Ben Enos and I are getting ready to hit Highway 5 tomorrow morning as we venture down toward Bakersfield for the CIF state basketball championships. Keep an eye on Twitter.com/eastbaypreps for tidbits during our journey. Before we head south, we decided to provide our take on the 10 state championship games.
Division I boys
Newark Memorial (30-4) vs. Westchester-Los Angeles (31-3), 8 p.m. Saturday
Jimmy Durkin: Westchester is certainly the team with more talent, led by Arizona-bound guard Jordin Hayes and one-time USC commit Dwayne Polee (who famously committed to USC as a 14-year-old and eventually did not sign with the Trojans, where his dad is the director of basketball operations, and remains unsigned). They also have Montana-bound guard Kareem Jamar and 6-9 Reggie Murphy. On paper, the Comets are the most talented team and should be the favorite. However, Newark Memorial has already shown it can play with some of SoCal’s top teams when it beat Price and Taft earlier this year and had a first quarter lead on St. Patrick-Elizabeth, N.J., which was the top ranked team in the country at the time. I see this game a lot like the McClymonds-Dominguez matchup two years ago where Dominguez was more talented, but the defensive pressure of Mack was unrelenting and they dominated the game in a win. The difference here is that unlike Dominguez coach Russell Otis, Westchester coach Ed Azzam isn’t cocky enough to not prepare his team. Otis took that Dominguez team into that game without watching any film of Mack and just firmly believing his team was better. (Side note is that is was an Otis-led Dominguez team that beat Newark in 2000 in the Div. II state title game). Azzam won’t do that here, but I still think Newark can surprise them with how good they are defensively and so I’m going to take the Cougars to pull off the big upset. Newark Memorial 49, Westchester 43.
Ben Enos: I absolutely can’t say enough about the way Newark Memorial is playing right now. The defense the Cougars played last week in beating De La Salle was exceptional. Plus, they play with a chip on their shoulder that no one can match. Westchester is definitely the team everyone knows though, having been on this stage several times before. I’d really like to pull the trigger on an upset here, but my head says no. Westchester 66, Newark Memorial 54.
Division I girls
Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills (31-3) vs. Long Beach Poly (31-2), 6 p.m. Saturday
JD: Is just saying that it’s Long Beach Poly reason enough? I say yes! Rack up another title for the Jackrabbits. Long Beach Poly 61, Oak Ridge 45.
BE: I saw Oak Ridge beat Berkeley last week and, while the Trojans played a solid game in getting the win, I was left wondering if the team maybe got caught up a little in watching Sara James do her thing. Plus, what do I really need to know about Poly girls basketball? Poly is Poly. Long Beach Poly 64, Oak Ridge 56.
Division II boys
St. Francis-Mountain View (30-3) vs. Lincoln-San Diego (28-2), 8 p.m. Friday
JD: I don’t know much about either team as I was over at Folsom last week when St. Francis hit the shot at the buzzer to win the NorCal title and advance to the state title game. But I think the size of Lincoln will be tough for St. Francis to deal with and so I’ll give them the edge. Lincoln 65, St. Francis 58
BE: OK, I don’t know a whole lot about Lincoln. I know they have a 6-foot-10 star in Nate Maxey. I know a bit more about St. Francis, having watched it last week at Arco. I liked the tenacity in the win over Woodcreek, and I also liked their ability to get to the rim even though Woodcreek had a big guy as well. Here though, I’ll defer to the team with a big-time winning streak. Lincoln 74, St. Francis 69.
Division II girls
Carondelet (27-5) vs. Mater Dei-Santa Ana (31-1), 6 p.m. Friday
JD: With two Parade All-Americans in Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (first team) and Jordan Adams (second team), the edge has to go to Mater Dei. Carondelet would probably have a little more of a fighting chance if Ricki Radanovich was still healthy, but without her I have to go with Mater Dei. Mater Dei 68, Carondelet 54.
BE: This is as close to a prime-time matchup as you can get at this year’s state championships. Mater Dei has ridiculous talent, and on paper the Monarchs look awfully tough to beat. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is already committed to UConn as a junior, and she’ll likely draw Carondelet standout Erica Payne on both ends of the floor. Carondelet certainly looked good in beating Mitty-San Jose last week at Arco Arena, but this may be a tough hill to climb. Mater Dei 65, Carondelet 57.
Division III boys
Bishop O’Dowd (30-3) vs. Serra-Gardena (33-2), 3:30 p.m. Saturday
JD: Serra has a pair of solid guards in Montana-bound Vaughn Autry and former Portland commit Keith Shamburger, as well as 6-8 junior post Ronnie Stevens. O’Dowd has shown they can slow down teams with good guard play (see win over Sacramento) and I think they’ll have the edge in the post. If the Dragons shoot well at the free-throw line (even just moderately well) and don’t turn it over 20-plus times, I think they’ll win their first state title since 1981. Bishop O’Dowd 64, Serra 59.
BE: We’ve written all year that the guards are what holds BOD back. And, that’ll be what Serra tries to exploit this weekend. I watched Serra play really well in the CIF state football championships, and I know there are a couple guys who play on the hoops team as well. If Brandon Ashley can stay out of foul trouble, the Dragons are going to be in this thing to the end. Ultimately, I think Bishop O’Dowd may be a year away. Serra 62, Bishop O’Dowd 60.
Division III girls
St. Mary’s-Stockton (32-1) vs. Bishop Amat-La Puente (27-7), 1:30 p.m. Saturday
JD: This is probably the only game that appears to be a mismatch in favor of the NorCal squad. St. Mary’s has two All-Americans in Duke-bound Chelsea Gray and Cal-bound Afure Jemerigbe. It would be hard to imagine a team that comes in with seven losses would have a shot to win this one. St. Mary’s 68, Bishop Amat 51..
BE: I’ve covered a lot of stuff, but I’ve never seen St. Mary’s-Stockton play girls hoops. That should change this weekend, and I’m looking forward to it. I know the requisite names — Gray, Jemerigbe, etc. — and I’m going with the Rams. St. Mary’s 65, Bishop Amat 51.
Division IV boys
St. Mary’s (26-9) vs. Price-Los Angeles (32-3), 1:30 p.m. Friday
JD: Give the Panthers a lot of credit for what they’ve done to get this far. Beating Salesian twice is something no one though they could’ve or would done, so a lot of credit goes to them. And since they’ve beating Salesian twice, you have to consider them a contender to beat Price also. But this is a Price team that knocked off O’Dowd by 13 and was within a point of Newark Memorial and will have a much easier commute to this early Friday afternoon start. And with Cal-bound Allen Crabbe and Richard Solomon, I have to give the Knights the edge. Price 71, St. Mary’s 62.
BE: Let’s cut right to the chase with this one. Who will guard Gatorade state player of the year Allen Crabbe? Will it be one of the Lee brothers? Well, whoever draws that task will have their hands full. I really like the way SM is coming into this game, and offensively they might be able to hold their own. Unfortunately, I’m still left wondering who can shut Crabbe down. Price 64, St. Mary’s 56.
Division IV girls
St. Mary’s (31-3) vs. Harvard-Westlake (33-1), 3:30 p.m. Friday
JD: This is new territory for both teams, who have both never won a state title. Harvard-Westlake has one appearance, when it lost to Acalanes in 1999. The big matchup will be St. Mary’s 5-11 Danielle Mauldin, who will play at Saint Mary’s College next year, against 5-11 Princeton-bound Nicole Hung. Whoever wins that matchup will win the game and I’ll give the Panthers the slight edge. St. Mary’s 45, Harvard-Westlake 42.
BE: Harvard-Westlake hasn’t lost since December, and even that came at the hands of Mater Dei. Nicole Hung has led Harvard-Westlake all year, but a matchup with SM star Danielle Mauldin could be pretty interesting. The Panthers have really drawn from a couple players to lead the offense lately, and they’ve shown that they’re much more than one player. My heart says St. Mary’s, but my head says Harvard-Westlake. Harvard-Westlake 54, St. Mary’s 49.
Division V boys
Branson-Ross (25-6) vs. Lutheran-La Verne (27-8), 11:30 a.m. Saturday
JD: It’s the early rise game and it’ll be a showdown of a team who has been here four times and a Lutheran team making its first appearance. I like what Lutheran has done in its nonleague schedule and I’ll take them to win their state title debut. Lutheran 52, Branson 47.
BE: My colleague Chace Bryson said something to me the other day that I think makes a lot of sense. Branson, a team that is accustomed to getting to this point of the season, is always in the game because of the style it plays. It’s that style that really makes me think that Branson has one of the better shots of any NorCal team this year. Everyone knows Tyler Gaffaney, but from what I’ve heard, the Bulls have some good complementary pieces this year as well. Branson 54, Lutheran 50.
Division V girls
Pinewood-Los Altos Hills (26-6) vs. St. Anthony-Long Beach (25-9), 9:30 a.m. Saturday
JD: St. Anthony won an earlier match 43-42 at the Nike TOC, but I’ll take Pinewood to win the rematch with one of the state’s best coach in Doc Sheppler guiding the way. Pinewood 48, St. Anthony 45.
BE: I’m lost on this one. The records say that St. Anthony has a one-point win over Pinewood earlier this year. So, let’s go with that. St. Anthony 44, Pinewood 43.