You have to dig deep to find any significant changes in the Xcellent 25 this week, despite some important games over the Martin Luther King Day weekend.
Bolingbrook of Illinois faced the biggest challenge, as the defending 4A state champ faced off against the defending 3A state champ, unbeaten Montini Catholic, Monday night. In the end, though, the Raiders rolled behind big games from senior point guard Ariel Massengale
and junior forward Morgan Tuck
The final was 79-63, with Tennessee-bound Massengale collecting 20 points, six rebounds and four assists, and UConn commit Tuck adding 23 points, five rebounds and four assists. Bolingbrook, now 13-2, has lost only to No. 1 Brea-Olinda of California (in two overtimes) and No. 3 Mater Dei, also of California.
And yes, it's a good year in southern California, as Long Beach Poly is No. 3 and Troy (with a nice win over Santa Monica Monday) is at No. 17. Of course, all four of those teams will likely wind up playing in the Southern California regionals, and only one will emerge to face the Northern California Division 1 winner in the state championships March 27.
Despite the rankings, that won't be a gimme. Long Beach Poly found that out last year, getting upset by Oak Ridge, and this year, Carondelet lost to the Jackrabbits by two in the West Coast Jamboree, and Berkeley just edged the Cougars on Saturday.
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Another strong state this year is Ohio, but the Buckeye State makes it hard for teams to travel so it's more difficult to judge just where they fit.
Twinsburg jumped into the rankings at No. 18 this week thanks to a pair of nice wins at the Classic in the Country – the first over DuPont Manual of Kentucky 60-56 and the next over Myrtle Beach of South Carolina 69-42. The first game was the most significant, as Manual then turned around and beat previous No. 18 Start of Ohio 61-53.
Most Ohio rankings have Canton McKinley as the top team in the state, and usually we like to go along with the folks closest to the action, but in this case, Twinsburg also has wins over Mt. Lebanon of Pennsylvania (nationally ranked in preseason) and Marion County of Kentucky. Those intersectional wins give a little more bottom to Twinsburg's 13-0 record, in our estimation, while McKinley has only played Ohio opponents.
Luckily, the two teams will have a chance to settle it on the floor in Ohio's postseason.
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There will be a chance for a shakeup in the Xcellent 25 Saturday when Riverdale of Tennessee hosts Memphis Central, which started the season in the Top 10 but has struggled against a brutal schedule and with demanding travel. The Lady Warriors, though, can gain a measure of redemption by knocking off Riverdale Saturday afternoon and also gain some confidence for the Tennessee playoffs.
In fact, though the national rankings are fun (and we take them pretty seriously), most players and coaches are much more interested in winning a state title than being No. 8 or No. 18 in the nation – and if losing to elite teams in preseason puts a team in a better position to hang up a state title banner in the gym, it doesn't really matter how tough the schedule was, or how many losses there were along the way.
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Read about the Xcellent 25 matchup between St. John's and Our Lady of Good Counsel
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1. (1) Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.)
2. (2) Long Beach Poly (Calif.)
3. (3) Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
4. (4) Bolingbrook (Ill.)
5. (5) Spring Valley (Columbia, S.C.)
6. (6) Lake Taylor (Norfolk, Va.)
7. (7) St. John's (Washington, D.C.)
8. (8) Ben Davis (Indianapolis)
9. (9) Neptune (N.J.)
10. (10) Potter's House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.)
11. (11) Princess Anne (Virginia Beach, Va.)
12. (12) St. John-Vianney (Holmdel, N.J.)
13. (13) Riverdale (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
14. (14) Heights (Wichita, Kan.)
15. (15) Inkster (Mich.)
16. (16) Midwest City (Okla.)
17. (17) Troy (Fullerton, Calif.)
18. (nr) Twinsburg (Ohio)
19. (20) North Little Rock (Ark.)
20. (22) Shabazz (Newark, N.J.)
21. (21) Norcross (Ga.)
22. (19) Konawaena (Kealakekua, Hawaii)
23. (24) Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.)
24. (25) Archbishop Spalding (Severn, Md.)
25. (23) Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)
Dropped out: No. 18 Start