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Posted On: 02/22/18 12:25 PM
Of all the divisions in San Diego CIF Basketball playoffs, Division 2 is the toughest to handicap.
Montgomery is the top seed, after notching its best season in program history. But not everyone is sold on the Aztecs as being the prohibitive favorites.
Christian has had moments throughout the year and is playing their best basketball right now.
But some feel that the division favorites might not even host a home game: No. 9 seed Francis Parker.
Prep Hoops examines the field as they enter quarterfinals play on Friday.
The second best team in the South Bay, Montgomery rattled off 23 wins against five losses on the year. The Aztecs are woefully undersized (no starter above 6-2), but they play a fast, freewheeling style and can score in a hurry. Senior point guard Timmy Crawford and diminutive junior Kyle Paranada (his 5-6 listing is generous) lead the charge. Sebastian Morgan has come into his own as a high-level shooter, Rahin Williams is a dogged defender and the fifth starter, Ze’Tiam Burton, is a solid glue guy.
Why they’ll win: Speed. The Aztecs play a trapping style that speeds up opposing ball handlers and pushes the pace in their favor.
What’s their weakness: If Montgomery has a weakness, it’s teams with functional size and its own depth. Coach Ed Martin typically doesn’t go deeper than two players off the bench, and fatigue could be a factor in close games.
The Patriots flirted with the Top 10 all season, finishing 19-8 and an impressive 11-1 in the Eastern League. Early season injuries, illness and sit outs hurt them earlier, but Davion Famber’s team turned it up after Jan. 1, going 13-2 entering Friday’s quarterfinals matchup against Oceanside. The inside-out duo of senior point guard Nashom Carter and junior forward Jackson Larsen has paced the team, and role players Isaiah Robinson, Dominic Safarta, Jordan Gaines and Christian West have been big factors in the teams’ wins.
Why they’ll win: Leadership and execution. The Patriots have one of the most seasoned point guards in the section in Nashom Carter. He has been very good this year controlling the tempo of games and winning his matchups on both ends. In addition, when the team dials in and executes Coach Davion Famber’s system, they get good shots and convert a ton of threes. But, if all else fails, Carter can create his own basket almost at will.
What’s their weakness: Despite having a front court with a 6-6 (Larsen) and 6-5 (West) player, Christian at times struggles with physicality on the boards. Both Larsen and West are long have slight frames, and teams have been able to bully them around. Defensively on the perimeter outside of Carter, too, the team has had its struggles.
The Patriots completed an impressive turnaround, going 16-10 after last year’s 9-18 finish. Led by the frontcourt duo of 6-6 junior Christian Rose and 6-7 sophomore Nakial Cross, the Knights have athleticism to spare. The supporting cast has been solid throughout the year: Senior wing Collin Douglas has been a surprise and senior guard Conrad Tempel has hit big shots. Junior point guard Marek Thomson has capably manned the team and sophomore Zach White has provided solid minutes in his reserve role. Dual sport athlete Mozes Mooney has also added a dose of athleticism on the perimeter.
Why they’ll win: Frontcourt play. Rose and Cross make life difficult for opposing teams around the rim due to their prowess as rim protectors. Rose has great timing on the block and keeps blocks in play to spring the team’s offensive attack. Cross is an explosive athlete who lives above the rim. Both are improving offensively, but their defensive contributions really make this team a threat.
What’s their weakness: Backcourt play. Thomson and White have struggled at times against teams that pressure full-court, which has led to inconsistent offensive production at times. Coach Nick Levine needs one of the two guards to be stronger with the ball in order for the Knights to make a deep playoff run.
Head Coach Kyle Smith’s squad enters the quarterfinals 18-11, an improvement on last year’s 17-13 finish. This team doesn’t have pieces that will wow you, but they are steady and execute and play with great poise. In the Wolverines signature win, a 72-70 win over Foothills Christian, the squad ran its system to perfection and guys like senior point guard Kobe Gatti, junior wing Ricardo Hopping and senior guard Ryan Gannaway hit big shots down the stretch. Adam Chang is a bouncy forward who also has a solid stroke from the perimeter.
Why they’ll win: Poise. The Wolverines really execute and can shorten a game by running their offense until they find the optimal shot, which can demoralize a defense. And with shooters like Gatti, Gannaway, Chang and Hopping, they make you pay on those possessions.
Why they’ll lose: The Wolverines rely a ton on the system, and don’t have a player who can necessarily create their own score in tight games. This could be problematic as games get more competitive down the stretch.
Parker’s position as the 9 seed is reminiscent of the 2013 Division 2 playoffs, when Lincoln was seeded No. 12 after finishing the regular season below .500 because Tyree and Tyrel Robinson missed a large portion of the year due to injury and football. The twins returned on the eve of the playoffs and propelled the Hornets to “upsets” over No. 5 Morse and No. 4 San Ysidro before falling to La Costa Canyon in the semifinals.
Parker played for most of the season without junior Max Guinn (sit out and injury) and Matt Bender (sit out), and sophomore point guard Kimo Ferrari surprisingly transferred from St. Augustine mid year. With the trio healthy and on the floor, this is as dangerous of a team in the playoffs. Bender at 6-8 gives them solid size in the middle, and Guinn provides them a big-time shooting threat alongside freshman Daryl Sledge, a knockdown shooter in his own right. And Ferrari gives them a steady hand at the point guard position on both ends.
The Pirates have one of the more underrated front courts in the region, and that is big come playoff time. Grid-hoop star Donovan Laie is a load in the paint at 6-6, 280 pounds, Emmanuel Grandison is a scrappy, tough rebounder and Dru Morgan has improved his play greatly his final year. Add sharpshooter Jacob Camargo and steady senior point guard Phil Johnson, and you can see why the Pirates are capable of stealing a win in the second round.
The lone double-digit seed left in the field, teams would be wise not to sleep on the No. 11 Titans. They have solid guard play, a bucket-getter in senior Brian Leonhardt and a doorstop in the middle in 6-6 Grant Holman (both Holman and Leonhardt are top-tier baseball players). Defensively, this team can make life difficult for teams for long stretches. If they can get consistent offense out of their back court, starting with senior Jarret Isaacson, this team is more than capable of springing another upset. Just ask Steele Canyon.