In Southern California, all eyes with an interest in basketball will be focused on the Galen Center, home of USC, and Colony High in Ontario, where the Southern California Regional Basketball Championships will determine who represents the region next week for a state title.
There are two outstanding matchups with major national implications, the Mater Dei versus Westchester boys game, and the Brea Olinda versus Mater Dei girls game. No doubt about it, Mater Dei has had a heck of a year, but in both cases, the Monarchs will be trying to dethrone the defending state champion.
Nobody said it would be easy.
Here's a look at the Regionals:
At the Galen Center
Boys, Division I: Mater Dei (Santa Ana) vs. Westchester (Los Angeles), 8 p.m
The grandaddy of boys games this week, the debate will finally be be answered between the Southern and City section's best teams. The heart of the "who's better" argument centers on strength of schedule: Westchester's was considered to be tougher, hence the three losses. After its first-round victory in the regionals, Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight mused that his team was "barely in the top 10" at the beginning of the season and "if you think they're better than us, rank them ahead of us."
So far, no one has. Mater Dei (32-1) is No. 7 in the Xcellent 25, Westchester (30-3) No. 11, and across the board Mater Dei and Westchester are ranked 1-2 in the state. Both have recent victories over Taft (Woodland Hills): Mater Dei beat the Toreadors on Saturday, 75-73, and Westchester beat them a week earlier, 70-60, for the second time.
Mater Dei is led by three players destined for the Pac-10, Tyler Lamb (UCLA), Keala King (Arizona State) and Gary Franklin (California). The Monarchs are great in transition, but that doesn't figure to be anything that Westchester can't answer. The Comets have a tough man-to-man defense and have relied on Jordin Mayes (Arizona), Dwayne Polee Jr., and Reggie Murphy the way Mater Dei has relied on its Big 3. Performance of those other players on the court will probably determine the winner, and the mere fact that Westchester played its City Section final at the Galen Center might be the difference; the familiarity could prove crucial.
Girls, Division I: Poly (Long Beach) vs. Clovis West (Fresno), 6 p.m.
Poly (30-2) is trying to win a fifth consecutive state title. Since losing back-to-back games to Mater Dei and Brea Olinda, the Jackrabbits have won 23 in a row, including an 81-50 victory over Stockdale (Bakersfield) on March 11. Clovis West (27-4) beat Stockdale twice, on March 6 in the Central Section finals, 66-38, and also 67-34 on Dec. 5. Poly is led by Brittany Wilson (Colorado), Sheila Boykin (UNLV) and Thaddesia Southall (USC), and though their numbers don't collectively add up to much – a combined 22 points – depth has always been the Jackrabbits' primary advantage.
Clovis West has won 12 section titles in 20 years. The Golden Eagles have won 19 in a row, and got 39 points from point guard Brianna Orlich (Columbia) in a 61-57 victory over Santa Monica in the semifinals. Orlich is capably complemented at guard by junior Katie Ogdon, and they also have 6-foot-3 Janae Coffee (Long Beach State) underneath, which could be a concern for Poly, which is ranked No. 5 in the Xcellent 25.
Boys, Division II: Compton vs. Lincoln (San Diego), 4 p.m.
What's so scary about Compton (21-14)? The fifth-seeded Tarbabes' 64-61 upset of the defending state champion at Eisenhower (Rialto) makes those 14 losses irrelevant. A difficult schedule, and playing in the same league as Long Beach Poly will make you tough. Compton was seeded seventh in the CIF-Southern Section Division II-AA tournament but lost to Murrieta Valley in the finals.
It has a trio of players averaging in double figures, 6-5 Cliff Sims Jr. (17 points), 6-7 sophomore Anthony January (14 points) and 5-9 junior guard Allan Guei (15 points). Six days after Lincoln (27-2) upset San Diego Hoover, 58-51, for the San Diego Section Division II title, Compton won at Hoover, 69-53, in the second round of the Regionals. Second-seeded Lincoln is led by Norman Powell (19.3 points) and 6-6 Victor Dean (14.3 points). The Hornets have averaged 42 percent from the field and 72 points per game; Powell was 12-of-14 shooting in an 81-45 victory over Pasadena.
Girls, Division II: Brea Olinda vs. Mater Dei (Santa Ana), 2 p.m.
As big as Mater Dei-Westchester is in boys, this matchup between Brea (32-2) and Mater Dei (30-1) is even bigger among girls. Mater Dei has lost only twice in the last two seasons – both times to Brea, both times while undefeated, both times while ranked No. 1 in the nation. If a team was ever inside Mater Dei's head, Brea was that team. That is, until Brea point guard Alexis Perry tore her ACL, MCL and meniscus in the Regional quarterfinals. It's a devastating blow to top-seeded Brea, which is ranked No. 2 in the Xcellent 25, because one must be able to break Mater Dei's press in order to beat the second-seeded Monarchs, who are ranked No. 3 nationally.
Kelsey Harris (Iowa State), Jeanier Olukemi and Keitra Wallace will still put up a formidable battle, but they slip from favored status to underdogs. Mater Dei junior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Connecticut) and sophomore Jordan Adams are two of the nation's best players in their class level, and if there was ever a time for them to step up, this is it. Despite Perry's absence, coach Jeff Sink will probably have a creative solution and the Ladycats will probably make it closer than most expect if they don't outright win it.
Prediction: Mater Dei.
Boys, Division III: Serra (Gardena) vs. Centennial (Compton), noon
Perhaps more than any team in the Southland, top-seeded Serra (32-2) seems to be playing with a sense of purpose. Vaughn Autry's father died shortly before the playoffs; the Cavaliers dedicated the playoffs to Stephen Autry's memory and haven't let down yet. This is a rematch of the Southern Section III-AA final won by Serra, 62-58. Serra is ranked No. 3 in the state and is led by guards Autry and Keith Shamburger.
Third-seeded Centennial (28-6) is ranked No. 11 in the state and counters with outstanding scoring guard Deonte Burton, who scored 34 in an 83-77 victory over Cerritos Gahr in the semifinals. It's hard to go against a team with purpose.
Girls, Division III: Bishop Amat (La Puente) vs. Inglewood, 10 a.m.
Bishop Amat (26-7) is the only unseeded team in the girls tournament, but it was beaten 63-48 by third-seeded Inglewood (29-5) in the Southern Section III-AA semifinals. Bishop Amat has reached the state finals four times, but Arielle Wideman (Nevada Reno) is the only holdover from the 2007 team. Leticia Galarza will probably need another big game underneath like the one she had in an upset of top-seeded Santa Margarita if the Lancers are to have any chance. Inglewood, which reached last year's state finals, is led by Hazel Ramirez (12.6 points) and 6-1 junior forward DeAjanae Scurry (10.5 points), who scored 35 in an 85-60 victory at second-seeded Mount Miguel (Spring Valley).
At Colony (Ontario) High
Boys, Division IV: Price (Los Angeles) (31-3) vs. Parker (San Diego) (20-9), 7 p.m.
It's hard to imagine a team with Allen Crabbe (Cal) and Richard Solomon (Cal) losing, and with a D-1 point guard in Casey Trujeque (Montana State), it's unlikely to happen here. The three losses by Price (31-3) are by a combined eight points, which is fewer points than the total number of defeats by Parker (20-9). Still, Price's 59-51 victory over Pacific Hills (Los Angeles) was the second-worst scoring night of the season; the worst was a 43-42 loss to Newark Memorial, which is playing for the Division I title in Northern California. Another loss was to Serra, which is playing for the Division III SoCal title.
Girls, Division IV: Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood) vs. Bishop Montgomery (Torrance), 5 p.m.
Harvard-Westlake (32-1) is ranked No. 13 nationally in the MaxPreps Freeman Rating. The top-seeded Wolverines are led by a pair of seniors, Princeton-bound forward Nicole Hung (17 points) and UC Santa Barbara-bound guard Nicole Nesbit (15 points), who scored 16 apiece in the Southern Section IV-AA finals, a 58-54 victory over Bishop Montgomery (29-7). Key to that game was a 17-10 scoring advantage in the third quarter. The third-seeded Knights are led by sophomore Devon Brookshire (12.7 points) and Kristen Ale (10.4), who have had big playoff performances, especially Ale when the chips are down. An upset wouldn't be surprising.
Boys, Division V: Windward (Los Angeles) vs. Lutheran (La Verne), 3 p.m.
La Verne Lutheran (26-8) defeated Windward (26-8) in the first game of the season, 62-61, after outscoring the Wildcats in the fourth quarter, 18-10. Second-seeded Lutheran is led by 6-8 sophomore Grant Jerrett (18.8 points, 10.4 rebounds) and junior point guard C.J. Cooper (15.7 points, 6.1 assists). Fourth-seeded Windward has only one player, 6-5 junior Wesley Saunders (22.9 points, 10.7 rebounds), averaging double-figure scoring; next closest it Nicholas Stover (7.9). That's not the kind of balance most teams are looking for, but it has gotten Windward this far.
Girls, Division V: St. Anthony (Long Beach) vs. Montclair Prep (Van Nuys), 1 p.m.
James Anderson coached Narbonne (Harbor City) to three state championship games, and now is one victory from coaching tiny St. Anthony (24-9) to the state final. This is a rematch of St. Anthony's 57-47 victory in the Southern Section V-A championship, in which the Saints opened up a 26-15 halftime lead. Chantel Dooley (16.4 points) and Kimberly Scamman (13.0) lead third-seeded Montclair Prep (24-7) in scoring, while top-seeded St. Anthony answers with 6-3 freshman Kendall Cooper (11.1 points, 8.7 rebounds).
Prediction: St. Anthony.
Martin Henderson began covering Southland preps in 1993 for the Los Angeles Times. He contributes to the Orange County Register, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and San Bernardino Sun, and offers up motorsports opinions at Racescribe.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.