Genevieve Ross / Special to the Bee

Folsom's Colin Russell, right, grabs a rebound in front of Jesuit's Malik Duffy during their game at Folsom High School, Friday, Jan. 31, 2014. (Genevieve Ross/Special to the Bee)

Preps: Breaking down section playoff games

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 - 7:15 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 - 12:23 am

The playoffs, at long last, are here. A few outbracket games are Friday and the full slate of boys and girls games starts next week in Divisions I through VI, from the large schools to the medium to the very small.

We will have more in Thursday's Bee. All playoff games start at 7 p.m., meaning we'll all be home well before curfew.

Here's a closer look:

BOYS

Division I

First-round games, Wednesday, Feb. 26

No. 16 Turlock/No. 17 Stagg at No. 1 Jesuit

No. 9 Granite Bay at No. 8 River City

No. 13 West at No. 4 Monterey Trail

No. 12 Lincoln-Stockton at No. 5 Kennedy

No. 15 Tokay at No. 2 Rodriguez

No. 10 Oak Ridge at No. 7 Golden Valley

No. 14 Chavez at No. 3 Franklin

No. 11 Pleasant Grove at No. 6 Merced

Friday outbracket game:

No. 17 Stagg at No. 16 Turlock

Comment: Jesuit is the overwhelming favorite because it is battle tested, hungry to make a championship charge after missing the playoffs last season, has a ball handling leader in Nick Hilton, a versatile scorer in Isaiah Bailey, a shooter and rebounder in Lake Lutes, a shot blocker in Brady Anderson - and a good bench, a superb coaching staff and a creative/spirited rooting section in the Galley Crew that has rocked Sleep Train Arena before. But beware of Kennedy (good guard play and emerging bigs), Franklin (size, speed, an excellent point guard leader in John Moscoso and a coach in Jesse Formaker who has coached big games at Sleep Train before), Monterey Trail (senior lineup of steady veterans and a coach in Ken Manfredi who won a D-III section title as a player at Rio Americano for his coaching father Al in 1991) and Rodriguez (fast, active and deep). And what about defending CIF State Division I champion Pleasant Grove with standout center Marquese Chriss? Or Oak Ridge, also of the rugged Delta River League, as the Trojans twice beat Pleasant Grove? Yes, a pretty deep field.

Division II

First-round games, Wednesday, Feb. 26

No. 16 Grace Davis/No. 17 Vallejo at No. 1 Folsom

No. 9 Rocklin at No. 8 Cordova

No. 13 Whitney/No. 20 Wood at No. 4 Sacramento

No. 12 Yuba City at No. 5 Grant

No. 15 Bear Creek/No. 18 Beyer at No. 2 Del Oro

No. 10 Burbank at No. 7 Del Campo

No. 14 Vacaville/No. 19 Gregori at No. 3 St. Mary's

No. 11 Antelope at No. 6 Cosumnes Oaks

Friday outbracket games:

No. 17 Vallejo at No. 16 Grace Davis

No. 20 Wood at No. 13 Whitney

No. 19 Gregori at No. Vacaville

No. 18 Beyer at No. 15 Bear Creek

Comment: This is the best collection of D-II talent we've seen in our 25 years at The Bee. It's an amazing field with seemingly any number of teams that can reach the finals. So who is the favorite? Why not Folsom? It has a 15-game winning streak that includes two wins over D-I top seed Jesuit, for starters. The Bulldogs have coaching gurus in Mike Wall and Matt Mills who have the Bulldogs playing terrific team ball with effort players in Jared Wall and Lukas Hendricks to go with guards Alec Andrews, Josiah Deguara and smooth floor leader Jordan Ford. The X-factor is emerging center Colin Russell. And there's Del Oro, which is big and physical with no real stars but a tough team collectively (it's also a loose group as the Golden Eagles like to wear odd-colored socks for kicks). And there's Del Campo with prolific wing Vasilije Saraba with a strong support crew. What about Grant with perhaps the best player in the section in Cameron Oliver, who can shoot the three and follow-up dunk unlike no other. Grant guard Donovan Brown lives for big moments. And there's Cosumnes Oaks, terrifically talented but seeded sixth because of the forfeit losses that dropped its record from an on-court 27-1 to 11-16. The Wolfpack are led by Eric Toles, Alex Van Dyke, Jaaron Stallworth, Matt Muldavin and L.J. Reed, and coached by ever composed Patrick Roth who burns to succeed inside. Cosumnes Oaks could face St. Mary's in a second round game, which certainly doesn't please the Rams of Stockton much as the Wolfpack rallied to beat them in a December tournament (a game later forfeited due to an ineligible player). How good is the field? Beware the Burbank Titans with coach Lindsey Ferrell and guard Jalen Coates, a team that had to win down the stretch just to secure a playoff berth.

Division III

First-round games, Wednesday, Feb. 26

No. 9 Center at No. 8 Rio Americano

No. 13 Manteca at No. 4 CBS

No. 12 El Dorado at No. 5 Lincoln

No. 15 Patterson at No. 2 Vanden

No. 10 Foothill at No. 7 Casa Roble

No. 14 Inderkum at No. 3 Fairfield

No. 11 Central Valley at No. 6 Sierra

Bye: No. 1 Modesto Christian

Comment: The huge favorite here is Modesto Christian, seeking an on-going section record 15th title in various divisions. Vanden looms in the lower bracket. Rio Americano has shown glimpses of how good it can be with big wins, as has Christian Brothers and Lincoln, a darkhorse No. 5 seed. Casa Roble with size inside and Foothill, always so well coached by Drew Hibbs, makes for a great opener.

Division IV

First-round games, Wednesday, Feb. 26

No. 16 Delta Charter at No. 1 Encina

No. 9 West Campus at No. 8 Calaveras

No. 13 Amador at No. 4 Colfax

No. 12 Escalon at No. 5 Marysville

No. 15 Ripon at No. 2 Natomas

No. 10 Argonaut at No. 7 Mesa Verde

No. 14 Summerville at No. 3 Riverbank

No. 11 Mariposa at No. 6 Lathrop

Comment: Encina is the heavy favorite here, fast and quick with Donald Jackson with some size inside with Nate Jefferson. The Bulldogs lost a very competitive game to Jesuit in the finals of the Cordova Christmas Classic in December. Beware of Natomas, which is also quick and fun to watch and coached by Brian Hamilton, a superb point-guard ace for McClatchy in 1993 when the Lions won the section D-II title. Colfax, always so well coached over the decades, is a darkhorse No. 4 seed, and there's No. 7 Mesa Verde, which has athletes.

Division V

First-round games, Wednesday Feb. 26

No. 9 Vacaville Christian at No. 8 Elliott Christian

No. 13 Golden Sierra at No. 4 Forest Lake Christian

No. 12 Buckingham Charter at No. 5 Ripon Christian

No. 10 Woodland Christian at No. 7 Holt Academy

No. 14 Western Sierra at No. 3 Central Catholic

No. 11 Sierra Ridge at No. 6 Bradshaw Christian

Bye: No. 1 Capital Christian, No. 2 Brookside Christian.

Comment: Capital Christian is as heavy a favorite here as any team in any section in the state. The Cougars have been top-ranked by The Bee all season, and they target not just a D-V section three-peat but a title run in the prestigious NorCal Open Division. The Cougars have size, speed, depth and experience with key players in Uchenna Iroegbu, Tyler Jennings, Justice Shelton-Mosley, D.J. Wilson and Nifae Lealao. And the team has a proven coaching staff headed by Devon Jones. Central Catholic has won 13 consecutive games, and Brookside Christian is even hotter with a 20-game winning streak. But neither of those clubs played near the monstrous schedule as Capital Christian, which has lost only to one NorCal foe this season in MaxPreps NorCal No. 1 Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland.

Division VI

First-round games, Wednesday, Feb. 26

No. 7 Lodi Christian at No. 1 Victory Christian

No. 5 New Life Christian at No. 4 Valley Christian

No. 7 Sacramento Adventist at No. 2 Faith Christian

No. 6 Stockton Christian at No. 3 Turlock Christian

Comment: The small schools play in a bit more obscurity, but they compete. Man, do they compete, and the titles mean just as much to them as they do to the larger schools. The D-VI programs agreed to cap their seasons with a section title finale at Galt's terrific gym, and not advance to the NorCal rounds. This way, the smallest schools have their own big stage without being lumped into the D-V brackets. Victory Christian seeks its third title since 2010 and is led by leading scorers Mike Halverson (22.8) and Tyler O'Day (18.4). A darkhorse is 4-seed Valley Christian of Roseville under coach Brad Gunter Jr. as his teams buckle teams with a torrent of three-point shots. He won't trim the beard now. It's too fun here.

GIRLS

Division I

First-round games, Tuesday, Feb. 25

No. 16 Merced/No. 17 Rodriguez at No. 1 St. Mary's

No. 9 Monterey Trail at No. 8 River City

No. 13 Sheldon/No. 20 Bella Vista at No. 4 Nevada Union

No. 12 St. Francis/No. 21Edison at No. 5 McClatchy

No. 15 Granite Bay/No. 18 Kennedy at No. 2 Oak Ridge

No. 10 Davis at No. 7 Enochs

No. 14 Kimball/Lodi at No. 3 Napa

No. 11 Lincoln/Tokay at No. 6 Pleasant Grove

Friday's outbraket games:

No. 17 Rodriguez at No. 16 Merced

No. 21 Edison at No. 12 St. Francis

No. 20 Bella Vista at No. 13 Sheldon

No. 19 Lodi at No. 14 Kimball

No. 18 Kennedy at No. 15 Granite Bay

No. 22 Tokay at No. 11 Lincoln-Stockton

Comment: St. Mary's, the national powerhouse from Stockton, seeks its ongoing record 15th section title in various divisions. The Rams defend and hit threes, and they play a national schedule, so nerves never seem to be a problem. Oak Ridge, seeking its fourth title under coach Steve White, has veteran leaders in Jenn Hoffman and Ali Bettencourt, and the Trojans have played a strong schedule. Napa is 25-1 and has a win over Nevada Union, which split with Oak Ridge. And there's the youngest team in the field in McClatchy, but that youth has a lot of skill.

Division II

First-round games, Tuesday, Feb. 25

No. 16 Atwater at No. 1 McNair

No. 9 Elk Grove at No. 8 Antelope

No. 13 Grace Davis at No. 4 Rio Linda

No. 12 Vacaville at No. 5 Bethel

No. 15 River Valley at No. 2 Sacramento

No. 10 Gregori at No. 7 Cosumnes Oaks

No. 14 Whitney at No. 3 Del Oro

No. 11 Buhach Colony at No. 6 Bear Creek

Comment: Sacramento and McNair expect to face off in what would be a terrific title game. Sac is the defending champion and has senior anchors in Najah Queenland and Ayanna Edwards. Vanden handed Napa its lone loss. McNair has a close loss to D-I top seed and state super power St. Mary's, and it gained a forfeit from the Rams when they declined to play a game late in the season. McNair is led by prolific guard Tiara Tucker, a Brookside Christian transfer.

Division III

First-round games, Tuesday, Feb. 25

No. 16 Pioneer at No. 1 Vanden

No. 9 Placer at No. 8 East Union

No. 13 Dixon at No. 4 Florin

No. 12 Lincoln at No. 5 CBS

No. 15 American Canyon at No. 2 Modesto Christian

No. 10 Vista del Lago at No. 7 Inderkum

No. 14 Benicia at No. 3 Patterson

No. 11 El Camino at No. 6 Weston Ranch

Comment: Vanden is the big favorite here, battle tested, athletic, and it stuck D-I heavy Napa with its only loss. The darkhorses include CBS and Florin. Florin is coming off a win over McClatchy, one of the power teams in D-I.

Division IV

First-round games, Tuesday, Feb. 25

No. 9 Calaveras at No. 8 San Juan

No. 13 Hilmar at No. 4 Bradshaw Christian

No. 12 Summerville at No. 5 Riverbank

No. 15 Delta Charter at No. 2 West Campus

No. 10 Hughson at No. 7 Argonaut

No. 14 Encina at No. 14 Colfax

Bye: No. 1 Bear River

Comment: Bear River has been down this road before over the decades, and it seeks its 11th title. And there's Colfax, seeking its 10th. Fittingly, the teams are in opposite brackets. Bradshaw Christian is a darkhorse if there ever has been, having won five section titles since 2008.

Division V

First-round games, Tuesday, Feb. 25

No. 9 Rio Vista at No. 8 Forest Lake Christian

No. 11 Western Sierra at No. 6 Sacramento Waldorf

No. 10 Big Valley Christian at No. 7 Gustine

No. 5 Central Catholic at No. 4 Woodland Christian (Feb. 27)

Byes: No. 1 Brookside Christian, No. 2 No. 2 Capital Christian, No. 3 Ripon Christian

Comment: Brookside Christian won the last two section titles, including a rout of Capital Christian, which has worked tirelessly ever since to close that gap. A big difference is Brookside no longer has Tiara Tucker, the prolific guard who dominated the small-school fields and now plays for D-II top seed McNair.

Division VI

First-round games, Tuesday, Feb. 25

No. 8 Tioga at No. 1 Valley Christian

No. 5 Wilton Christian at No. 4 Victory Christian

No. 7 Freedom Christian at No. 2 Sacramento Adventist

Comment: Victory Christian has won the only D-VI titles ever contested, beating Valley Christian in a good game last year. Now Valley Christian has the top seed, thanks in large part to the scoring of Lily Hagerty

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