Joe Davidson

Previews of Saturday’s high school NorCal championship games

It's title time at Sleep Train Arena as the CIF Northern California Regional playoffs for upper divisions invades the NBA venue on Saturday.

A closer look at the upper-division matchups (and reminder to follow on Twitter: @SacBee_JoeD for updates):

Open Division boys, 8 p.m.

- Bishop O'Dowd (26-4) vs. Modesto Christian (30-3) - Top ranked in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 1 all season in Northern California by MaxPreps, O'Dowd of Oakland is unbeaten in state competition with losses only to national powerhouses, including two to 45-0 Oak Hill Academy of Virginia, the top team in the land. The Dragons overwhelm opponents with size, speed, defense and by sharing the ball. The focal points are dazzling guard Paris Austin, who can score inside and out, and 6-foot-11 center Ivan Rabb, a McDonald's All-American and the nation's top senior recruit who has yet to announce where he'll play next season (could be Cal, could be Kentucky, could be anywhere he wants). Another big for O'Dowd is 6-9 forward Isaiah Thomas. Modesto Christian is balanced with size, guard play and shooting. The Crusaders will counter Rabb and Thomas with inside bigs Anthony Townes and Robinson Idehen. Guards Jeff Wu and Christian Ellis have had strong seasons for Modesto Christian, coached by an all-time program and Sac-Joaquin Section great in Richard Midgley, who led the Crusaders to the state finals as a senior in the early 2000s before a nice career at Cal.

That Midgley and O'Dowd coach Lou Richie are good friends and have faced each other in each of the last two Open Division games adds to the intrigue.

Open Division girls, 6 p.m.

- St. Mary's (31-1) vs. Miramonte (30-2) - Seeking their 11th NorCal championship, the Rams of Stockton are nationally ranked third by MaxPreps and state-ranked No. 1 by Cal-Hi, having lost only to national No. 2 Blackman of Tennessee. Miramonte of Orinda, state-ranked fifth, has been a force for years and is led by versatile guard Sabrina Ionescu and flanked by Uriah Howard, Rachelle Louie and Keana Delos Santos. Miramonte beat an injury-riddled St. Mary's team last season in the playoffs. St. Mary has won 27 consecutive games on the strength of defense, depth and shooting. Freshman center Aquira DeCosta has played big, as have guards Mi'Cole Cayton, Naje Murray, Carlissa Shipp, Sierra Smith and Kat Tudor. Expect a fast, fun and entertaining show.

Division I boys, 4 p.m.

- Woodcreek (27-5) vs. San Ramon Valley (25-6) - The top two seeds were pushed aside in this field by fourth-seeded Woodcreek of Roseville and third-seeded San Ramon Valley of Danville, making for an intriguing title match of teams that are big inside with strong guard play and excellent coaching. Woodcreek features 6-foot-9 freshman center Jordan Brown, who plays beyond his years in terms of skill , composure and tenacity. He had 18 points and 14 rebounds in a 43-39 semifinal win over top-seeded De La Salle in Concord. The No. 2 seed in the field was Sheldon of Sacramento, which beat Woodcreek with a late run 62-55 in a Sac-Joaquin Section semifinal. Sheldon lost to Berkeley in NorCal play, and Berkeley fell to San Ramon Valley 68-53 in a semifinal. The Wolves have a big man inside to counter Brown with 6-10 center Gregg Polosky (with help from 6-9 Kule Spackman). Guard play is also paramount here, and few are better than Woodcreek senior and four-year starter Noah Blackwell, who was superb in the De La Salle victory. He will face two guard defenders in Christian Fuca and Keith Smith.

Division I girls, 2 p.m.

- McClatchy (25-7) vs. Oak Ridge (27-4) - Since 1982, the first year of regional tournament play, 19 area teams have reached the NorCal D-I final, but only Oak Ridge in 2010 won it (and won the state championship, too). The lone holdover for Oak Ridge is the coach, Steve White, who implores fundamental play and effort, and receives it. This is the same narrative for McClatchy as coach Jessica Kunisaki has led a Lions team that has been top ranked by The Bee all season. McClatchy has inside power with Gigi Garcia and Destiny Lee and guard play with Lauren Nubla, Kristi and Kelsey Wong and shooters with Jordan Cruz and Alex Washington. Oak Ridge has received strong seasons from a host of players, including Grace Derksen, Isamar Conde, Hailey McCoy and Yumi Drossos.

Division II boys, noon

- Sacramento (28-5) vs. Mitty (19-10) - Two traditional powers meet, and there will be plenty of activity inside with bruiser centers with skills in Solomon Young of Sacramento and Ben Kone of the Monarchs of San Jose. Neither backs down from a challenge, and both can run the floor, rebound and defend the rim. Sacramento has a surplus of superb guards, including Christian Terrell, Sayvon Hines and Stephen Matthews. Dakarai Monroe, a football star, adds a physical element for Mitty, home of Aaron Gordon, a prep All-American who played last season at Arizona and is now in the NBA.

Division II girls, 10 a.m.

- Mitty (23-6) vs. Dublin (28-3) - Mitty of San Jose, under famed coach Sue Phillips, seeks its sixth title since 2005 and seventh overall with a young team headed by junior Jahnay Anderson and sophomores Heleyna Hill and Madeline Holland. Dublin is in a NorCal final for the first time, thanks to the efforts of three seniors: Julyana Amante, JoJuan Carrington and Milan Moses. Dublin stunned longtime power Carondelet of Concord in the North Coast Section playoffs to prove it was no fluke.

-Joe Davidson

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