Posted On: 03/7/18 12:45 PM
The CIF State playoff brackets were released Sunday afternoon with plenty of intriguing games set across all divisions. Division I, comprised of 31 total teams — due to top-seed St. John Bosco having a first-round bye — across the entire state of California, begins Wednesday and here’s a look at each match-up in the Southern Region of that bracket.
8 El Camino Real (20-14) vs. 9 Long Beach Poly (22-8)
Outlook: This is a classic City Section vs. Southern Section match-up that is actually a rematch of December 6 game at the Sax Elliot Tournament at Beverly Hills. The Jackrabbits won that game, 67-63. Poly will have to focus its defense on stopping ECR senior Eddy Egun, one of the top unsigned seniors remaining in SoCal. Egun scored 29 points against the Jackrabbits in that losing effort earlier this season, but Poly, especially guards Darryl Polk, Jr. and Malik Salahuddin, is operating far better now than they were in November and December.
Prediction: Long Beach Poly over El Camino Real
5 Santa Margarita (20-9) vs. 12 Rancho Verde (22-10)
Outlook: Santa Margarita’s successes and strengths have been well-documented this season and they begin with junior forwards Jake Kyman and Max Agbonkpolo. That versatile duo has been consistently producing on the offensive end and they’ll need to continue to do that against one of the best team defensive squads in SoCal. Rancho Verde has the size, length, athleticism and guard-play to cause some problems for the Eagles. Jaxen Turner is a tough and physical point guard, while Darryl Payton is hitting triples at a good clip and Tory San Antonio is breaking out as a potential Division I prospect. The x-factors for Santa Margarita will be Jordan Guest and Shengzhe Li. The Mustangs don’t have a true interior presence to deal with the size and physicality of those two.
Prediction: Santa Margarita over Rancho Verde
4 Rancho Christian (27-4) vs. 13 Vista (23-8)
Outlook: Both the Eagles and Panthers drop down to Division I after competing in the Open Division in their respective sections. Rancho Christian has the clear size advantage with the presence of the Mobley brothers, Isaiah Mobley at 6-9 and Evan Mobley at 6-10. But if there is a smaller team that can speed things up and make the game interesting, it’s Vista. Taurus Samuels and Isaiah Morris are two of the better guards in San Diego. Both are tough and high IQ decision makers. If Vista is to score an upset like it did last season against Santa Margarita, it has to shoot it well from 3-point range.
Prediction: Rancho Christian over Vista
3 Crespi (26-4) vs. 14 Bakersfield (21-8)
Outlook: You’re guaranteed to get two things when you play the Celts and those are defense and execution. Brandon Williams, Taj Regans and Kyle Owens are a formidable trio at any level of high school play and if Williams gets it rolling offensively, it could be a long night for the Drillers. Bakersfield will need to do one of two things to stay in this game either force Williams into a high-volume scoring night, or limit Regans and Owens output as much as possible. Both will be tough tasks.
Prediction: Crespi over Bakersfield
6 Chino Hills (22-11) vs. 11 Mater Dei Catholic (SD) (24-7)
Outlook: Is there any better 6-seed in the entire CIF State playoffs better than Chino Hills? Probably not. Onyeka Okongwu displayed his pure dominance in the Huskies’ Division I title win over Pasadena Saturday, scoring 38 points while pulling down 16 rebounds. Chino Hills coach Dennis Latimore has his team hammering the ball into the paint to Okongwu this season because there really isn’t anyone who can match-up with him. Expect a similar fate for the Crusaders as their biggest player, 6-7 Trey Anderson, is a perimeter oriented player.
Prediction: Chino Hills over Mater Dei Catholic
7 Pasadena (23-8) vs. 10 Narbonne (23-8)
Outlook: The Bulldogs have all the athleticism and scoring ability needed in Bryce Hamilton, Darius Brown II and Tavian Percy, but this could come down to the defensive end. Pasadena plays an active 2-2-1 full-court trapping type of defense, while Narbonne coach Anthony Hilliard is well-known for his traditional man-to-man scheme. If there’s one team with the personnel to slow down Pasadena’s Hamilton, it’s the Gauchos with Kendall Frey as its defensive stalwart.
Prediction: Pasadena over Narbonne
2 Torrey Pines (28-3) vs. 15 Taft (26-9)
Outlook: This could come down to which team has the best player on the floor and I’m thinking it’s Taft. Torrey doesn’t really have a guy to stop Virginia-bound point guard Kihei Clark and if Clark is in attack mode offensively from the outset, the Toreadors could come away with one of the biggest seeding upsets of the first round. The Falcons have a solid guard duo of their own in senior Finn Sullivan (18.5 points per game) and junior Bryce Pope (22.1 ppg).
Prediction: Taft over Torrey Pines