renaissance (17-8), 2. Ojai Besant Hill (21-2), 3. Huntington Beach Brethren Christian (21-4), 4. Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (18-7).

The scoop: Besant Hill is starting to peak and owns a win over top-seeded Renaissance. Sierra Canyon played a tough nonleague schedule.

Upset threat: Long Beach St. Anthony.

The pick: Besant Hill.

Division 6AA

Top seeds: 1. Los Angeles Ribet (16-11), 2. Irvine Tarbut V’Torah (20-3), 3. Garden Grove Orangewood (21-6), 4. Hesperia Christian (16-8).

The scoop: Ribet has 6-4 Jon Conley and 6-8 Gregory Sequele. And who thinks a team with the nickname Fighting Frogs can’t win it all?

Upset threat: Santa Clarita Christian.

The pick: Ribet.

Division 6A

Top seeds: 1. Pasadena AGBU (15-4), 2. West Hills West Valley Christian (17-3), 3. Santa Maria Valley Christian (13-5), 4. Malibu Kilpatrick (11-10).

The scoop: AGBU has been the most consistent, but other schools have played tougher schedules.

Upset threat: Kilpatrick.

The pick: Kilpatrick.

February 14, 2010