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NCS/OAKLAND: By Clay Kallam | SJS: By Jim McCue   This is not a year for parity, at least in the North Coast Section....

NCS/OAKLAND: By Clay Kallam | SJS: By Jim McCue


This is not a year for parity, at least in the North Coast Section. In fact, all five of the top teams ““ Berkeley, Carondelet, Bishop O’Dowd, St. Mary’s and St. Joseph Notre Dame ““ could easily be placed in the “prohibitive favorite” category, and most likely only their division rivals would object.

The two that will probably have to work the hardest are Carondelet in Division II (but only because Dougherty Valley is experienced) and St. Joseph Notre Dame in Division V (but only because of some potential NCS road games).

Oakland, at least, should deliver plenty of suspense. It’s a three-way tie for first in the OAL, and there’s no obvious favorite, so those looking for Section-final thrills will most likely find them in Oakland. 

One can expect some similar suspense in the Sac-Joaquin Section “” in essentially every division except for Division II, which four-time defending state champion St. Mary’s-Stockton should be able to win in its sleep.

Then again, the chalk almost never holds in postseason, so it’s also likely one of the heavy NCS favorites will get knocked off ““ but which one?


Division I

North Coast Section

THE FAVORITE: If Berkeley doesn’t win the NCS title, it will be one of the biggest California postseason upsets this century. The Yellowjackets are deep, battle-tested and have the best player in the bracket in Elisha Davis.

THE BRACKETBUSTER: Deer Valley’s lack of size has contributed to the Wolverines’ inconsistency, but on any given night “¦

ONE PLAYER TO WATCH: Elisha Davis will play for Arizona next year, and if she keeps her emotions under control, will lead a deep Berkeley postseason run.

FINALS PREDICTION: Berkeley 65, Deer Valley 50

Oakland Section

THE FAVORITE: The six-team Oakland section features a three-way tie for first at press time, and barring an upset, that’s how the regular season will end. Skyline has been the most consistent, but since McClymonds has played the toughest schedule ““ and gone through a heart attack for coach Dennis Flannery and battled through injuries ““ we’ll go with the Warriors.

THE BRACKETBUSTER: Castlemont has ten losses to Skyline’s five, but the Knights challenged themselves much more in preseason “” and that could pay off during playoff pressure.

ONE PLAYER TO WATCH: Skyline’ Tiffany Rivers is an outstanding point guard with a strong ability to score the basketball. For the Titans to move on to NorCals, she’ll have to play well.

FINALS PREDICTION: McClymonds 57, Skyline 56

Sac-Joaquin Section

THE FAVORITE: Pleasant Grove-Elk Grove (19-8). Winners of 10 of their last 12 games, the Eagles enter the playoffs with confidence and big-game experience. Senior guard Marissa Wimbley (14.8 points/game) gets plenty of support from junior post players Avonna Lee and Dejza James. The top-seeded Eagles have come a long way from a young No. 11 seed in 2011.

THE BRACKETBUSTER: Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills (20-7). The No. 6-seed Trojans relied on their size to secure second place in the highly-competitive Delta River League. 6-foot-2 senior forward Lauren Sende leads a trio of players six feet or taller. Oak Ridge is no stranger to SJS titles with crowns in 2009 (Div. II) and 2010 (Div. I).

ONE PLAYER TO WATCH: Lynette Johnson (Kennedy-Sacramento). The junior forward leads Division I scorers at 19.8 point/game and adds 8 rebounds per contest. Johnson is clearly the Cougars’ number one option, and has scored in double digits in every game this season.

FINALS PREDICTION: Pleasant Grove 63, Lincoln-Stockton 48


Division II

North Coast Section

THE FAVORITE: Carondelet’s one-two backcourt punch of senior Hannah Huffman (Notre Dame) and sophomore Natalie Romeo is backed up by a bevy of solid roleplayers. It’s hard to see the Cougars losing.

THE BRACKETBUSTER: Dougherty Valley is a senior-dominated team that has played a brutal schedule, so the Wildcats aren’t going to be intimidated by Carondelet. But they’re going to have to play their best game of the year to get by the Cougars.

ONE PLAYER TO WATCH: Hannah Huffman is strong, fast, skilled and indomitable. As long as she stays out of foul trouble, she’ll control every game.

FINALS PREDICTION: Carondelet 73, Dougherty Valley 60

Sac-Joaquin Section

THE FAVORITE: St. Mary’s-Stockton (23-3). The Rams are four-time defending state champions, and have not lost to any Northern California schools this season. La Jolla Country Day is the only team from California to defeat them. St. Mary’s took an 18-game winning streak into the playoffs along with No. 19 national ranking by MaxPreps Freeman Rankings.

THE BRACKETBUSTER: River City-West Sacramento (25-2). The No. 7 seed Raiders captured the first league title in the program’s 35-year history were owners of an impressive 23-game winning streak. Senior Jordan Ligons and junior Katie King lead the team in scoring. There’s probably nobody in the bracket that can beat St. Mary’s, but  River City may have the toughness to at least get a shot at the Rams.

ONE PLAYER TO WATCH: Daija Joe-smith (Florin-Sacramento). The junior forward has dominated at both ends of the floor all season by recording 21 double-doubles. Joe-smith is among the section’s leaders in scoring (19.6 points/game) and rebounding (13.8).

FINALS PREDICTION: St. Mary’s 78, El Camino 56


Division III

North Coast Section

THE FAVORITE: Bishop O’Dowd has four players, at least, at the Pac-12 level, and in big games, girls with Division-I scholarships might not even play. The Dragons are flat loaded, and their goal isn’t the section title, but the state championship.

THE BRACKETBUSTER: Miramonte is unbeaten, and the Matadors have a bunch of three-point shooters who conceivably could get hot enough to get them past O’Dowd.

ONE PLAYER TO WATCH: Ariell Bostick runs the show for O’Dowd, and as long as the junior point guard makes good decisions, the Dragons aren’t going to lose.

FINALS PREDICTION: Bishop O’Dowd 72, Miramonte 55

Sac-Joaquin Section

THE FAVORITE: Sacramento (21-6). The Dragons suffered all of their losses consecutively at a pair of national tournaments in December. They finished the season with 17 straight wins to gain the top seed. Sacramento has not lost to an SJS team this season and is looking to play in its eighth consecutive SJS final (they won in 2007 and 2011).

THE BRACKETBUSTER: El Dorado-Placerville (18-7). The eighth-seeded Cougars are a regular playoff participant and boast a seasoned roster with eight seniors, including leading scorers Sam Reeder and Courtney Macklin. They will rely on their experience to challenge higher seeds.

ONE PLAYER TO WATCH: Jazmin Strane (Weston Ranch-Stockton). The senior forward led the No. 9 Cougars (20-7) in points (13.7 points/game) and rebounds (12.2). She has six 20-rebound game this season, including a season-high 29 against Manteca.

FINALS PREDICTION: Sacramento 72, Christian Brothers-Sacramento 59


Divison IV

North Coast Section

THE FAVORITE: St. Mary’s played in the state championship game last year, and with Gabby Green finally back from an ankle injury, there’s no reason to expect much dropoff.

THE BRACKETBUSTER: Mariya Moore is another sophomore standout, and if she goes off, Salesian might have enough to pull off the upset.

ONE PLAYER TO WATCH: All the talk is about Green, and for good reason, but senior Shannon Mauldin must rebound for St. Mary’s to reach its goals.

FINALS PREDICTION: St. Mary’s 45, Salesian 38

Sac-Joaquin Section

THE FAVORITE: Calaveras (24-3). The Redskins earned the No. 1 seed by winning 10 of their last 11 games. Senior captains Rb Ruhl, Nikki Gleason, Madison Cox, and Savannah Duncan anchor a veteran team that finished runners-up to Modesto Christian in 2011. 

THE BRACKETBUSTER: San Juan-Citrus Heights (21-6). The No. 9 Spartans have no seniors on the roster, but have plenty of offensive weapons like junior captains Rashell Casey (17.5 points/game; 8.5 rebounds) and Brandi Abercrombie (14.7 points, 10.8 rebounds). San Juan’s stingy defense allowed opponents and average of just 30.7 points.

ONE PLAYER TO WATCH: Crystal Cervantes (Venture Academy-Stockton). The senior guard led all scorers in Div. IV at 25.5 points/game, which includes a season-high 39 against Foresthill. The Mustangs (22-2) entered the postseason winners of their last 18. But with only a No. 15 seed, spectators may have to catch her playoff opener against No. 2 Colfax to witness her talents.

FINALS PREDICTION: Colfax 59, Calaveras 57


Division V

North Coast Section

THE FAVORITE: Don’t be fooled by the 10 losses “” St. Joseph Notre Dame is the heavy favorite here. The Pilots have feasted on Division V opponents, and most of their losses have come to much bigger schools.

THE BRACKETBUSTER: Sonoma Academy has only lost to St. Vincent de Paul (which they beat in the last meeting), and has beaten up on the other Division V contenders.

ONE PLAYER TO WATCH: Kate Bayes might just be good enough to carry Sonoma past St. Joseph Notre Dame “” though Pilot stars Jessica De Mesa and Desiree Harris are awfully talented as well.

FINALS PREDICTION: St. Joseph Notre Dame 46, Sonoma Academy 35

Sac-Joaquin Section

THE FAVORITE: Brookside Christian-Stockton (23-4). Sophomore Tiara Tucker leadis the all-SJS players with a 25.8 points/game scoring average. The Knights have victories over bigger programs, St. Francis-Sacramento, El Camino-Sacramento, and Deer Valley-Antioch. With four-time defending Div. V champion Bradshaw Christian now in Div. IV, the Knights are first in line to lay claim to the title.

THE BRACKETBUSTER: Sacramento Waldorf-Fair Oaks (17-9). The No. 5 Waves are led by senior guard Cara Pittman, who has scored double figures in all but three games. 

ONE PLAYER TO WATCH: Halie Bergman (Turlock Christian). The leading scorer for the Eagles (24-3) carries a 25 points/game average into the postseason, but is also recovering from a high ankle sprain that limited her in the final two games of the season. Bergman will need to be shooting on a healthy ankle to lead her team to a shot at Brookside Christian in the final. 

FINALS PREDICITION: Brookside Christian 66, Ripon Christian 59

Clay Kallam is a long time freelance writer who has specialized in girls basketball, a sport which he's coached at many levels. Currently SportStars INSIDER and "Behind the Clipboard" columnist.

Clay Kallam

Clay Kallam is a long time freelance writer who has specialized in girls basketball, a sport which he's coached at many levels.

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