And then there were 48. That’s how many high school basketball teams continued practice schedules this week with dreams of a state title. That majority of that number gets cut in half on March 18 as 24 boys teams and 24 girls will attempt to take the last step to the state finals — which take place March 25-26 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. We’ll have preview glances for each of the regional championship games taking place in Northern and Southern California this Saturday. First up, the NorCal girls.
Here’s the rollout plan:
CIF Girls Basketball Northern Regional Championship Matchups
MATCHUP: No. 1 Archbishop Mitty (27-2) vs. No. 7 Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa (30-3), 6 p.m. at Santa Clara University
HISTORY: With six state and 11 regional titles under longtime coach Sue Phillips, Archbishop Mitty is familiar with the NorCal stage. But, this will be the Monarchs’ first trip to the regional final as part of an Open Division that is in its fifth year of existence. Cardinal Newman is making its second-straight NorCal appearance after head coach Monica Mertle’s bunch made a storybook run to the D-IV state title in 2016.
MITTY KEY TO VICTORY: Score the basketball. Averaging 85 points per game in two NorCal playoff games, the Monarchs have the firepower to get up and down with anybody. Senior Madeline Holland scored 24 to lead the way against St. Mary’s-Stockton, but with four players averaging over seven PPG, there won’t be a shortage of options if the game becomes a track meet.
CARDINAL NEWMAN KEY TO VICTORY: Defend to contend. Wins over No. 2 Carondelet and No. 3 Pinewood have seen the Cardinals use their familiar defensive foundation to take a No. 7 seed all the way to the final. Last year, Cardinal Newman allowed just 32 points in the NorCal final and 37 in its state title win. Keep that defensive intensity up and the Cardinals will be right in the mix come crunch time.
PREDICTION: Archbishop Mitty 71, Cardinal Newman 60
MATCHUP: No. 2 McClatchy-Sacramento (30-4) vs. No. 4 Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills (23-10), 2 p.m. at Santa Clara University
HISTORY: Two Sacramento-area powers are set for a rematch of the 2015 NorCal Div. I final that the Lions won 58-49 on their way to a state title. It will be the fourth NorCal finals appearance in the last eight years for the Trojans, who also captured a state championship in 2010. And, the meeting will be the third of the season for the two teams with McClatchy already owning a pair of wins.
MCCLATCHY KEY TO VICTORY: Play like veterans. With six seniors on the roster, the Lions have no shortage of experience to call on in the clutch. Utah-commit Jordan Cruz leads the way as the senior scored a game-high 22 points in a semifinal win over Heritage-Brentwood. Fellow seniors Courtesy Clark and Sara Shimizu will also play a big role when it comes to perimeter defense.
OAK RIDGE KEY TO VICTORY: Play big. The Trojans boast four players over 6-feet tall and when they met the Lions in the Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals, that translated to a 52-30 advantage on the boards. Juniors Kassidy DeLapp and Shayley Harris are both highly touted recruits, and if they can impose themselves down low, Oak Ridge should be in good shape.
PREDICTION: McClatchy 60, Oak Ridge 56