Prep basketball playoff preview

Hart teammates Laney Grider (4), Lily Cornejo (21) and Morgan Mack (13) celebrate their win over Valencia High at Hart High on Friday, 020223. Dan Watson/The Signal

 What a year for basketball in the Santa Clarita Valley.  

West Ranch won its 36th straight league game and became the first local team to enter the CIF Open Division. Valencia enters the playoffs as the top-ranked team in Division 4AA. Hart girls’ hoops won the program’s first league title in 15 years. Trinity girls’ hoops won its 44th straight Heritage League game and Saugus made the playoffs with five freshmen in the corps with a brand-new head coach. 

The time has come to compete among only the best in each team’s respective divisions as playoff basketball commences on Tuesday. 

The CIF released its hoops’ brackets on Sunday. 

Here’s everything you need to know about what could be a long postseason in the SCV:  

West Ranch opens up with St. John Bosco  

The Wildcats accomplished one of their many goals on Friday, after completing their third straight undefeated league season.  

West Ranch now embarks on the next mission and perhaps their toughest one yet, winning the CIF Open Division.  

The Cats were ranked third of the eight teams selected to the Division on Saturday. West Ranch will open up at home with the St. John Bosco Braves on Friday. 

The Braves are led by sophomore sensations Elzie Harrington and Kade Bonam. The pair averaged more than 15 points and five rebounds a game for Bosco in its 24-4, 9-1 Trinity League championship season. 

St. John Bosco has a ton of size but West Ranch matches up well with the Braves. 

Seniors Jaqari Miles, Andrew Meadow, Jazz Gardner and Isaiah Fields will lead the charge against the Braves as the Cats shoot for their third straight opening round playoff win. 

Open Division will be pool play, meaning a team can drop a game but continue to play to win the pool. West Ranch will host St. Bernard on Tuesday, Feb. 14, and head to Harvard-Westlake on Friday, Feb. 17. 

Saugus welcomes Rancho Cucamonga 

The Centurions finished as league runners-up for the fourth consecutive year this season. Saugus will open up the CIF Division 2AA playoffs at home, in a matchup with the Rancho Cucamonga Cougars. 

Rancho has posted a handful of impressive wins this year and possesses a ton of size on its roster. Saugus has shown time and time again that it can hang with bigger teams with its tough defense and athleticism.  

Senior Max Tengan has led the team in scoring but Saugus has plenty of options on offense. Lenox Lavalle, Justin Perez and Landon O’Brien have all shined this season on both sides of the court. 

Saugus opens up with the Cougars on Wednesday with a game time to be determined. 

Canyon draws familiar foe in 3AA 

The Cowboys drew a familiar face in the Division 3AA bracket. 

Canyon will have a rematch with the Price Knights, whom the Cowboys beat 60-46 earlier this season. 

The Cowboys are all in and ready to make a run. Canyon’s return to the playoff marks the program’s first back-to-back playoff berths in nine years. 

Senior Lincoln Phillips, Tyler Miller and Carson Rodi have led the way for the Cowboys. Tyler Best, Eric Kubel and Kobe Ennis have also come along late and impacted the team’s success. 

Canyon heads to Price on Wednesday at 7 p.m. 

Hart makes the cut, heads to Schurr 

The Indians struggled in the Foothill League but a strong overall record has gifted the program an at-large bid to enter the Division 3A playoffs.  

Hart will head out to Montebello to take on the Schurr Spartans.  

Schurr enters the playoffs as the Almont League champs and as winners of 13 straight games. 

The Indians stumbled to end the regular season but have the talent to make a run in CIF. Outside shooting from Devon Strong, Tim Larkins and Jack Oldhafer has fueled the team’s strong outside presence. The numerous perimeter threats typically open up lanes inside where Elias Bookhart and Gabe Stokes have shown they can put up big numbers. 

Schurr hosts Hart in the opening round on Wednesday with a time to be determined. 
Valencia heads to Don Lugo Conquistadores in 4AA 

The Vikings finished the regular season standing alone atop the Division 4AA polls.  

Valencia will open up on the road in Chino against the Don Lugo Conquistadores. Don Lugo enters the playoffs as the Mt. Baldy League champs while also riding a nine-game win streak. 

The Vikings also enter the postseason with a hot hand. They’ve dropped just one game in the new year, with some big wins throughout the season. 

Junior Bryce Bedgood has been a force in the paint for Valencia. The 6-foot, 9-inch forward’s athleticism makes him a tough assignment for any opposing big. Mikah Ballew and Kai Davis also enter the playoffs playing well, while Maurice Pitts and Jaden Ares have added some solid all-around play. 

Valencia has big aspirations in 4AA but the journey starts Wednesday at Don Lugo with a tipoff time yet to be determined. 

Trinity gets wildcard matchup at Villanova Prep  

The Knights drew into the wildcard round in Division 4AA and will open up with Villanova Prep. 

The Villanova Wildcats have only won seven games this season but Trinity won’t take the team for granted. The Knights are looking for their fourth straight opening-round win in CIF. 

Lucas Spring and Bram Yoo have shined for the Knights, leading the way with scoring all over the court as well as creating chances for their teammates. Gabe Chavez has added even more outside shooting while Conrad Alderson has been a pleasant surprise on the interior for the Knights. 

Trinity will make the two-hour drive Tuesday to Ojai for the wildcard matchup with Villanova at 7 p.m. 

Girls’ Basketball 

Hart gets first-round bye 

To the surprise of few, the Foothill League champs earned a first-round bye in the Division 2AA playoffs.  

The Indians tied with Canyon for the league title, with identical 11-1 records, but nonetheless, clinched the program’s first league championship in over a decade. 

Hart has sat atop the 2AA polls for weeks and will await the winner of Troy and Bonita. The Indians will host the winner on Saturday. 

Canyon girls host Covina Thursday 

The other Foothill League champs were not so lucky to receive a first-round bye. Canyon will open at home with Covina, also in 2AA. 

The Cowboys enter the postseason on an eight-game win streak and are yet to lose a game at home this season. 

Canyon’s defense has set the tone in just about every game it’s been in. Four Cowboys starters average more than two steals a game, which has led to quick transition scoring. 

Seniors Aaliyah Garcia and Jade Sims have done the bulk of the scoring for Canyon while Josie Regez, Koko Booker and Kat Garcia are all more than capable of having great games should the opportunity arise. 

Canyon hosts Covina on Thursday at 7 p.m. 

Trinity opens up with Temple City 

The Knights have become one of the most consistent residents of the CIF playoffs. Trinity has dominated the Heritage League for five straight seasons, consistently earning the team a playoff seed. The Knights are currently on a 44-game win streak in league but they haven’t stopped there. 

Trinity has shined in the playoffs in recent years thanks to some tough defense. That defense will be focused on sophomore Kristi Huynh of Temple City. The Knights have allowed just 32 points a game this season while the offense has gotten by just fine. 

Emma Schaaf has been a force for Trinity with a strong three-level game. All-CIF point guard Lily Caddow has also shined for the Knights, as she looks to add one more ring to her collection before graduating this spring. 

Trinity and Temple City tip off on Thursday at 7 p.m. 

Centurions get short road trip to Highland 

The Centurions have surprised the masses this season. It’s a heavily freshman corps along with a first-year head coach who started days before the season, but here comes Saugus into the postseason. 

Freshmen Channen Wilson and EvaMarie Rios have led the team in scoring and now will get their first taste of CIF playoffs on the road at Highland. 

The Bulldogs are on fire and will begin Division 3AA postseason play on a nine-game win streak. 

Head coach Anthony Falasca will work for his first career playoff win on Thursday when Highland hosts Saugus at a time yet to be determined.  

Valencia gets road matchup at Holy Martyrs 

The Vikings stumbled at the end of the regular season but are still feeling confident heading into the playoffs. 

Valencia will begin postseason play on the road in Sherman Oaks against the Holy Martyrs Armens. 

Holy Martyrs won the Liberty League for the fourth consecutive year and has lost just one game since late December. 

The Vikings have all the tools to win behind a strong defense led by junior Libby Oxciano. 

The junior guard leads the team with 15 points, 4.1 steals and 3.5 assists per game. Freshman Cara McKell has made an immediate impact on the team and finished her first varsity season averaging 13.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game. 

The Vikings have depth behind the pair as unlikely heroes may be asked to step up and take Valencia into the second round. 

Holy Martyrs and Valencia tip off Thursday at 7 p.m. 

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