Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs
Favorites: No. 1 Christian Brothers (20-7), No. 2 Vanden (24-3) … With previous Division-III stalwarts St. Mary’s and Sacramento moving up in recent years, the door is open for other tradition-rich mid-sized schools to shine. CB had the most challenging nonleague schedule of this bunch, which includes an impressive two-game split with Division-I power Kennedy. Athletic and balanced Vanden has seven players averaging at least six points, and its 76-38 throttling of Weston Ranch in a nonleague contest is proof of its might.
Contenders: No. 3 Rio Americano (24-3), No. 4 Placer (23-4), No. 6 Modesto Christian (19-8) … MC might be the best of the rest despite what its seed and record would suggest. Like Christian Brothers, the Crusaders were well-tested in nonleague play, and they are motivated after having a 98-game Trans-Valley League winning streak snapped by fellow champ Ripon. Placer owns an impressive 63-40 win over Rio Americano and is part of a three-way title share in the competitive Pioneer Valley League.
Darkhorse: No. 7 Manteca (20-6) … Equipped with the tournament’s most dynamic player, Courtney Range, Manteca could be a tough out even for the favorites. The 6-2 Range averages close to 20 points and 20 rebounds, but she missed the Buffaloes final two Valley Oak League games with an ankle injury. They are still trying to work out the kinks with the senior transfer missing the entire preleague schedule and off guard Jessica Hasal (concussion) also on the mend, but this could be a dangerous team if things come together real soon.
Upset special: No. 12 Oakmont (19-8) over No. 5 Patterson (23-2) … Patterson is on the rise, but the difference in league strength could end up going against it. Oakmont is more battle-tested coming out of the Capital Valley Conference, while Patterson cruised to the Western Athletic Conference title with its only challenges coming from Central Catholic.
Favorites: No. 1 Bear River (23-3), No. 3 Bradshaw Christian (23-2) … Two decorated programs must run through a deep Division-IV field to meet in the end, but these are the ones to beat. Bear River — the section’s D-IV champ in 2006-07 — tipped off the year with a noteworthy 60-57 win over Oakland power McClymonds. Bradshaw ruled Division V from 2008-11 and may boast the most talented starting five in this tournament.
Contenders: No. 2 Colfax (18-9), No. 4 Argonaut (27-0), No. 5 Ripon (22-4) … Colfax has wins over Division III’s No. 3 and 4 seeds, Rio Americano and Placer, and another against PVL rival Bear River. A few curious nonleague losses are offset by its big victories. Argonaut’s perfect record is eye-catching, but its schedule was far from challenging. Ripon, which recently toppled former Division-IV powerhouse Modesto Christian, would be a good test for the Mustangs in the second round.
Darkhorse: No. 6 West Campus (19-8) … The section’s Division-IV runner-up to Modesto Christian a year ago has the talent, experience and nonleague résumé to make a run.
Favorite: No. 1 Brookside Christian (23-4) … The Knights garnered the Division V state championship is primed to repeat behind star junior Tiara Tucker, the section’s leading scorer at 29.3 ppg.
Contender: No. 3 Capital Christian (18-9) … With youth and talent on their side, the Cougars could soon be cream of the crop should Brookside get pumped up to Division IV next season.
Darkhorses: No. 2 Turlock Christian (23-4), No. 4 Ripon Christian (19-6) … Turlock Christian was one of the few teams test Brookside in the playoffs last year, losing 63-51 in the finale. This year’s TC team lacks the size and depth it once had. Ripon Christian is peaking at the right time but is set up for a possible showdown with Brookside in the semis.
The Valley Oak League’s top two girls basketball teams are set to encounter the best two from the Tri-County Conference in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs next Tuesday.
The winners of each game will then challenge the two powerhouses of the bracket.
Manteca (20-6), fresh off its third straight VOL championship, and Weston Ranch (17-8) both have major roadblocks en route to the semifinals and a berth to the NorCal tournament.
Ripon Christian is the area’s highest-seeded team at 4 in Division V. The Knights have a first-round bye, while neighboring Ripon is No. 5 in Division IV.
Manteca’s seventh-seeded Buffaloes can’t take its first-round opponent lightly. TCC runner-up Inderkum (17-10) visits from Sacramento with some momentum behind it. The No. 10 Tigers enter the postseason riding a six-game winning streak which includes a 39-36 win over TCC champ River Valley. A loss to 2-22 Pioneer kept them from earning a piece of a third straight title, but they’ve been on a roll since.
Inderkum is led by 5-foot-7 senior guard Sakara Brewer (15.2 ppg), 5-10 sophomore Kyliyah Daniel (8.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and promising freshman point guard Shymir Mitschan-Baldwin (5.9 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.6 rpg, 2.4 spg).
Inderkum has some notable wins over Sheldon and Benicia. The Tigers used a second-half burst to race past Benicia 40-25, and Benicia would later squeak past Manteca 54-52 during Bethel High’s MLK Jr. Jamboree.
The loss to Benicia is Manteca’s lone blemish with 6-foot-2 Courtney Range in the lineup. The Cal-bound standout sat out the entire pre-league schedule because of the California Interscholastic Federation’s newly-implemented 30-day transfer rule.
Range, however, is hobbled by an ankle injury that kept her sidelined for Manteca’s final two league contests. The Buffaloes were also without shooting guard Jessica Hasal (concussion).
The 8-9 matchup between host River City (19-7) of Yuba City and Weston Ranch is intriguing. Both are balanced with solid post players and speed in the backcourt.
Falcons 6-2 center Taylor Massengale (9.9 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 3.8 bpg) is an imposing presence in the paint. She is joined by Sarah Brennan (7.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Jagreet Gosal (6.6 ppg) in the frontcourt. Aleqse Hawkins (9.9 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.4 spg) and Amrita Dale (7.3 ppg) are their top guards.
River Valley has two nonleague losses to third-seeded Rio Americano but was competitive in both contests. The Falcons also lost to Davis, the No. 6 team in the loaded Division-I playoffs, by just two, 41-39.
Fifth-seeded Ripon (22-4) will likely have to get past two Mother Lode League teams to reach the semifinals.
First is No. 12 Bret Harte (16-10), the MLL’s third-place squad. Unless Trans-Valley League rival Riverbank pulls off the upset, the Indians travel to Jackson in the second round to meet undefeated Argonaut, which drubbed Bret Harte by an average margin of 21 points in three MLL clashes.
Kesley Switzer (13.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.7 spg), a versatile 5-9 wing, anchors Bret Harte. Anyone in its supporting class — which includes six-footer Sami Seider (6.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and guards Jessie Evans (7.0 ppg), Cassidy Davis (5.8 ppg) and Haley Warner (5.2 ppg) — are capable of taking over in spurts.
Ripon has won 13 of its last 14 and boasts a 61-58 win over juggernaut Modesto Christian to garner a share of its first TVL title in eight years.
The two-time reigning Southern League co-champion Knights of Ripon Christian (19-6) will have extra time to prepare for its first opponent, which likely will be No. 5 Woodland Christian (24-3). The Cardinals begin with No. 12 Le Grand (8-15).