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Posted On: 02/16/18 4:40 PM
The fifth CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs – the most competitive “sectional” high school championship bracket in the country – tips off Friday night at 7 o’clock.
The field was trimmed from 16 to eight programs this season, leaving less anxiety for those of you trying to decide which game is most worthy of your time, drive and hard-earned buckets for the price of admission.
Here’s a look at each of the four matchups and why each is so enticing:
Bellflower St. John Bosco vs. Bishop Montgomery at Bishop Montgomery: The host Knights – winners of this event in 2015 and last year – are unbeaten. But a handful of close calls (two times in league against Cantwell-Sacred Heart and a Take Flight game vs. Sierra Canyon) give them an ever-so-slim veil of being “beatable”.
It’s still going to take some doing, with lineup led by seniors David Singleton (PICTURED) and Fletcher Tynen (members of both those title teams) and a whole bunch of gifted juniors.
The Braves are particularly strong in the Class of 2019 and have wins over four Open teams (Mater Dei, Crespi, Santa Margarita and Rancho Christian) on their resume.
Chatsworth Sierra Canyon vs. Rancho Christian at Temecula Valley High: Between the respective rosters, there are no worse than seven to nine future “major college” players, notably the Mobley Brothers of Rancho Christian and the likes of Ohio State-bound guard Duane Washington and junior Cassius Stanley of Sierra Canyon.
There will be a whole lot of dunks and blocked shots in this affair.
Encino Crespi at Santa Ana Mater Dei: Crespi’s 2016-17 season – coming on the heels of back-to-back state crowns – was decimated by injuries, notably to guard Brandon Williams.
But the University of Arizona-bound Williams is healthy (he missed all of last season because of a torn ACL) and there are a bunch of skilled players around him, notably fellow senior guard Taj Regans, whose 29-point effort in a regular-season finale at Harvard-Westlake helped seal the squad’s slot in the Open field.
Williams and Mater Dei’s Harvard-bound point guard Spencer Freedman are stronger contenders for Open Division Player of the Year.
Santa Margarita at Etiwanda: These programs could have met in the Dec. 30 final of the Classic at Damien Platinum Division game but the Eagles were beaten by St. Bernard in the first semifinal and Etiwanda knocked off St. John Bosco, leaving Etiwanda to beat St. Bernard in the final and Santa Margarita to beat another future Open team, St. John Bosco, for third place.
Etiwanda (with only a Dec. 2 loss to yet another Open team, Rancho Christian, spoiling what would have been a perfect record) will counter the Eagles’ overall huge edge in size with 6-foot-7 Kessler Edwards, yet another Open Division Player of the Year candidate.