Previewing the First Round of the CIF-SS Open Division Playoffs


#1 Sierra Canyon vs. #16 Heritage Christian

Frank Says: If not quite to the same degree as was the case with eventual unbeaten and Section and State champion Chino Hills, Sierra Canyon enters the playoff as the solid favorite to bag the Open title with a starting lineup made up one of the nation’s best juniors, Marvin Bagley III, and four NCAA Division I-bound seniors. Heritage Christian has hung with, and beaten, some quality opponents but it would be quite the stunner if the host Trailblazers were knocked off in either this game or in a Feb. 21 quarterfinal against Centennial or Damien


This Season: 20-7, Olympic League co-champion

Coach: Paul Tait

Vs. The Field: 0-0 (Beat San Diego’s No. 1 St. Augustine, 86-80; lost to L.A. City No. 1 Birmingham, 110-105)

Seniors To Watch: Juhwan Harris-Dyson (6-5), signed with UC Berkeley in November.


This Season: 28-1, Gold Coast League champion

Coach: Ty Nichols

Vs. The Field: 4-0 (beat Oak Park, 81-57; Alemany, 79-64; Crossroads twice, 76-46, and 79-66)

Seniors To Watch:  Remy Martin (6-1), Arizona State; Terrence McBride (6-4), Cornell; Adam Seiko (6-4), San Diego State; Cody Riley (6-8), UCLA.


#9 Corona Centennial vs. #8 Damien 

Frank Says: The teams could have played in the Classic at Damien Gold Division in December but missed that opportunity when the Huskies lost to Mater Dei in one semifinal and Damien prevailed over Roosevelt in the other. Giles played for LeDuc at Glendora and was obviously heavily influenced by LeDuc (as have many, many others in high school and college). Centennial has a big size advantage but the Spartans may be quicker and collectively better jump shooters.


This Season: 22-7, Big VIII League runner-up

Coach: Josh Giles

Vs. The Field: 1-6 (beat Alemany, 70-50; Lost to Roosevelt three times, 66-64; 81-73 and 71-65; L.B. Poly, 63-51; Mater Dei, 51-49; Santa Margarita, 52-51)

Seniors To Watch: Jalen Hill (6-9), UCLA; Gio Nelson (6-4), UC Davis. But Nelson suffered a season-ending knee injury several weeks ago.


This Season: 25-3, Baseline League runner-up

Coach: Mike LeDuc

Vs. The Field: 2-3 (Beat L.B. Poly, 71-63; Roosevelt, 62-61; Lost to Mater Dei, 82-63; and Chino Hills twice, 119-84 and 124-102)

Seniors To Watch: No one signed in November but 6-6 Justin Hemsley could have multiple options in the spring.


#5 Santa Margarita vs. #12 Esperanza

Frank Says: The Aztecs and host Eagles hook up in one of the more compelling Friday night games as they’re two of the three best teams in Orange County and a 2,000-plus, near-capacity crowd could be on hand. Esperanza is one of five programs making Open Division debuts. Okpala is among the best scorers – and players, period – anywhere. The Eagles can throw a magnitude of defenders and the best sophomore in Orange County, 6-7 Jake Kyman, is likely to have plenty of opportunity to try to keep Okpala in check.


This Season: 25-1, Crestview League champion

Coach: Mark Hill

Vs. The Field: 0-0 (but was the runner-up in a very challenging December tournament in Illinois where it suffered its only loss)

Seniors To Watch: Kezie Okpala (6-8), signed with Stanford in November.


This Season: 20-6, Trinity League runner-up

Coach: Jeff Reinert

Vs. The Field: 4-3 (beat Redondo, 83-57; Oak Park, 72-54; Roosevelt, 70-64; Centennial, 52-51; lost to JSerra, 78-76 OT; Mater Dei twice, 78-67 and 64-63)

Seniors To Watch: Adrease Jackson (6-8), signed with Dartmouth in November.


#4 Bishop Montgomery vs. #13 Oak Park

Frank Says: Oak Park is making its Open debut but the Knights are among the six programs (with Sierra Canyon, Centennial, Mater Dei, Redondo and Chino Hills) that are 4-for-4 in Open appearances. Six-eight Riley Battin is likely the best “big man” Bishop Montgomery has faced this season. He’ll face a very good post defender in 6-7 junior Fletcher Tynen.


This Season: 21-6, Coastal Canyon League champion

Coach: Aaron Shaw

Vs. The Field: 1-4 (beat L.B. Poly, 52-43; lost to Roosevelt, 62-50; Santa Margarita, 71-54; Sierra Canyon, 81-57; and Alemany, 71-67)

Seniors To Watch: None but there are three juniors who could sign in November with D-I programs.


This Season: 23-2, Del Rey League champion

Coach: Doug Mitchell

Vs. The Field: 0-0 (the Knights beat three of the Top Four L.A. City open teams a collective four times)

Seniors To Watch: Jordan Schakel (6-7), San Diego State; Ethan Thompson (6-5), Oregon State.


#3 Mater Dei vs. #14 Crossroads

Frank Says: The potential is here for some nifty “bigs vs. bigs” matchups with Lee and 6-9 junior Shareef O’Neal (Shaq’s son) vs. Sueing and 7-1 junior Bol Bol (Manute’s offspring). The difference, though, could come from the same source as it has from most of Mater Dei’s 28 wins: junior point guard Spencer Freedman.


This Season: 18-8, Gold Coast League runner-up

Coach: Chad Beeten

Vs. The Field: 0-3 (lost to Roosevelt, 64-51; Sierra Canyon twice, 76-46 and 79-66)

Senior To Watch: Ira Lee (6-8), signed with the University of Arizona


This Season: 28-1, Trinity League champion

Coach: Gary McKnight

Vs. The Field: 6-1 (lost to Chino Hills, 84-73; beat Centennial, 51-49; Damien, 82-63; JSerra twice, 67-46 and 74-57; Santa Margarita twice, 78-67 and 64-63)

Seniors To Watch: Miles Brookins (6-9), La Salle; Justice Sueing (6-6), UC Berkeley.


#6 Roosevelt vs. #11 Redondo Union

Frank Says: This is the only rematch of a first-round game from a year ago (with Redondo, then as host, prevailing by a point). The Sea Hawks’ have a strong group of guards, led by Williams, but the presence of the powerful and aggressive Mitchell could prove an obstacle the visitors can’t overcome this time.


This Season: 23-4, Bay League champion

Coach: Victor Martin

Vs. The Field: 1-1 (lost to Santa Margarita, 83-57; beat L.B. Poly, 58-50)

Seniors To Watch: Ryse Williams (6-3), Loyola Marymount.


This Season: (18-6/Big VIII League champion)

Coach: Stephen Singleton

Vs. The Field: 5-3 (beat, Oak Park, 62-50; Crossroads, 64-51; Centennial three times, 66-64; 81-73 and 71-65; lost to Chino Hills, 76-68; Damien, 62-61, and Santa Margarita, 70-64)

Seniors To Watch: Jemarl Baker (6-4), UC Berkeley and Matt Mitchell (6-6), Cal State Fullerton.


#7 Alemany vs. #10 Long Beach Poly

Frank Says: In my humble estimation, this has all the ingredients to be the most competitive, down-to-the-wire-before-it’s-decided of the eight Open first-round tilts. If the Warriors are to protect their home court and get stay on the winners’ side of the bracket Tuesday, then 6-11 shot-blocker supreme Fred Odhiambo is going to have to negate the Jackrabbits’ potent frontcourt trio of Williams, 6-9 Myles Johnson and 6-8 John Duff.


This Season: 21-6, Moore League champion

Coach: Shelton Diggs

Vs. The Field: 1-4 (lost to Oak Park, 52-43; Redondo, 58-50; Chino Hills, 78-75; and Damien, 71-63; beat Centennial, 63-51)

Seniors To Watch: Zafir Williams (6-5), Loyola Marymount.


This Season: 24-3, Mission League champion

Coach: Tray Meeks

This Season: 1-2 (beat Oak Park, 71-67; lost to Sierra Canyon, 79-64 and Centennial, 70-50)

Seniors To Watch: Brandon Davis (6-2), UC Santa Barbara. Six-five Earnie Sears Jr. will also have several college options in the spring.


#2 Chino Hills vs. #15 JSerra

Frank Says: The Huskies may have lost Lonzo Ball to UCLA but they still put more than 100 points 15 times and on at least 90 other occasions, so there still isn’t a more potent or quick-striking offense anywhere in the country. Don’t be misled by JSerra’s record. Since 6-9 junior Joel Mensah and a couple of other transfers got eligible on Jan. 3, the Lions beat Santa Margarita in Trinity League play and was quite competitive with Mater Dei at home until the final three or so minutes. Mensah vs. sophomore Onyeka Okongwu may be a compelling matchup, even if the Lions can’t keep up in the sprint.


This Season: 17-9, Trinity League fourth

Coach: Zach Brogdon

Vs. The Field: 1-3 (beat Santa Margarita, 78-76 OT; lost to Santa Margarita, 63-52; lost to Mater Dei twice, 67-46 and 74-57)

Seniors To Watch: Six-six Sebastian Much is Princeton-bound.


This Season: 27-1, Baseline League champion

Coach: Steph Gilling

Vs. The Field: 5-0 (beat L.B. Poly, 78-75; Roosevelt, 76-68; Mater Dei, 84-73; Damien twice, 119-84 and 124-102)

Seniors To Watch: LiAngelo Ball (he’ll replaced current UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball on the Bruins’ roster next season as his older brother will be on an NBA roster a year from now). And 6-5 Elizjah Scott will be getting a whole lot of spectacular dunks for Loyola Marymount in 2017-18.

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