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Inside BVAL boys hoops

The BVAL seems to get deeper and deeper every year. And this may be the deepest yet. Ygnacio Valley and Pittsburg were picked to finish fifth and sixth, respectively, and I’m quite confident they could challenge for a league title in at least two of the other four leagues.

Here’s a few additional comments about each team based on their predicted order of finish.

De La Salle: A no-brainer at No. 1. The Spartans are as good, if not a better team than they were two years ago when they played for the CIF Division I state championship.
Deer Valley: In his first three years of coaching the Wolverines, Eric Bamberger’s teams have given De La Salle some of its toughest games of the season. In fact, Bamberger is the last BVAL coach to win a game at De La Salle. Barring any injuries, the Wolverines will have as good a shot at knocking off the Spartans than any other year.
Clayton Valley: If they are going to finish third, they will need a healthy Drew Menez. The UC Davis-bound senior is the best scorer in the league, but missed three games at the end of December with a sprained ankle. When healthy, Menez and the Eagles are legitimate contenders for the NCS Division II title.
Antioch: In 2002-03, the Panthers opened the year 10-2 and then went 5-9 league. That won’t happen this year. Antioch will certainly be tested, but this team is certainly good enough to go 9-5 or 8-6.
Ygnacio Valley: With the league considerably deeper thanks to Antioch, Mike Hansen will need to be seriously considered for Times Coach of the Year honors if he can lead the Warriors to a fifth straight BVAL season of .500 or better.
Pittsburg: Inexperience will hurt the Pirates more than anything this season. Still, their talent and athleticism will lead them to some upsets.
Liberty: Rob Lasher was the assistant coach during the Lions’ two very good years with Pat Cruickshank. He doesn’t have the talent that Cruickshank had the past two years, but he will get them to play hard and remain competitive. And for that reason, no team should travel to Brentwood lightly this season.
Freedom: The Falcons just need to keep their head up and play as hard as they can.

And just for fun, here are a few more BVAL predictions.

Coach of the Year: Drew Torres, Antioch.
Offensive Player of the Year: Menez, Clayton Valley
MVP: Justin Joyner, DLS
First Team All-league: Joyner, Lincoln Gunn (DLS), Mac Peterson (DV), Menez, Brandon May (Antioch).
Biggest upset: Antioch over Deer Valley (at Antioch)

Thanks for reading. Feel like predicting your own BVAL finish, post a comment.

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BSAL girls predictions

There is no doubt which teams are the top three in the league. After that, flip a coin.

BSAL coaches agree that Piedmont, St. Mary’s and St. Patrick-St. Vincent represent the upper tier of the league. What order to put those teams in is a different story. When asked who they thought would win the league title, coaches split between the Bruins and Highlanders. We decided to go with St. Patrick based on the number of key returners and virtually no losses to a team that went 7-4 in the BSAL last season and started off this season 10-2. That includes all-league second-team selection Alexis Batiste. Despite losing Ashley and Courtney Paris, Piedmont returns Chazny and Casey Morris and has remained a very good team so far this season (9-3). We just felt that the loss of the Parises (who are doing very well at Oklahoma) and the emergence of St. Patrick gives the Bruins the edge. St. Mary’s is always solid and appears to have somewhat closed the gap on Piedmont. Graduating Shantrell Sneed and Natty Fripp are difficult losses to overcome, but the Panthers do return Courtney Dunn, among others.

After that, it gets real interesting. Virtually the rest of the league is in rebuilding mode. Albany was the surprise team last season, but is young now. BSAL coaches said that the Cougars, John Swett, Kennedy, St. Joseph and Salesian all have a shot at fourth place in the league. The top six qualify for the BSAL playoffs, which preceed the NCS playoffs. Holy Names and St. Elizabeth have struggled mightily heading into league play, which starts Tuesday, and may need a year of rebuilding before seriously thinking about the league playoffs.

We decided on Salesian for fourth. The Chieftains were impressive in defeating an improved John Swett squad 56-30 during the nonleague portion of the season. In another nonleague matchup between BSAL teams, St. Joseph beat Kennedy 49-34. Those early head-to-head matchups helped thin out some of the thick gray area surrounding the middle of the league pack. 

Overall, the predictions are based in large part on a consensus of what the coaches think will happen. Sometimes, coaches may underrate or overrate their own teams because they don’t want their players to be overconfident or lose hope.

But we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.   

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DFAL Predictions

I am not a big fan of predictions and making this one wasn’t easy. But after watching Miramonte and its press in action, it’s hard to pick against the defending champs. When the Matadors press is working, it is a thing to watch. Miramonte doesn’t have a lot of size, but they can get up and down the court in a hurry.

Northgate went 8-2 in nonleague play and did most of it without Jessica Trautner. With Trautner back, the Broncos are even deeper. Dublin could also contend with all five starters back. Don’t forget about Alhambra either. Brandy Miller has a barrage of post move and a jumper to go along. Las Lomas is young but headed in the right direction. Concord will win, but it might not be right away. Elgin Leslie spent five years as an assistant at Carondelet, so he knows how to win. Mt. Diablo is also a work in progress with first-year coach Jasmine Strange.

Acalanes and Campolindo will be competitive, and College Park was hurt by the loss of Anna Magganas, but still has  Kelly Kennedy.

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BVAL predictions

Yes it was the easy way out to pick Carondelet to win the BVAL title for a fourth straight season. But the Cougars are the champs until someone beats them. As good as Deer Valley was last season, it could be the team to do that this year. St. Mary’s-Stockton guard Erica Helms transferring in helped the Wolverines ease the loss of Necolia Simmons and Rose Docena. With Helms and Ashley Garcia in the backcourt and a front court of Ashley Ellis, Deserie Azlin and Ashley Hudson, Deer Valley might have enough to beat Carondelet.

But the Cougars still have Jayne Appel… enough said.

Clayton Valley could also be a factor with transfers Vernessa Roberts and Natalia Del Bene making up for the loss of all but two players from last season. Pittsburgh should be improved with first-year coach Albert Nunez and the return of Easter Faafiti. Liberty, with Gianna Covarelli and Alexis Brown, Ygnacio Valley with Whitney Ligons and Antioch, with Antonette Capili, should all also be improved.

Freedom and first year coach Jeff Jonas are in a rebuilding stage, but have already eclipsed their win total from last season.

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Breaking down BSAL boys hoops

Like all preseason predictions, there is quite an amount of gray area, but here are some reasons for my Bay Shore Athletic League boys basketball predictions.

Even without Andre Wells, Salesian has amazing depth and experience. That makes it the league favorite, in my eyes. Six seniors besides Wells saw a good amount of playing time last season. The Chieftains won the Punahou Holiday Classic on Friday and now have an 8-4 record. Their first two losses occurred while David Singleton, an all-BSAL pick last season, and Wells were still playing football and leading the Chieftain to the North Coast Section Class A championship.

St. Mary’s, though, could win the league title and prove me wrong. They have won five in a row and have a budding star in sophomore Will Brew. It was also impressive how they came back from an 18-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to defeat Vashon Island-Washington 73-65 in overtime and win the Cactus Jam championship game.

Kennedy and St. Joseph Notre Dame, which are both definitely BSAL contenders, could flip-flop at three and four. But the Eagles have impressed me this season with having a number of go-to players. Brandon Tatum is still the main guy, but Tim Jones, Marvin Boadu and Josh Sims have also showed a penchant for clutch play early in the season.

The Pilots are 9-4 with six sophomores on the roster. It’s interesting to think about how good this team could be when they start to mesh.

Piedmont could be ready to join the upper echelon of the BSAL this season. The Highlanders return three starters and eight players overall, and won nine of their first 11 games this season. After the Highlanders face St. Joseph Notre Dame on Jan. 6, a lot of questions will be answered about both teams.

There has been a lot of buzz about the John Swett team’s improvement this season, but St. Elizabeth seems to consistently field a competitive team year-in and year-out, which helped me to pick the Mustangs sixth. The tallest player on St. Patrick-St. Vincent’s squad is 6-foot-1, and although the Bruins opened this season with a near-.500 record (5-7), the team’s lack of height could cause problems for them as the season progresses. Albany already has a lot of chemistry, as its starting five players all competed on a successful junior varsity team last season. But it is yet to be determined whether that success will translate to the varsity level.