The Northern California basketball scene is so talented and deep that the biggest news heading into this week is the headliner talents. A remarkable three players from the Bay Area
earned spots to the prestigious McDonald's All American Game
It's remarkable considering the West team isn't just comprised of California talents but the entire Western half of the United States. Cal-bound Jabari Bird of top-ranked Salesian (Richmond) will showcase his guard skills in the April showcase as will big man talents Aaron Gordon of No. 4 Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) and Kentucky-bound Marcus Lee of No. 9 Deer Valley (Antioch).
Now onto the playoffs.
The postseason starts for all NorCal leagues this week in section rounds. Following section title meetings early next month, we will see the introduction of the first Northern California Regional Open Division, designed to put the heavies in the same division and allow other, more mortal teams a chance to win NorCal and state titles.
The Open teams from NorCal, based on criteria such as consecutive section titles, lengthy stay high in state rankings and overall schedule, should include: Salesian, Mitty, Sheldon, Bishop O'Dowd, De La Salle and Modesto Christian.MaxPreps Northern California Top 25 Boys Basketball Rankings1. (Last week 1) Salesian (Richmond) 26-3
The Pride beat El Cerrito twice to take the Tri-County Rock Athletic League regular-season title and again 65-51 to take the league postseason title. Salesian is the clear No. 1 team in NorCal, having downed Sheldon, Mitty and De La Salle this season and defeating NorCal foes 71 consecutive times. The Pride are the defending state D-IV champion. Mario Dunn
and Markel Leonard
are standouts who are flanked by an All-American candidate in Jabari Bird
. Open the playoffs against Gateway of San Francisco.2. (2) Sheldon (Sacramento) 21-5
The Huskies seek a record four-peat in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs behind four-year varsity stars
, Dakarai Allen
and Ryan Manning
and newcomer Darin Johnson
. Sheldon is the top seed in the section opposite of Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove), which it beat twice in tough games to win the Delta River League championship. Tough losses to Mitty (San Jose) and Salesian likely mean a No. 3 seed at best, should all three win section titles as expected, even though Williams and Johnson did not play in the Mitty setback early in the season. Sheldon opens section play against Bear Creek (Stockton).View the Sac-Joaquin Section boys basketball playoff brackets3. (3) Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland) 23-3
In the Hayward Athletic League championship finals, the Dragons beat Castro Valley 68-65 in a rare close encounter that could prove beneficial. Sophomore post Ivan Rabb
went for 40 points. O'Dowd is the No. 1 seed in the North Coast Section D-III playoffs with a first-round bye. The Dragons are headed for the NorCal Open tournament. O'Dowd has won 16 consecutive games and have lost only to national power Mater Dei (Santa Ana), Windward (Los Angeles) and Mundelein of Illinois.View the North Coast Section boys basketball playoff brackets4. (4) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 22-5
The Monarchs avenged a 66-59 loss to Serra (San Mateo) in the West Catholic Athletic League regular season with a 69-50 rout of the Padres to take the WCAL postseason tournament. Connor Peterson
and Aaron Gordon
led the way. Now the defending state Division II champions bound into North Coast Central playoffs as the favorite, first facing Soquel on Friday, then it'll be onto the Open Division come NorCals. Gordon stands as an all-time program great, perfectly capable of another state-title run.5. (5) Serra (San Mateo) 23-4
The Padres split with Mitty in the brutal West Catholic Athletic League down the stretch and wanted a showdown with their rivals in the WCAL postseason finals. They got it, but not the results they wanted, falling 69-50. Serra earned the No. 2 seed in the new Central Coast Section Open Division, drawing dangerous El Camino of South San Francisco in an opener. Serra would not be a NorCal Open team, based on criteria, but certainly looms as a threat to win the NorCal D-II title.6. (6) De La Salle (Concord) 23-3
The Spartans are seething a bit and plenty motivated to make a charge after drawing a surprise No. 3 seed for the North Coast Section D-I playoffs. Deer Valley (Antioch) got the No. 2 seed, in part because it beat De La Salle, but the oddity was San Leandro getting a No. 1 over the Spartans. This now means that a Deer Valley-De La Salle rematch would be in the section semifinals and not the finals. De La Salle would be a prime candidate for the NorCal Open playoffs, too, a defensive-minded group headed by Elliott Pitts
.7. (6) Modesto Christian 24-3
The Crusaders have a fresh loss and added motivation in falling Feb. 9 to Biship O'Dowd, 71-62, with a rematch possibly coming in the NorCal Open playoffs. Modesto Christian is the heavy favorite in the Sac-Joaquin Section D-III playoffs under coach Gary Porter, who has a section-record 14 section titles in various divisions, including D-I.8. (8) Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove) 20-5
The Eagles finished second to Sheldon in the Delta River League after two close losses to their rivals and earned a No. 2 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section D-I playoffs. Pleasant Grove has won a section title in football and seeks its first in this sport. It likely has to go through Sheldon to do so. Three-year starters include guards Matt Hayes
and Malik Thames
and forward Cole Nordquist
, who went for 31 points and 12 rebounds in an 84-77 loss to Sheldon.9. (9) Deer Valley (Antioch) 21-5
The Wolverines are the top seed in the North Coast Section D-I playoffs and have two anchor talents in Kentucky-bound Marcus Lee
and UNLV-bound Kendall Smith
, but the real news is the status of coach LeChet Phillips. He has been placed on leave after going into the stands to protect his wife from a scrum, he said. The school will not comment further on the matter. Early season wins include De La Salle (Concord) (55-38) and Sacramento (97-96).
10. (10) Newark Memorial 19-7
The Cougars closed out Mission Valley Athletic League with an unbeaten mark. The last two losses were to Pleasant Grove 64-57 and Deer Valley 55-54. Newark has two wins over Dublin and a one-point loss to Salesian.11. (12) Dublin 21-5
The Gales bounced back from a 9-point loss to Miramonte (Orinda) to close out the Diablo Valley League race with a win over Dougherty Valley (San Ramon). Dublin nonleague wins include Monte Vista (Danville) and Sacramento and now faces No. 15 Northgate as the No. 2 seed in the North Coast Section D-II playoffs.12. (12) Sacramento 21-6
Fresh off their sixth league title in seven seasons, Sacramento now craves its seventh Sac-Joaquin Section title and sixth since 2005 under coach Derek Swafford. The Dragons are the No. 1 seed in the D-II field. Early wins include Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove), Antelope, West Ranch (Valencia) and Chaminade (West Hills). Losses include Deer Valley, Dublin and Bishop O'Dowd.13. (13) San Leandro (San Leandro) 21-5
The Pirates placed second to Bishop O'Dowd in the West Alameda County League race and now head into the North Coast Section D-I playoffs as the top seed over No. 2 Deer Valley and No. 3 De La Salle in field that also includes dark horse Heritage (Brentwood). In addition to two losses to O'Dowd, San Leandro lost 77-72 to Sheldon early and beat Deer Valley 67-62.14. (14) Antelope 21-6
The Titans are still a young varsity program but have grown in a hurry. Coach Rob Richards has a team seeking a Sac-Joaquin Section D-II repeat and very well may have to topple Sac High to do so. The senior bangers are Gabe Bealer
and Isaiah Ellis
. Close losses include Sacramento (59-48) and Bullard (Fresno) 65-60).15. (15) Palo Alto 23-1
The Vikings have won 21 consecutive games with team defense and the skills and leadership of leading talent Aubrey Dawkins
, who scores 19 a game. Despite the hot streak, Palo Alto's league and overall schedule wasn't deemed strong enough to produce higher than a No. 5 seed in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs, where the Vikings open against No. 4 Archbishop Riordan (San Francisco) on Friday.16. (16) Monte Vista (Danville) 20-6
The Mustangs split with De La Salle in East Bay Athletic League play, proving it can compete with the best. Still, Monte Vista was none too pleased as a program with six victories over foes with 20 ore more wins earning just a No. 5 seed in the North Coast Section D-I playoffs. One of the earlier wins over over No. 1 San Leandro.
17. (17) Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 26-2
The Cardinals have won 16 consecutive games, wrapped up the North Bay League title and then won the NBL postseason tournament with a 63-55 victory over Montgomery (Santa Rosa). Newman is the No. 2 seed behind Salesian in the North Coast Section D-IV playoff field, opening with No. 15 Cloverdale on Wednesday.18. (19) McClymonds (Oakland) 17-7
Mack closed out the Oakland League with a perfect run and now opens Oakland Section play against league rival Oakland Tech on Wednesday. Tahjee Williams
, a 6-1 senior guard, averages 18.8 points and 9.8 rebounds for Mack.19. (NR) Campolindo (Moraga) 19-7
The Cougars placed second to Dublin in the competitive Diablo Foothill League standings and earned the No. 2 seed in the North Coast Section D-III playoffs, thanks in part to an earlier rout over No. 3 seed El Cerrito. Looming is No. 1 Bishop O'Dowd.20. (21) El Cerrito 20-9
The Gauchos have three losses to Salesian, two in Tri-County League action in close games and in the league tournament finals. El Cerrito opens as the No. 3 seed in the North Coast Section D-III field, with a bye, in a field that includes O'Dowd, the top seed, and No. 2 Campolindo.
21. (NR) Freedom (Oakley) 18-8
The Falcons beat Heritage twice and placed second to Deer Valley in the Bay Valley League standings and head into the North Coast Section D-I field as a dark horse, a lot that includes No. 1 San Leandro, No. 2 Deer Valley and No. 3 De La Salle. Elliot Smith
, a 6-6 junior wing, averages 15.4 points and 8.2 rebounds.22. Bella Vista (Fair Oaks) (25) 22-5
The Broncos won the Capital Valley Conference behind balance and the unsung coaching of Dave Gonzalez, whose father Paul is an assistant coach and was a decorated coach at Roseville. Bella Vista has had Sac-Joaquin Section playoff success in D-II over the years and now takes on the D-I field for the first time as the No. 3 seed behind Sacramento Bee ranked No. 1 Sheldon and No. 2 Pleasant Grove.23. (22) Enterprise (Redding) 22-3
The Hornets of the Northern Section won the Sacramento River League and open the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in D-III. They won't start play until next week. Nonleague loss of 56-49 to El Cerrito in a tournament helps the rankings cause here.24. Golden Valley (Merced) (25) 23-4
The Cougars of the Central California League now prepare for the Sac-Joaquin Section D-I postseason as the No. 4 seed in a field that includes Sheldon, Pleasant Grove and Bella Vista.25. (TIE) (21) El Camino (South San Francisco) 22-5
The Colts stormed to the Peninsula North League title and cruised through the early rounds of the Peninsula Athletic League postseason tournament before falling to Westmoor (Daly City), a team El Camino beat twice in league play. That loss and very little regard to the league dropped the Colts to a No. 7 seed in the Central Coast Section Open Division field — with an opening game against Serra (San Mateo).25. (TIE) (NR) San Benito (Hollister) 21-3
Champions of the Monterey Bay League, the Haybalers now find out just what they have. San Benito has a bye in the North Coast Section D-I playoffs as the No. 2 seed behind Bellarmine (San Jose).