Behold the Bears. They’re coming.
Mt. Shasta High School has fielded solid to stellar boys basketball teams before, including throughout the 1970s and ‘80s under coach Leo Rosette, also known as “Buck.”
The current edition is a team for the ages. Under coach Cliff Blakely, Mt. Shasta is 33-1, the talk of the Northern Section and throughout southern Siskiyou County.
The Bears are riding a 28-game winning streak that has the small-school wonders on a grand stage — Friday’s CIF State Division V championship against Foothill of Bakersfield at Golden 1 Center at noon.
Close the school, the town and send everyone. This is heady stuff for a school of this size, in a town that embraces its student-athletes and teams.
Brothers Kaden and Kole Riccomini lead the way. Also a pitcher, Kaden Riccomini signed a national letter of intent to play baseball at UC Davis. Kody Bauman is the 6-foot-5 center with a giant ‘fro that makes him closer to 6-11.
Mt. Shasta has 343 students, and a good many will make the trip to Sacramento. And there will be alumni at Golden 1 for a peek, including Doug Cornelius, a player on the 1988 Bears team that was state-ranked No. 1 for small schools by Cal-Hi Sports for part of the season.
Cornelius is the longtime men’s coach at Yuba College, which plays at Fresno City on Saturday night in a California Community College NorCal Regional final.
“I’ve already got 400 alumni coming,” Cornelius said. “It’s a pretty tight-knit community.”
This matchup never would have happened before the CIF in 2013 introduced the “competitive-equity” model to replace the enrollment-based formula that led to private schools for decades dominating all divisions.
Foothill has just under 2,000 students but has not been a powerhouse until now. It went 3-18, 0-23 and 4-19 in successive seasons through 2015.
It’s been some season for girls basketball in the East Bay, culminating in three programs reaching the CIF finals.
Bishop O’Dowd is in the Division I title game, Oakland in D-III and Oakland Tech in D-IV, prompting Oakland coach Orlando Gray to tell the San Francisco Chronicle, “It’s a great day for the city.”
Oakland (29-5) beat Union Mine 49-38 in the NorCal finals, its 18th consecutive victory, and will play McFarland at 2 p.m. Friday. O’Dowd (24-9) beat Bear Creek of Stockton for NorCal honors, its fourth such title, and will play Rosary Academy of Fullerton on Friday at 6 p.m.
Oakland Tech (29-6) seeks its third state title Saturday at 10 a.m. as it faces Northview of Covina.
Launching the 3-ball
Doc Scheppler, a coach as jovial as his team is entertaining, embraces 3-point shooting.
Shooting success has made a small school stand tall on the girls basketball stage. Pinewood of Los Altos Hills, with 292 students from grades 7-12, is in its 10th CIF State final and second in succession in the Open. Pinewood (27-3) takes on Sierra Canyon (32-1) on Saturday in what figures to be a shootout in the lead-up to the boys Open finale between Sheldon and Sierra Canyon.
Scheppler is 631-130 over 24 seasons at Pinewood. The team motto of unloading scores of 3’s has been, “We don’t play like the Warriors — the Warriors play like us.”
Among the key Pinewood players is, perhaps fittingly, a Stanford-bound guard named Hannah Jump.
One and done
Ribet Academy of Los Angeles plays Immanuel of Reedley for the D-IV boys title at noon Saturday, a far cry from winning a single game a year ago.
Several transfers helped reverse those fortunes, including 6-5 sophomore Tyler Powell.
Chino Hills seeks its third CIF state boys title in four years, a run that includes the terrific 35-0 team in 2016 that finished ranked No. 1 nationally. It included Lonzo Ball and his brothers (and a certain loquacious father).
The Huskies won the Division I title a year ago and return reigning Cal-Hi Sports State Player of the Year Onyeka Okongwu, a 6-foot-9 forward who has signed with USC. He started as a freshman on the 35-0 team.
Chino Hills (24-10) plays Logan of Union City (27-6) on Friday at 8 p.m. in D-I. Had Logan defeated De La Salle in the North Coast Section final, it would have been pulled into the prestigious Open Division. Logan fell to De La Salle 54-46, then went 3-0 in the NorCal playoffs to get here.
Campolindo of Moraga got this far, a D-II title boys bout against Colony of Ontario on Saturday at 4 p.m., in part due to a freshman.
Aidan Mahaney, a 6-2 guard, leads the Cougars in scoring at 15.7 points a game. In NorCal victories, he had 16 against Oak Ridge, 22 against Sacramento, 12 on Grant and 16 in the final against Serra.
Colony is led by 6-2 Pepperdine-bound guard Sedrick Altman, averaging 28 a game.
In an era when many teams in the postseason are bolstered by transfers, McFarland stands as an example of homegrown talent that has blossomed together.
The Cougars of the Central Section in Kern County, some 30 minutes from Bakersfield, have a roster of players who grew up in town. Coach Johnny Samaniego was on a McFarland state championship cross country team.
Sports are so big there the school is closed Friday to allow students and faculty a chance to see the D-III girls final against Oakland.
CIF State finals at Golden 1 Center
Open Division: Sheldon (24-10) vs. Sierra Canyon-Chatsworth (31-3), Saturday, 8 p.m.
Division I: James Logan-Union City (27-6) vs. Chino Hills (24-10), Friday, 8 p.m.
Division II: Campolindo-Moraga (26-7) vs. Colony-Ontario (31-5), Saturday, 4 p.m.
Division III: University-San Francisco (28-9) vs. La Jolla Country Day (22-13), Friday, 4 p.m.
Division IV: Immanuel-Reedley (26-8) vs. Ribet Academy-Los Angeles (26-3), Saturday, noon
Division V: Mt. Shasta (33-1) vs. Foothill-Bakersfield (23-11), Friday, noon
Open Division: Pinewood-Los Altos Hills (27-3) vs. Sierra Canyon-Chatsworth (32-1), Saturday, 6 p.m.
Division I: Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland (24-9) vs. Rosary Academy-Fullerton (26-8), Friday, 6 p.m.
Division II: Menlo School-Atherton (25-5) vs. Rolling Hills Prep-San Pedro (27-4), Saturday, 2 p.m.
Division III: Oakland (29-5) vs. McFarland (31-5), Friday, 2 p.m.
Division IV: Oakland Tech (29-6) vs. Northview-Covina (31-5), Saturday, 10 a.m.
Division V: Caruthers (31-4) vs. Ramona-Riverside (23-12), Friday, 10 a.m.