Open Division thoughts, analysis, predictions

High School
Southern California

Posted On: 02/12/18 3:45 PM

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more competitive high school basketball playoff model than that of the CIF Southern Section Open Division.

The eight team bracket selected Saturday features the best teams in all of Southern California to compete against one-another in what will surely be a number of cant-miss games.

The participants and match-ups are as follows:

1 Bishop Montgomery (25-0)

8 St. John Bosco (21-6)

5 Sierra Canyon (21-3)

4 Rancho Christian (26-2)

3 Mater Dei (20-6)

6 Crespi (25-2)

7 Santa Margarita (20-6)

2 Etiwanda (27-1)

The Favorites

Bishop Montgomery enters the field undefeated and one of the more well-balanced teams we’ve seen in quite some time, but one of the more important aspects of Bishop’s bid for a consecutive Open Division title is it is back to full health. UCLA signee David Singleton is still playing as a masked man after a nose injury and top junior point guard Gianni Hunt is back to full minutes after an ankle/foot injury. Other crucial factors for the Knights will be the performances of its role players. Fletcher Tynen is one of the more versatile players in the area, Josh Vazquez is one of the more underrated guards in SoCal, Oscar Lopez brings skill, IQ and toughness and Will Crawford is healthy again.

The No. 2-seed, Etiwanda, is kind of the anti-powerhouse type of team. The Eagles have one Division I commit at this time in Pepperdine-bound forward Kessler Edwards, but their overall depth and commitment to the defensive side of the ball is the reason why they’ve only lost one game this season. Senior Elijah Harkless has emerged as one of the better two-way players in SoCal, while guards Krystian Wilson, Toby Okwuokei, Dylan Gaines, Matthew Essien and Camren Pierce form a balanced, gritty and tough defensive unit led by coach Dave Kleckner.

The Darkhorses

One of the teams I believe could be primed for an upset is Crespi over Mater Dei – as long as star guard Brandon Williams is healthy. Both the Monarchs and Celts are known for their attention to detail when it comes to executing game plans on both sides of the floor, but the Arizona-bound Williams has the explosive scoring ability and pure confidence to take over this game and will Crespi to victory.

Can talented Crespi guard Brandon Williams lead an upset of Mater Dei?

Many people, including myself, believed that St. John Bosco would be the odd team out when it came down to selection day. Both the Braves and Oak Park were on the fringe, but when all was said and done, Bosco’s resume, complete with wins over four Open participants — Mater Dei, Santa Margarita, Crespi and Rancho Christian — was better than Oak Park’s. The Braves are extremely well-coached by Matt Dunn, they play hard for 32 minutes and have a deep and talented roster. Bosco has been living and dying by the 3-point shot all season long, and if they get hot Friday, there could be a huge upset on tap.

Predictions

First round: Bishop Montgomery over St. John Bosco; Sierra Canyon over Rancho Christian; Mater Dei over Crespi; Etiwanda over Santa Margarita

Semifinals: Bishop Montgomery over Sierra Canyon; Etiwanda over Mater Dei

Finals: Etiwanda over Bishop Montgomery