The usual scenario for nationally ranked teams is to beat up on the locals and in between routs, find a way to play other elite teams.
For Sierra Canyon, the road to the No. 5 ranking this week may seem to be the result of an impressive 66-57 in the packed home gym of previous No. 7 Windward, but really it's the culmination of an unusual path to the top ten. Instead of looking for elite teams to knock off, Sierra Canyon has simply played the best Southern California teams it can find, week in and week out — and added two out-of-state tournament wins over solid opponents. (One of those out-of-state events could have led to a matchup with Oregon power Southridge, but inexplicably, the two teams were placed in different brackets.)
As an example of the schedule, this weekend's Sierra Canyon opponents are Chaminade and Long Beach Poly, both quality opponents that can easily rise up and knock off an uninspired ranked team — and those two teams are the kind Sierra Canyon has played all year. The result is an impressive 19-0 record, as the 19 wins did not come against 14 fish and five strong teams. Instead, it's been a weekly grind against inattention and overconfidence, a battle Sierra Canyon has so far won every time out.
But the road is long and hard in Southern California, as the playoffs are grueling and there are few, if any, gimme games. And after surviving that gantlet, then comes the Northern California champ (most likely resurgent Archbishop Mitty) in the Open final in Sacramento.
So far, so good, however, for Sierra Canyon, and though the way SoCal's best reached the Top 10 might be somewhat unconventional, there's no doubting that the ranking is deserved.
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MaxPreps Top 25 national high school girls basketball rankings presented by the Army National Guard
Will have a chance to silence all doubters this week. First up is once-ranked St. Frances Academy (Baltimore) on Thursday, and then the first of potentially three matchups with No. 4 St. John's next Tuesday.
Adds to its already impressive strength of schedule by traveling to Philadelphia to play No. 24 Germantown on Friday and talented Neumann-Goretti on Saturday. Both games are in the opponents' friendly confines.
Long Island Lutheran is having a down season, and made it even worse by pulling out of this weekend's Classic in the Country at the last minute. Such maneuvers are not only disappointing but cause no end of headaches for potential opponents. Luckily for Africentric, No. 9 Hamilton Heights had games available and will step in Saturday in what will be a key game for both teams.
Cadets can't get caught up looking ahead to the trip to No. 1 Bishop McNamara next Tuesday or league rival Paul VI might pull off the upset on Sunday.
It's a big jump, but a well-deserved one, as Trailblazers went to Windward and won by nine. It's also worth noting that among the many players with national reputations in Southern California, lightly regarded (at least up until now) junior Vanessa De Jesus
had 32 points in the win.
Centennial does as much as any team in the country when it comes to seeking out quality opposition. This weekend, it's off to Northern California to play three talented California teams: Sacramento, Etiwanda and Bishop Montgomery.
Mumford, Saturday's opponent, has lost only once (by two points), and Pewamo-Westphalia, on Tuesday, is unbeaten. Both are underdogs, granted, but at least one should provide Edison with a challenge.
New Hope's impressive schedule continues when it travels to New York to take on No. 21 Regis Jesuit — which hasn't played nearly the same level of competition, but also has yet to lose.
The Hawks were looking at nearly two weeks off, but Long Island Lutheran's abrupt departure from the Classic in the Country gave Tennessee's best a chance to play No. 3 Africentric on Saturday and No. 14 Mount Notre Dame on Sunday.
Only league opponents remain until March, and through the first round of Badger-North play, Beaver Dam's "closest call" was a 28-point squeaker.
It's never easy to beat a local rival, especially one that was once ranked in the Xcellent 25, but Roland Park took care of St. Frances 62-46 on Tuesday. A nice win, granted, but Wednesday's opponent, Pallotti, is no pushover.
Mansfield Timberview rolled past this week's opponents by an average of 30 points the first time around, so "suspense" is a not a word that belongs in this paragraph.
Tuesday's win over Conway, which had lost just twice previously, was a big one, as last year Conway took two out of three and denied Northside a shot at a state title.
Ryle is one of Kentucky's best, and a 20-point win — even at home — was impressive enough to jump Mount Notre Dame three spots.
There are those who question whether Christ the King has done enough to deserve a No. 15 ranking — the game against No. 19 St. John-Vianney on Saturday will provide the answer.
It's no disgrace to lose to another member of the Top 25, but losing at home adds to the sting. And with four losses, Windward has pretty much used up its margin for error.
The loss to Cathedral of Massachusetts knocks National Christian down three spots, and a similar outcome against always tough St. Rose on Saturday would result in erasure.
Kenwood, Saturday's opponent, has played No. 3 Africentric and once-ranked Mother McAuley, so intimidation is unlikely. Then again, Kenwood lost both of those games, and six others as well.
New Jersey is chock full of quality teams, and St. John-Vianney will get a chance to prove it's the best when it plays No. 15 Christ the King on Saturday.
Riverdale will do nothing special over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend except roll over LaVergne, which it beat 70-18 back in December.
Regis Jesuit has never been wary of travel, and this weekend's trip to New York not only includes No. 8 New Hope but also 11-3 Monsignor Scanlan.
Wakefield (Friday) and Knightdale (Tuesday) will be tests for Heritage, especially 14-1 Wakefield, as that game is on the road.
After rolling past Eden Prairie on Tuesday, Hopkins won't be tested again until February, when Wayzata finally shows up on the schedule.
Germantown would like nothing better than a signature win to not only solidify its spot in the Top 25, but also vault it into the top 20. That chance comes Friday, when No. 2 Miami Country Day comes to town.
Putnam City West lost to Skyline of Texas by one early in the year, but since then has taken care of business. The best win — and a pretty good one — was over Paul VI, 69-64.Dropped out:
No. 23 Pinewood (Los Altos Hills, Calif.)