CIF State Playoff Breakdown: Open Division

High School
Southern California

Posted On: 03/6/18 9:30 AM

The CIF State playoff brackets were released Sunday afternoon with plenty of intriguing games set across all divisions. The Open Division, comprised of 16 total teams across the entire state of California, begins Friday and here’s a look at each match-up in the Southern Region of the Open.

1 Mater Dei (23-6) vs. 8 Fairfax (22-9)

How Mater Dei got here: The Monarchs defeated Crespi and Etiwanda before taking down Sierra Canyon, 55-53, in the Southern Section Open final to earn the top seed in the state Southern Regional Final.

How Fairfax got here: The Lions beat El Camino Real and Taft before dropping the Los Angeles City Section title game to Westchester, 63-53.

How Mater Dei wins: Continue to execute to a “T.” The Monarchs outlasted Sierra Canyon last Friday despite losing Mike Wang, one of their best players, after Wang fouled up with more than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Spencer Freedman made big plays as he always does and sophomore Aidan Prukop hit momentum-changing 3-pointer and a free throw in crunch time. Mater Dei is machine-like in the way it runs its stuff and it seems like they can plug anyone in at this point.

How Fairfax wins: Try and turn Mater Dei over and take advantage of those mistakes on the other end. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but speeding up the Monarchs, forcing them into taking bad shots and turnovers is really the way to beat them. Fairfax has the guards to match-up with Mater Dei in Jamal Hartwell, Ethan Anderson and Robert McRae, but can they balance being dynamic playmakers on the defensive end while also being effective in a team defensive scheme?

Prediction: Mater Dei over Fairfax

4 Westchester (30-5) vs. 5 Etiwanda (28-3)

How Westchester got here: The Comets beat Birmingham, Granada Hills, then Fairfax in the Los Angeles City Section Open Division final.

How Etiwanda got here: The Eagles defeated Santa Margarita in the first round of the Southern Section Open Division playoffs before falling to Mater Dei in the semifinals and Bishop Montgomery in the third-place game.

How Westchester wins: Expose the advantage inside. The Comets have the size advantage in this one, both in height and in girth. Kaelen Allen, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound forward, is one of the better interior players in SoCal and Etiwanda doesn’t have a big to match-up with him in the paint. Fellow big men Maurice Tutt (6-4, 215) and Kaveon Batiste (6-7, 190) will also be tough covers for the guard-oriented Eagles.

How Etiwanda wins: Push the pace. The Eagles must wear down the above-mentioned Allen and Tutt and they’ll do that with their speed and defensive intensity and awareness. This year’s version of the Comets prefers to grind things out in the half-court by featuring Allen on the block and Etiwanda needs to use its speed and transition prowess to its advantage.

Prediction: Westchester over Etiwanda

3 Bishop Montgomery (27-1) vs. 6 Mission Bay (27-5)

Boogie Ellis will have to be clicking on all cylinders for Mission Bay to upend Bishop Montgomery.

How Bishop Montgomery got here: The Knights upended St. John Bosco before dropping a dramatic double overtime decision to Sierra Canyon in the Southern Section Open Division semifinals. Bishop then beat Etiwanda, 65-51, in the third-place game.

How Mission Bay got here: The Bucs beat Vista and Torrey Pines before taking down Foothills Christian, 52-42, in the San Diego Section Open Division championship.

How Bishop Montgomery wins: Stay hungry and focused. Is there any truth that it’s better for an undefeated team to get a loss out of the way before chasing its true goal? If there is, Bishop Montgomery has all the mojo working in its favor. The Knights looked sharp on both ends against Etiwanda after falling to Sierra Canyon and have the requisite pieces — Gianni Hunt, David Singleton, Fletcher Tynen and Josh Vazquez — to repeat as State Open Division champs.

How Mission Bay wins: Get a huge night from Boogie Ellis. It’s a heck of a haul from Mission Bay to Torrance on a Friday, no less, and the Bucs talented junior point guard will need to get off the bus ready for battle. Bishop is one of the best defensive teams in the state and its coach, Doug Mitchell, will certainly have a game plan in-place to stop the electric Ellis. Boogie has the explosive scoring ability and moxie to keep Mission Bay in this game.

Prediction: Bishop Montgomery over Mission Bay

2 Sierra Canyon (23-4) vs. 7 Foothills Christian (26-6)

How Sierra Canyon got here: The Trailblazers defeated Rancho Christian and Bishop Montgomery before falling to Mater Dei, 55-53, in the Southern Section Open Division championship.

How Foothills Christian got here: The Knights downed St. Augustine and Mater Dei Catholic before losing to Mission Bay, 52-42 in the San Diego Section Open Division finals.

How Sierra Canyon wins: Keep playing the way it has been so far in the postseason. The Trailblazers have come together to form a cohesive unit due in large-part to the play of K.J. Martin and Duane Washington, Jr. Both Martin and Washington have been impressive two-way players throughout the playoffs and everyone who has seen Sierra Canyon knows what the rest of that talented core brings to the court.

How Foothills Christian wins: Play a near perfect game? The Knights are in flux after losing their best player, Taeshon Cherry, a 6-foot-8 forward committed to Arizona State, to disciplinary action (?). Cherry announced on twitter he was no longer playing high school basketball just days before Foothills took on Mission Bay in the Open finals. Foothills isn’t void of talent, however, as guards Jaren Nafarette, Yassine Gharram and Derrick Carter-Hollinger are all capable scorers and defenders, but not having the inside-out presence of Cherry will hurt them

Prediction: Sierra Canyon over Foothills Christian