LAGUNA NIGUEL, Ca. – The state’s best team and best player kept plowing toward an unbeaten season, state title and California Player of the Year honors Friday night.
Other highly-ranked CIF Southern Section teams and players didn’t find the sledding quite as smooth in the latest round of playoff action, however.
Santa Ana Mater Dei, the No. 1 seed in the Southern Section’s new “Open Division” of the playoffs, got 42 points from the aforementioned lock for POY honors – University of Arizona-bound Stanley Johnson – en route to a 77-59 quarterfinal win at Lakewood Mayfair that pushed the Monarchs to 29-0.
But the division’s No. 2 (Etiwanda), 3 (L.A. Loyola) and 4 (Corona Centennial) seeds all fell by the very wet wayside Friday night.
Etiwanda – considered in most circles as the squad with the most viable chance to knock off Mater Dei (the Eagles beat the Monarchs in last year’s IAA title game before falling to Mater Dei in the regional final rematch) – fell at home to Chino Hills, 59-48.
The Eagles had to go most of the final three quarters without their best player, USC-bound Jordan McLaughlin, who apparently suffered a re-injury to the shoulder that forced him to miss three games in December and early January.
No. 3 Loyola – certainly not the same team since future Arizona point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright left school with a week to go in the regular season – was knocked off by host and No. 6 seed Redondo Beach Redondo, 65-54.
And Centennial – in what have been not only the most competitive and hard-fought game of the division but in all of the Southland Friday night – dropped a 78-76 decision in Riverside to host JW North.
The Open wasn’t the only Southern Section playoff division that took some major hits Friday night.
Top-ranked Long Beach Poly cruised past host Eastvale Roosevelt, 70-52, to move into an IAA semifinal Tuesday in the LBC against Inglewood (which defeated visiting Temecula Great Oak, 82-70).
And No. 2 seed Rancho Cucamonga fell to 10 seed Millikan in Long Beach, 84-82, although that wasn’t nearly the “upset” that the difference in seed numbers would suggest.
But, in the 1A, there was the mother of all upsets as top-ranked Lake Forest El Toro (26-2 going into the game) fell to host Perris (the 8 seed), 60-52.
And No. 2 seed Mission Hills Alemany fell at home to No. 7 Villa Park, 65-62.
The 3A’s top seed, Santa Barbara (24-2 going into the game) took the upset hit at No. 4 Oak Park, 64-57.
Top-ranked and unbeaten (29-zip going into the game) Sherman Oaks dropped a 4AA semifinal to San Juan Capistrano JSerra, 83-70.
But that was far from a stunner, as Buckley had played a less than overwhelming schedule while JSerra toiled in the tough-as-all-get-out Trinity League.
Friday’s action set the stage for some cool Tuesday night semifinals and March 7 or 8 championship games.
*Mater Dei is at home Tuesday night against JW North in one of the first “battle of the unbeatens” (on the floor) in an upper-division semifinal or final in a long while.
JW North is 26-0 in action “on the floor” with a forfeit (the Huskies showed up on the wrong day for their season opener) and a “no-contest” ruling on a what was a win against a non-sanctioned Las Vegas “prep school” in a tournament.
*And, in the other Open semifinal, Chino Hills (23-4) – which hasn’t lost since a consolation game with Chatsworth Sierra Canyon on the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic on Dec. 30 – plays host to Redondo (24-4).
That game will likely feature – at least at some points in the contest – a showdown between two of the better sophomore perimeter players in the U.S., Lonzo Ball of Chino Hills (who is already committed to UCLA) and Leland Green of Redondo.
*Inglewood (which plays at Poly) and Mission Viejo (playing host to Millikan) stand in the way of a potential All-Moore League and All-Long Beach 1AA championship at the Honda Center in Anaheim on March 8.