Freshman Aidan Mahaney and Campolindo battle Serra on Tuesday night for the Division II NorCal title
Ethan Kahkmahd

NorCal championship previews

March 5, 2019

With all regional championship games being played at home sites this season, expect tonight’s action to be played in packed houses. Gyms will be opened up early and quickly filled to capacity as teams battle with a weekend trip to Sacramento on the line.

Open Division: (4) Modesto Christian (27-7) vs. (2) Sheldon (23-10), 7 p.m. at Cosumnes River College

The nearby JC will host tonight’s Open Division game, rather than try to shoehorn fans into Sheldon’s gym. The Huskies got the best of Modesto Christian in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Championship, but Modesto Christian’s size and physicality poses a challenge. Yes, Sheldon has the bodies to match up with the likes of Aaron Murphy, but combining Murphy with Tsotne Tsartsidze and Alex Merkviladze makes the Crusaders a force to be reckoned with in the paint. Marcus Bagley is a star forward who made his presence felt in Saturday’s win over De La Salle, making his first postseason appearance after dealing with back injuries. Huskies guard Justin Nguyen is one of the toughest players around, but he’ll have to deal with Michael Pearson and Dathan Satchell, who’ll be receiving passes from point guard Earv Knox.

Division I: (2) Branson (31-2) @ (1) Logan (26-6), 7 p.m.

The competitive equity divisions paved the way for an entertaining contest between NCS foes on opposite ends of the enrollment spectrum. Logan is the largest school in all of Northern California, while Branson has just over 300 kids. The Bulls advanced to Tuesday’s game by beating a Moreau Catholic team that Logan had swept in the regular season for the MVAL title. Not only are the schools different in terms of size, they also play wildly different styles. The Colts are a free-flowing team with a variety of offensive weapons, including cousins Brah’Jon and Brett Thompson, while Branson focuses on Viktor Rajkovic, who has posted double-doubles in both of the Bulls’ NorCal wins. Logan averages 72.2 points per game on the year, while Branson allows a measly 38.8.

Division II: (9) Serra (20-9) @ (2) Campolindo (25-7), 7 p.m.

Just like nearby McKeon Pavilion was on Saturday when Saint Mary’s hosted Gonzaga, Campolindo’s gym should be rocking on Tuesday night. Serra has erased a disappointing end to the regular season with an impressive playoff run that includes two road victories, while the Cougars have won three home games over Sac-Joaquin Section foes. Saturday’s win over Grant was fueled by back-to-back 3-pointers by Aidan Mahaney in the fourth quarter. He wasn’t the only youngster to step up on the night, as sophomore Emmanuel Callas held his own in the post against a Pacers team with tons of size. The Padres don’t quite have the height that Grant does, but Chuck Rapp’s team loves to crash the boards and will test Callas and freshman Matt Radell on the glass.

Division III: (8) Monterey (25-4) vs. (3) University (26-9), 7 p.m. at Kezar Pavilion

In terms of past playoff success and styles of play, the Division III game will be another fascinating contrast. University has been a state tournament regular, winning the NorCal Division V title in 2015, while Monterey had never won more than one state tournament game before this season. The Toreadores push the pace behind their four-man core of Mohammed Adam, Mohanid Adam, Evans Charles and Tahjae Ordonio, who combined for 53 of their 55 points in Saturday’s win over Palo Alto. Mohammed Adam hit the game-winning 3-pointer with six seconds left in that game. University’s stars, Max Fried and Charley Moore, have been key in back-to-back double-overtime wins, but the Red Devils also have tons of depth, including sophomores Raki Cabrera-Scarlata and Ren Zanze. They can help keep the starters fresh, while Monterey will be relying heavily on seven or eight men all night.

Division IV: (6) Wood (26-7) @ (5) Immanuel (25-8), 6 p.m.

State tournament runs are nothing new for the Eagles, but in their past five appearances, they’ve yet to break the seal and reach a championship game. Playing on the Northern California side for the first time in that stretch, they have a chance to do so at home. Two years ago, they were in this position on the Southern California side but lost to Helix. Wood, on the other hand, had a five-win season in 2014-15, and despite dominating the MEL since then, hadn’t made it past the Sac-Joaquin Section Quarterfinals. It’s an unprecedented run for the Wildcats

Division V: (2) Dinuba (27-8) @ (1) Mt. Shasta (32-1), 6 p.m.

After a 7-5 record in the Central Sequoia League and 30-point loss in the Central Section Division III Championship, it would have been difficult to expect the Emperors to be on the verge of a state title appearance, but if they can emerge from Tuesday’s 418-mile trip with a win, they’ll be bound for Sacramento on Friday. Mt. Shasta is on a 27-game win streak and has met few challenges since an early December loss, but the Bears did need overtime to beat Eastside on Saturday.

Division VI: (2) Redding Christian (33-0) @ (1) Cornerstone Christian (33-2), 7 p.m.

Since there is no Division VI tournament in Southern California, Tuesday night marks the end of the line for both the Lions and the Cougars. Redding Christian has outscored opponents by an average of 31 points on the season, but finally had a close test in Saturday’s 49-47 win over Jewish Community. Cornerstone had beaten Jewish Community by 18 in the NCS Division 6 Championship, and the Cougars have won 22 straight games behind James Ebert and Ezra Hunter III.

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