Five Santa Clarita Valley basketball teams tip off Wednesday in the opening rounds of their respective CIF-Southern Section tournaments, including a sixth which will have the luxury of taking the first round off.
Four Foothill League teams — Hart, Saugus, Valencia and West Ranch — and Trinity Classical Academy will begin their postseason treks, with Santa Clarita Christian School getting a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed in Division 5AAA. The Cardinals will begin postseason play at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at The Master’s University against either Sherman Indian or Rubidoux.
As for team’s playing Wednesday, here’s what to expect from the opening-round matchups, with all games schedule to start at 7 p.m.
Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (20-7, 2-10 Mission League) at Hart (20-7, 8-2 Foothill League), Division 2AA
Notre Dame competed in one of the toughest leagues in the Southern Section, with first-place Crespi making it as one of eight open-division teams. The Knights had also been without standout 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Ziaire Williams up until their last two league games, which coincidentally served as their only two league wins. Williams has already been offered by the likes of Stanford, TCU, Cal and Boise State.
Notre Dame also recently retained the services of another key contributor in 6-foot-5 junior guard Julian Rishwain, who combined with Williams to score 51 points in the team’s regular-season finale against St. Francis.
“Their record is deceiving,” said Hart coach Tom Kelly. ” … (Williams and Rishwain) have good size, they both handle well and they both shoot the 3.”
Strength in numbers has been the name of the game for the Indians all season. Seniors Luca Robinson, Whitten Dominguez and Tre Harrill combined for 61 points in the win over Saugus to clinch the Foothill League title last Friday. Kelly is a proponent of getting at least four players to score in double figures on any given night. If they can do that Wednesday, they may just knock off the high-flying Knights.
Saugus (18-7, 7-3 Foothill League) at Muir (20-7, 12-2 Pacific League), Division 2A
Saugus won’t have much time to lament its loss to Hart on Friday, missing out on the program’s first Foothill League title in 35 years.
“There’s still basketball to play,” said Saugus coach Alfredo Manzano after Friday’s loss. “It means we have to be more focused, have more attention to detail. It doesn’t matter how many hours of film we’ve watched and what we’ve done so far, we’re going to have to do more.”
Muir can relate to the Centurions. The Mustangs lost to Pasadena in their regular-season finale, with a league title on the line as well. Like the Cents, their loss wasn’t all that close, falling to Pasadena 78-51.
In sophomore Adrian McIntyre, Saugus has a player more than capable of going head-to-head with the top scorer on opposing teams. For Muir, that’s been senior Hunter Woods, whose averaged 20.2 points and 9.4 rebounds this season, per MaxPreps. The Cents have just two seniors in their rotation — Luke Bodeau and Dylan Spring — but they’ve been the steadying forces behind Saugus’ prolific season, filling up on assists, rebounds and steals and keeping the turnovers at a minimum. A hot night from behind the arc for sophomore Tyler Mehl could also be an X-factor in this one.
Valencia (11-14, 7-3 Foothill League) at Oxnard (19-6, 8-0 Pacific View League), Division 2A
Valencia certainly wasn’t dished any favors by being matched up against the four-time reigning Pacific View League champions.
But, like Notre Dame, Valencia’s record is pretty deceiving. The Vikings have the height with players like Jayden Trower (6-foot-7), Josh Assiff (6-foot-6) and Richard Kawakami (6-foot-5) to match up with most teams. They also have Dexter Akanno, who could break out for 30-plus points on any given night while providing a matchup nightmare at point guard with his 6-foot-4 frame.
A wacky ending to their final game against Hart this season on Jan. 30 cost the Vikings a shot at the league title. Valencia rattled off three straight wins to close out the regular season following the loss to the Indians.
Oxnard lost nine seniors off its roster from last year but gained a guard in Santa Clara transfer Justin Mack. Another player to keep an eye on for Oxnard will be Jaron Waters, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds in the team’s regular-season finale against Pacifica.
West Ranch (17-9, 5-5 Foothill League) at San Marcos (21-6, 8-0 Channel League), Division 2A
West Ranch was the lone at-large team to come out of the Foothill League and they’ll be pitted against the Channel League champions. The Wildcats endured a coaching change just as their season got underway, which had a long-standing effect on their performance in league.
“With all that we’ve been through, I think we’re just now starting to realize our full potential and get past some of the troubles from earlier in the season,” said West Ranch coach Sean McKillop following a loss to Hart on Feb. 6. “That should make us a dangerous team for the playoffs.”
The Wildcats are certainly dangerous thanks to two potent scoring threats in Andrew Austin and Austin Galuppo, the latter of which surpassed 2,000 career points in the Cats’ regular-season finale victory over Golden Valley. They’ll have to contend with a San Marcos scoring duo of seniors Jackson Stormo and Ryan Godges, who’ve averaged 16.8 and 16.5 points this season, respectively.
Trinity Classical Academy (11-10, 6-6 Heritage League) at Pasadena Polytechnic (21-3, 7-1 Prep League), Division 4A
Trinity closed out the season with a win over Guidance Charter after battling it out in a Heritage League that touted the likes of Santa Clarita Christian and Valley Torah.
The Knights will likely have their hands full with a Poly team that was a two-point loss away from finishing with a perfect league record.
Tyler Lee has been able to do it all for the Knights this year, averaging a team-high 13.9 points and 8.1 rebounds, and provides some size at 6-foot-2. Kyle Fields also gives Trinity a viable threat from 3-point range and has averaged 9.8 points on the season.