There is no question the Central Coast Section is likely going to boil down to Archbishop Mitty and Pinewood for the Open Division championship but that is a long ways off.
In the meantime not only do those two schools have to navigate through a tough season but there are six other teams returning from the 2017 Open Division that likely won’t change much when this year’s bracket is announced. That means the first eight of the 10 teams highlighted will be last year’s Open participants.
As for the top players it’s much the same with a few exceptions. The top players are concentrated on Mitty and Pinewood, with Mitty having the top two themselves, with some arguing they have the top three. Most of the rest of the top players are from the other Open Division teams and there’s just no way around it unlike the North Coast Section. In the NCS there are more teams and a bigger geographical area so that produces several pockets of top-notch players since they are yet to go to an Open Division.
One final note and that is this is not a preseason preview and takes into account what has happened to start the season.
With that having been said here is the Prep2Prep take on the who’s who in the Central Coast Section in girls basketball this year.
10 TEAMS TO WATCH (in alphabetical order):
The defending CCS Open Division champions and CIF Northern Regional Open Division champions and Maxpreps national No. 4 and Cal-Hi Sports and Maxpreps state No. 2 ranked Monarchs are a hands down favorite to repeat as CCS Open champs. The top player for Coach Sue Phillips is junior Haley Jones, Phillips’ No. 2 returner is Penn State-bound guard Karisma Ortiz. Two other key contributors that return are San Diego-bound 6-2 post Nicole Blakes, and Westmont College-bound guard Krissy Miyahara. Phillips is always preparing for March and not November and the formula has worked in the past as her teams have appeared in 12 state title games and have won six to go with 26 CIF Central Coast Section championships. So far this season Mitty is 4-0 but they had a tussle with Sacramento in a 66-57 road victory. Mitty has a game with McClatchy this weekend before heading to the Nike TOC as the No. 3 seed and then heading to the West Coast Jamboree where Phillips and here girls are the top team in Platinum Division which is the Jamboree’s top bracket.
Eastside College Prep
After the No. 7 seed lost to Sacred Heart Cathedral and then in the consolation side to St. Ignatius in the CCS Open Division last season the Panthers were sent back to Division V for the CIF playoffs where they rolled to a second straight D5 state title that culminated in a 63-40 title-game victory over Rolling Hills Prep-San Pedro. The good news for Coach Donovan Blythe is he returns everyone but whether or not that will be enough to make a mark in the CCS Open Division this season is questionable after a 3-2 start that includes losses to NCS top powers Heritage and Cardinal Newman. Prior to hosting their Coaches vs. Cancer tournament Eastside faces St. Francis in the Presentation Shootout and then Miramonte.
Some people might not remember that Menlo alum, former Stanford and 49ers quarterback, and Knights Coach John Paye won three-straight state titles from 1989-1991 in his first stint at the helm of his alma mater and with his sister Kate Payne, who went on to her own fame and is now the Associate Head Coach at Stanford, as the star. The history is there but whether or not this team will rise to that level is still a question. Right now they’re in the top 10 for two reasons. They’re 5-0 and they won the Marin Catholic Ladycat tournament with a 67-65 win over St. Ignatius. Senior Mallory North is Paye’s top player but a girl to look for is freshman Avery Lee. Menlo is one of the two teams that were not in the Open Division last year. The top seed in Division IV was upset in the semis by Half Moon Bay.
The Bears and fourth-year Coach Makisha Coleman have taken their lumps in the early season but it’s been against solid competition such as CIF Open Division champion Clovis West in the Elite Showcase at Laney College and host Cardinal Newman at its tournament. They also have a close loss to St. Francis at the Elite Classic that will set them behind the Lancers in the forthcoming Prep2Prep CCS rankings. Although she doesn’t make the top 10 players to watch senior 6-1 post Greer Hoyem is a solid inside force.
The Panthers won the La Jolla Country Day Sweet 16 tournament but they do have a 53-51 loss to NCS power Salesian although they bounced back to trounce Bishop O’Dowd by 28 points. Going into a matchup with Cardinal Newman this weekend Coach Doc Scheppler and his girls are still No. 4 and right behind Salesian in the Cal-Hi Sports rankings. After playing Newman on the road they are in the St. Francis Holiday Tournament. The Panthers are young with Briana Claros the only senior on the roster so they should markedly improve as the season goes on, particularly the freshmen trio of 6-0 post Olivia Williams and guards Courtney Thompson and Annika Decker, plus fourth freshman Una Jovanovic.
Sacred Heart Cathedral
There is no way to replace IImar’I Thomas now that she has departed for Cincinnati but that didn’t stop Coach LyRyan Russell from scheduling just like he did when she wore a Fightin’ Irish jersey. The result is they are 0-2 going into a game this weekend with NCS power Carondelet at the Presentation Shootout but the losses were to Cal-Hi Sports No. 1 St. Mary’s-Stockton and by 10 points on the road in Fresno at defending CIF Open Division champion Clovis West. The good news for Russell and the Irish faithful is they have a lot of returners that were contributors last year that likely will start to blossom, including seniors Aliyah Arcillas, Errayanna Hatfield, and junior Talo Li-Uperesa.
First-year Coach Sami Polisso takes the helm after five solid years at Los Gatos, and the former Pinewood star that’s used to winning has the Lancers off to a 7-0 start with a win this week over Marin Catholic. They have a win over Menlo-Atherton but a Saturday matchup at Eastside College Prep that precedes their Joe Schram Classic after Christmas will say a lot about whether they are for real. The guard duo of senior Lydia Foust and junior Paige Uyehara are the Lancers top players.
The Wildcats have had a reasonable start since despite a loss to Menlo School in the championship game of the Marin Catholic tournament they have a win over a Pleasant Valley team at the Roseville tournament that has a win over a state-ranked Folsom. A matchup with Bishop O’Dowd at the Presentation Shootout this weekend could be interesting. The Wildcats are also in the Opal Division of the West Coast Jamboree. The top players are senior Alyssa Downs and Georgia Madden and sophomore Rachel Harvey.
South San Francisco
If this had been a preseason preview the South City girls might not have been in the mix. As it is this spot could have gone to a Presentation team that also has an unblemished record at this point. The reason the Warriors won out is they have a win over Woodside Priory and that team has a win over Menlo-Atherton. When the first CCS rankings come out next week where they will be ranked will depend a lot on how they do when the meet Presentation Shootout hosts on Saturday. Smooth senior guard Brittney Cedeno leads a team that went 24-5 last year including a win over Eastside Prep before the CCS D3 top seed was upset in the semis by Aptos. Two other players to look for are seniors Jerlene Miller and Nevaeh Miller.
The Warriors girls have had a rough start but they have played a tough schedule and don’t have a bad loss, and they own a win over perennial Sac-Joaquin Section power Oak Ridge. Looking ahead they have a very interesting matchup this Saturday when they meet Woodside Priory at the Presentation Shootout. From there they go to the Notre Dame-Belmont tournament. Three players to look for are the senior duo of Trinity Stark and Lizzie Moore, and junior Nyah Willis.
10 PLAYERS TO WATCH (in alphabetical order):
Klara Astrom, Pinewood
The 5-9 junior may be the shortest player on a top-notch team to play the post but she is unafraid to ix it up down low and hasn’t been even as a freshman starter. Last season she averaged 12.3 points and 7.3 rebounds a game and in seven games so far this season she’s at a team-leading 16.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.9 steals per game.
Nicole Blakes, Archbishop Mitty
Based on recruiting it could be argued that with the 6-2 University of San Diego-bound post is the No. 3 player in the Central Coast Section behind teammates Haley Jones and Karisma Osborne. The San Diego coaches that watched her during the NCAA viewing period felt her game is improving. The stats would bear that out since last season she averaged 4.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game but after four games this seasons her per game averages are 16.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and even 3.0 assists.
Brittney Cedeno, South San Francisco
The two-time Peninsula Athletic League Division MVP and smooth, slashing senior guard will be taking her game to newly D1 anointed Cal Baptist as the first girl from South City to go directly to a D1 school in 35 years but before then she will be looking to lead a Warriors team that only lost two seniors to a third straight appearance in the playoffs with what the South San Francisco faithful hope is a better ending than last season’s upset in the D3 semis.
Briana Claros, Pinewood
The heart and soul of the Panthers and the floor general does not have the flashy numbers that some of the 10 players to watch have but she is the engine that makes the Pinewood machine run, and defense is the name of her game as well. Last season she finished at 11.2 points and 3.9 assists per game and so far this season she’s averaging 9.7 points and 4.1 assists per game.
Lydia Foust, St. Francis
Playing for a new coach as a senior and being expected to provide leadership when the top two scorers from last season graduated isn’t always easy but this 5-5 guard is doing it. Last season she averaged 7.8 points, 2.1 assists and 2.1 steals a game. In a 7-0 start this season she leads the team in scoring at 14.0 a game and also has 3.8 rebounds and two each assists and steals to with the points.
Haley Jones, Archbishop Mitty
The top player hands down in the CCS is this junior 6-1 Cal-Hi Sports State Sophomore of the Year and Ms. Basketball Player of the Year finalist who got very high marks from the college coaches during the NCAA viewing period. Last season, Jones led Mitty in points with 15.3 and rebounds at 8.2 per game and her numbers are better to start this season. The Class of 2019 ESPNW No. 1 wing and No. 5 ranked player in the nation overall does not have her college offers posted but according to very reliable sources everyone in the nation wants her in no particular order but starting with Connecticut, South Carolina and Stanford, plus Cal, Baylor, Texas, UCLA, Oregon and USC, and according to the source “anyone and everyone.”
Hannah Jump, Pinewood
The Great Britain National Team member is the latest in a long line of girls that can shoot the lights out at Pinewood. Last season the 5-11 junior averaged 15.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. She made an even 100 three-pointers and shot 44-percent from beyond the line and 50-percent overall. So far this season she’s scoring at a 16.0 per game clip with 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 steals as well. In seven games Jump has made 20 three-pointers and is at 43-percent outside the arc,
Mallory North, Menlo School
The 5-8 senior that can play down low has stepped up as the glue that holds the Knights girls together this season and a big reason they’re off to a 5-0 start. Last season she did didn’t have the same role but still averaged 6.7 points, 5.9 rebound and 4.0 assists per game. So far this season she upped her points to 17.2 per game so far with 5.6 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 2.2 blocks to boot.
Karisma Ortiz, Archbishop Mitty
The Penn State-bound 6-0 senior that can play just about every position on the court except post averaged 9.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game last season but those numbers have gone up considerably in the first few games played this season like Coach Sue Phillips predicted they would. With Ortiz and Haley Jones it gives Phillips the top 1-2 punch in California although some might argue.
Kayla Tahaafe, Eastside College Prep
The only senior on a team that had no seniors last year was a stat machine for the two-time defending CIF D5 state champions to the tune of 14.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.9 steals per game. After outstanding NCAA viewing periods that have created some buzz about her future possibilities she leads the team in scoring at 14 points per game