Coaching girls basketball at McClatchy High School has been an in-house deal for years.
Harvey Tahara elevated the program during his tenure from average to powerhouse status before retiring in 2011. Jessica Kunisaki, one of his former players, took over, elevating the program even more, punctuated with the CIF State Division I championship in 2015.
Jeff Ota, a star McClatchy player in the 1970s, has been at the helm since 2016, posting seasons of 31-5 and 23-7 the last two seasons. He’s back for more, and the Lions start this season ranked No. 1 by The Bee due to returning talent and tradition.
The Lions play home games at one of the region’s most unique venues and on a surface aptly named Janice and Harvey Tahara Court.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
Leading the charge will be 5-foot-11 guard/wing Nia Lowery, a four-year varsity player who recently signed a national letter of intent to play at Washington, which is where The Bee’s 2015 Player of the Year from McClatchy - Gigi Garcia - wound up going.
Kamryn Hall, a 6-foot senior who this week signed with West Point, is also back, as is 5-10 junior forward Bella Garcia, sister of Gigi. The Lions boast one of the tallest and most skilled lineups in the region.
Antelope is ranked second under spirited coach Sean Chambers, a star on the 1983 Highlands boys team that went 33-1. The Titans won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title last season and return three of their top four scorers in Jzaniya Harriel, Jordan Goodwin, Arianna Spann and Kaiija Lesane.
Antelope started this season 6-0, beating Elk Grove 83-70 to win the Cartwright Classic on Saturday. Harriel, a 5-10 sophomore guard, had 39 points, making 7 of 11 3-point baskets, and Angel Jordan 17. Lesane had 13 rebounds.
Sacramento, led by four-year starting guard RyAnne Walters, is ranked third. Walters signed with UC Santa Barbara.
West Campus, which has won back-to-back state championships, is ranked fourth and led by guard Gabby Rones.
And Folsom, led by guard Charity Gallegos, is ranked fifth.
Boys rankings - Sheldon starts this season where it left off - top ranked by The Bee.
This was already the projected top-ranked team in Northern California before the late summer arrival of 6-8 guard Marcus Bagley, younger brother of Kings first-round pick Marvin Bagley III.
Grant is No. 2. The Pacers return versatile players David Jones, Dee Juan Pruitt and Steven Richardson.
Folsom is No. 3 despite the graduation of its starting lineup, but coach Mike Wall is one of the state’s top coaches. The Bulldogs always find a way.
Freshman guard Malik Jackson, 6-3 junior guard Tiler Fears and seniors Binder Palane and Jalen Scott have had encouraging starts to the season for Folsom.
Jesuit, led by guards Branden Rutherford and Isa Silva, is No. 4.
Capital Christian suffered a big loss when 6-8 forward Kendall Munson transferred to a prep school in Washington, though Evan Johnson is back for a team that was in the NorCal Open playoffs last season under first-year coach McCall Wollman.
Tournament time - Jesuit is hosting the 45th Father Barry Christmas Classic from Thursday through Saturday.
Opening-night games: Cathedral Catholic of San Diego against Mitty of San Jose at 3:45 p.m., followed by Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks against Brophy Prep of Phoenix, St. Patrick-St. Vincent of Vallejo versus Jesuit and St. John Bosco of Bellflower against St. Mary’s of Stockton.
Brophy is the defending champion. Bosco includes UOP commit Chris James, a 6-6 forward, Notre Dame is led by national recruits Julian Rishwain and Ziaire Williams, and Mitty is led by 2017-18 Central Coast Section Sophomore of the Year Devan Sapp.
The 65th Gridley Invitational includes Sheldon and fellow NorCal powers Salesian of Richmond, Dublin, Logan of Union City and St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda.
Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson: email@example.com, @SacBee_JoeD, sacbee.com/high-school.