The Open Division for the Northern California Regional basketball playoffs is in its second year, and you can still hear the applause of public school programs stretching from El Dorado Hills to Sacramento County and throughout the Bay Area.
The Open is designed to place the best teams those who play national schedules and have national recruits into the same bracket. Let the heavies duke it out, the thinking goes, while programs in the other divisions maintain a fighting chance to win titles.
The girls Open pulled in state powers Salesian of Richmond and St. Marys of Berkeley, creating optimism for public schools West Campus and Bear River in D-IV. The Open also includes St. Marys of Stockton, which beat sudden D-I favorite Oak Ridge in the Sac-Joaquin Section final. The Open plays no favorites to sentiment, either the Sacramento girls won the Sac-Joaquin Section D-II title and were rewarded with the eighth and last seed in the Open.
Public boys schools Folsom, Cosumnes Oaks and Del Oro expect a deep run in D-II with Newark Memorial and Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in the Open. Jesuit is seeded second to public school Monte Vista of Danville in D-I. In the boys Open, Capital Christian is seeded second to Bishop ODowd of Oakland.
The bottom line is youve got to win, Capital Christian coach Devon Jones said.
• Bishop ODowd-Oakland (26-4): The Dragons, featuring 6-foot-10 Ivan Rabb, have not lost to a NorCal team and beat Capital Christian 86-60.
• Capital Christian (27-3): The Cougars have the fields most prolific frontcourt in D.J. Wilson and Nifae Lealao with a surplus of fast guards.
• Newark Memorial (23-7): Winners of 21 in a row, the Cougars are big and physical and have a win over NorCal D-I favorite Jesuit.
• Mitty-San Jose (26-4): The defending Open champions have had a new big man leading the way this season, 6-8 sophomore Ben Kone.
• El Cerrito (28-4): The Gauchos are fast and athletic but not very tall. Thats an issue with the Open field featuring some talented bigs.
• Modesto Christian (23-8): The Crusaders want to win for retiring coach Gary Porter, whose team beat El Cerritothis season.
• Jesuit (28-3): The Marauders get the nod here because of Sleep Train Arena familiarity, and they are rolling with balance and defense.
• Monte Vista-Danville (28-1): The Mustangs beat De La Salle three times, including in the North Coast Section D-I semifinals, en route to their third NCS title and first since 2009.
• Freedom-Oakley (24-6): The Falcons beat San Ramon Valley in the NCS semifinals before losing to NorCal top seed Monte Vista.
• San Ramon Valley-Danville (23-5): The only team to beat Monte Vista this season also split two games with De La Salle in a tough East Bay Athletic League race.
• De La Salle-Concord (21-8): The Spartans play stifling defense, a trademark for teams coached by Frank Allocco, who has won four NorCal titles.
• Kennedy (21-9): The Cougars open at San Ramon Valley and can win an up-tempo game with guard Cole Taira.
• Folsom (29-2): Winners of 19 in a row, the young Bulldogs thrive in pressure situations, particularly guard Jordan Ford.
• Cosumnes Oaks (14-17): The Wolfpack badly wants another shot at Folsom and can run the floor with Eric Toles, L.J. Reed and Alex Van Dyke.
• Concord (22-8): In North Coast Section play, the Minutemen beat top-seeded Montgomery and lost 74-70 to Open contender Newark Memorial.
• Grant (25-6): The Pacers have size in 6-8 Cameron Oliver and heart and speed in guards Donovan Brown and Jeremee Churchill.
• St. Ignatius-San Francisco (22-6): The Wildcats beat Open contender Mitty twice behind 5-10 standout senior guard Trevor Dunbar.
• Serra-San Mateo (21-8): The Padres are battle-tested from a strong league and having lost to rival Mitty in the Central Coast Section Open final.
• Del Oro (28-2): The Golden Eagles lost a heartbreaker to Cosumnes Oaks in the Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals but have the speed and size to win.
• Sacred Heart Cathedral-San Francisco (19-11): The Irish fared well in the West Catholic Athletic League, which includes Mitty.
• Riordan-San Francisco (19-9): WCAL survivors often do quite well in the NorCals; the Crusaders should do the same.
• Campolindo-Moraga (22-7): The Cougars battled Open contender El Cerrito in losing the North Coast Section D-III title game.
• Fairfield (25-6): The Falcons have pulled NorCal upsets on the road before.
• Burlingame (26-4): The Panthers have the fields most entertaining name and player in guard Frankie Ferrari.
• Vanden (19-11): The Vikings beat contender Fairfield twice in league play before getting routed by the Falcons in the playoffs.
• Moreau Catholic-Hayward (24-6): The Mariners beat powerhouse Salesian for the North Coast Section title and are the last team to beat Folsom.
• Natomas (19-8): A year after winning five games, the Nighthawks are rolling with Mehki Williams, Jaylen Manning and Phillip Morgan.
• Salesian-Richmond (20-14): The Pride, an Open team last season, seeks its fourth title in D-IV with speed and depth.
• Half Moon Bay (24-5): The Cougars could have the best team in school history, anchored inside by 6-6 forward Rico Nuno.
• Encina (27-4): The Bulldogs are led by Donald Jackson and Nate Jefferson and can run with any team in the field.
• Colfax (17-13): The Falcons have pulled off NorCal wins before and can again with Jordan Balser (17.7 points a game).
• St. Joseph-Alameda (25-4): The Pilots are going for a four-peat with coach Don Lippi, a Bay Area coaching fixture for 30 years.
• Branson-Ross (25-6): The Bulls lost to St. Joseph on two late free throws in the North Coast Section final.
• Central Catholic-Modesto (25-6): A gritty showing against Open contender Capital Christian landed the Raiders the top seed.
• Brookside Christian-Stockton (25-4): The Knights had their 21-game winning streak snapped by Central Catholic in the section semifinals.
• Liberty Christian-Redding (25-4): The prolific Patriots open with a major test at Branson, a five-hour drive.