Girls Basketball: All-Area Player of the Year Watchlist

St. Mary's guard Ariel Johnson, right, goes for a reverse layup against Bishop Alemany at the Rams' MLK Showcase on Monday at Morelli Gym in Stockton. Johnson scored a game-high 25 points. CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD FILE 2017

Girls basketball is perhaps the most impressive high school sport in Stockton and San Joaquin County, and this year is proving it yet again.

Not only is St. Mary’s ranked No. 6 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, but Lincoln and Brookside Christian join the Rams in NorCalPreps’ Top 20 rankings.

Here is my All-Area Player of the Year Watchlist, in its first edition for 2016-17:

Remember: This is just for fun, and this list can change dramatically before season’s end. The Record puts a huge emphasis on winning teams, so there are players who are probably good enough to be on this list, but whose teams are struggling in league play so they’re less likely to win this award

Aquira DeCosta (St. Mary’s forward, junior)

DeCosta is a double-double waiting to happen, and the scary part is, she’s still just scratching the surface of her potential. The 6-foot-2 Rams star just posted 23 points and 15 rebounds in an 89-69 win over Mission Hills-Bishop Alemany on Monday in St. Mary’s MLK Showcase. She’s ESPN’s top-rated prospect for the Class of 2018.

Ariel Johnson (St. Mary’s guard, junior)

Johnson, despite being recruited my many, still flies a little under the spotlight because of the recruiting notoriety of DeCosta. But make no mistake, Johnson is relentless, can score by driving to the basket, hit 3-pointers and wreak havoc on defense. She’s the kind of versatile that college recruiters love and that will translate well to big-time college basketball. I could see Johnson in the Pac-12. She’s averaging 15 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Loretta Kakala (Manteca center, senior)

Kakala was recently named the first McDonald’s All-American from the city of Manteca, and the fourth from San Joaquin County (joining St. Mary’s graduates Jacki Gemelos, Chelsea Gray and Afure Jemerigbe). She’s averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Buffaloes, who sit atop the Valley Oak League standings as the only team without a loss.

Celeste Almendarez (Edison guard, junior)

Almendarez is 5-foot-7 in a lineup that features three 6-footers — Vantajia Warren, Jaliah Williams and Koletta Wooten — but her IQ, speed, unselfishness and tenacity make her the Vikings’ catalyst. Plus, she could post a triple-double at any time. Almendarez is averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

Donwanae Anthony (Kimball forward, senior)

Anthony isn’t just a powerful forward with the ability to score at will, but is a superb facilitator for her teammates. She’s putting up 17 points and 11 boards per game, though Kimball is in a rough stretch after consecutive VOL losses to Manteca and Modesto-Central Catholic.

Shaylene Stark (Brookside Christian guard, senior)

Stark was an excellent complement last year for Aari McDonald (two-time All-Area Player of the Year, and now a Washington guard). Now, she’s beyond important for a team that literally doesn’t have any bench due to an already thin roster and a key injury. Stark is averaging 14 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Deyliana Lewis (Bear Creek forward, sophomore)

Lewis is the only forward who starts for the guard-heavy Bruins, but runs the floor like a guard and can do a bit of everything for Bear Creek. Lewis, whose nickname is “Dey Dey”, averages 10 points, six rebounds and two steals.

Zahria Hendrix (Lincoln guard, senior)

The Trojans have a balanced scoring attack, but Hendrix is the best open-court defender, has a great 3-point shot, can get to the basket and is a threat for blocking shots, too. The Stanislaus State signee is averaging 11 points, seven boards and four steals.

MORE NAMES TO WATCH

Kiara Manipol (Lincoln guard, senior)

Neenah Young (St. Mary’s forward, junior)

Vantajia Warren (Edison forward, senior)

Donja Payne (East Union forward, sophomore)

Savannah Henson (Brookside Christian guard, junior)

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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Boys Basketball: All-Area Player of the Year Watchlist

West guard Michael Hayes, left, and Lincoln forward Andre Kelly are both candidates for The Record's All-Area Boys Basketball Player of the Year. CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD FILE 2017

There’s a month left of regular-season high school basketball in the Sac-Joaquin Section.

Though The Record does use postseason performance in our end-of-year honors, it’s time for my first watchlist for both boys and girls basketball All-Area Players of the Year.

Remember: This is just for fun, and this list can change dramatically before season’s end. The Record puts a huge emphasis on winning teams, so there are players who are probably good enough to be on this list, but whose teams are struggling in league play so they’re less likely to win this award.

Michael Hayes (West guard, junior)

Hayes did have a rough night Wednesday, as he was in constant foul trouble during St. Mary’s 68-66 Tri-City Athletic League win at West. However, in terms of sheer explosiveness, competitiveness and impact, he is still as good a candidate as anybody.

Plus, Hayes has the highlight of the year, hitting the game-winning shot in a 65-64 win on Friday at Lincoln. He’s a returning first-team, All-Area selection for The Record.

Andre Kelly (Lincoln forward, junior)

Kelly has as good a chance as anyone of winning this award. He was already dynamic as a sophomore, in a second-team All-Area season, and has only gotten better. The 6-foot-8 Kelly is putting up 25 points and 14 rebounds per game, shooting an impeccable 65 percent from the field.

Tydus Verhoeven (Manteca forward, senior)

Verhoeven has truly put it together as the senior leader and eclectic virtuoso that the Valley Oak League-leading Buffaloes need. If the season ended today, Verhoeven would have my vote, and probably most of the coaches’ votes, for VOL MVP. The 6-8 senior is averaging 15 points, 12 rebounds, and crazily, six blocks per game. In a pivotal 61-58 win over Modesto-Central Catholic last week, Verhoeven had 27 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks. That is player of the year stuff if I’ve ever seen it.

Bryce Johnson (St. Mary’s forward, sophomore)

Johnson has the impressive distinction in being the only varsity newcomer in this main batch of candidates. The 6-6 forward dazzled in St. Mary’s biggest game of the season, pouring in 22 points against West. Johnson is averaging a team-high 16 points, along with 10 rebounds.

TreVon Simmons (Brookside Christian guard, senior)

Simmons and sophomore forward Jalen Williams (one of the extra names to watch) could both be on this list. Simmons, though, has been to two Sac-Joaquin Section championship games in his career. He has the motivation of coming to the brink of a title last year, in that crazy overtime loss to Mariposa County, and he was excellent then. Simmons is even better this year, and was averaging over 20 points per game earlier in the season. He has the capability to shoot over 40 percent from 3-point land consistently and that’s vital in modern basketball.

Jalen Valverde (Elliot Christian guard, senior)

Valverde gets the slight nod over teammate Jimmy Beltz (leading scorer, prolific 3-point shooter) because of his all-around impact and ability to light up an entire stat sheet. The Eagles’ point guard averages 16 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in what could be a special season for Elliot Christian: The Record’s top-ranked small-school team as of this week.

Junior Ballard (Lathrop guard, junior)

Ballard is perhaps the area’s most talented scorer, especially with his dynamic ability to finish around the basket. The man who became Lathrop’s first player to score over 50 points in a single game (last season against Sierra) is averaging 24 points and shooting 52 percent from the field. Ballard’s candidacy will hinge upon Lathrop’s late-season performance: how they fare in the VOL’s homestretch and potentially, the section’s Division IV playoff bracket.

MORE NAMES TO WATCH

Carlos Gaston (Chavez guard, senior)

Wesley Bookman (Edison forward, senior)

Cutrell Haywood (Stagg forward, senior)

Ephraim Estell (West forward, senior)

Jordan Trotter (St. Mary’s forward, senior)

Zeke Holman (Lincoln guard/forward, junior)

Jimmy Beltz (Elliot Christian guard, senior)

Aidan Green (Tokay guard/forward, senior)

Raul Melgarejo (Weston Ranch forward, sophomore)

Jalen Williams (Brookside Christian forward, sophomore)

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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St. Mary’s girls ranked No. 6 in state

St. Mary's forward Aquira DeCosta, front, goes up for a layup against Bishop Alemany during their MLK Showcase game Monday at Morelli Gym in Stockton. DeCosta had 23 points in the 89-69 win. CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD FILE 2017

Cal-Hi Sports’ latest top 20 state girls basketball rankings are out, and St. Mary’s (13-4) has jumped from No. 7 to No. 6.

Cal-Hi is most impressed, it says, with a three-point loss to powerful Las-Vegas Centennial. Even more than beating Mission Hills-Alemany by 20 two days later. Click here to read the full rankings.

Lincoln (12-5) and Brookside Christian (15-4) are listed as bubble teams. There are no area boys teams in the state’s top 20.

In NorCalPreps’ Top 20, St. Mary’s is No. 2, Lincoln is No. 14 and Brookside Christian is No. 17. Lincoln and Elliot Christian have both been in the boys Top 20 at some point this season, but that hierarchy is currently devoid of any area teams. The top Sac-Joaquin Section representative is Roseville-Woodcreek at No. 2.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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Manteca football schedules Bay Area power

Manteca quarterback Gino Campiotti, right, against Menlo-Atherton during their CIF NorCal Division 3 AA bowl game on Dec. 9, 2016, in Atherton. Manteca has scheduled Bay Area power San Jose-Valley Christian for its 2017 Week 0 game at home. TONY AVELAR/RECORD FILE 2016

The Manteca football team’s upcoming season will be downright scary for its opposition.

Manteca, with a team full of juniors, split the Valley Oak League title with Oakdale and Modesto-Central Catholic, won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship and competed in the CIF NorCal Division 3-AA bowl game (a loss to Menlo-Atherton).

The team is full of returning All-Area talent like quarterback Gino Campiotti, linemen Justin Kakala and Kyle Reis and linebacker Ferrin Manuleleua (first team) and defensive back Vincent Ferro (second team). Not to mention, an explosive wide receiver in Joel Olmos to help out Campiotti.

Manteca officially scheduled its next Week 0 opponent on Wednesday, as coach Eric Reis confirmed, and it’s a dandy.

The Buffaloes will welcome San Jose-Valley Christian to Guss Schmiedt Field (likely on Friday, August 25).

Valley Christian went 13-2 this season, won the Central Coast Section’s Open Division 3 championship 14-10 over Salinas Palma, beat Santa Rosa-Cardinal Newman 31-6 in the CIF NorCal Division 2-AA bowl game and lost 21-17 to San Diego-Madison in a thrilling state final.

The Warriors have posted five consecutive winning seasons and are a superb test right off the bat for the Buffs: they of lofty dreams. Manteca has five Sac-Joaquin Section titles, but is seeking the elusive NorCal banner and state finals appearance.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

St. Mary’s football ranked No. 6 in state

St. Mary's football players Nicholas Cole, left, and Jake Dunniway pose with their CIF NorCal championship trophy after beating Freedom 49-40 in the Division 1-AA bowl game on Friday at Sanguinetti Field in Stockton. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

The final high school football state rankings from Cal-Hi Sports are here.

St. Mary’s has jumped to No. 6, from No. 7, after beating Oakley-Freedom 49-40 in the CIF NorCal Division 1-AA bowl on Friday in Stockton. The Rams’ state finals opponent, San Diego-Cathedral Catholic (14-0), has jumped to No. 5 from No. 6.

St. Mary’s (14-1) is on a 10-game winning streak, and has scored over 40 points in 14 of 15 games this season. Junior tailback Dusty Frampton is likely approaching single-season school records, with his 2,176 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns.

Here’s a look at the other NorCal and Sac-Joaquin Section rankings:

  • St. Mary’s remains No. 2, and Manteca moves up to No. 16 from No. 17 in the latest NorCalPreps Top 20.
  • St. Mary’s is No. 12 in MaxPreps’ national freeman (computer) rankings. The human-made Xcellent 25 does not have St. Mary’s.
  • St. Mary’s is No. 5 in MaxPreps’ Kevin Askeland’s regional rankings in the West. One-through-four are Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), Bellflower-St. John Bosco, Santa Ana-Mater Dei and Corona-Centennial.
http://youtu.be/zHaAhkEHNyo

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High school football, High School Sports, Sports, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Know Thine Enemy: Rancho Christian Eagles

The Amador football team’s unreal journey has one final step: a state championship game.

Amador (14-1) faces Temecula-Rancho Christian in the CIF Division 6-AA final at 6 p.m. Saturday at Murrieta Mesa High in Murrieta. That’s about a 460-mile drive via car from Sutter Creek.

Rancho Christian has a strong coach, and a team that’s on a 10-game winning streak, including winning the Southern Section Division 13 (you can’t make this stuff up, there are a bajillion teams in the Southern Section) championship.

Still, that low of a division is misleading. The Southern Section is the most talented (by mere force of how many schools and athletes there are) section in the state.

With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of Rancho Christian:

RANCHO CHRISTIAN EAGLES

Record: 13-2, 5-0 South Valley League

Recent history: Rancho Christian is a section champion for the first time, and considering the state playoffs expanded to include every section champion starting in 2015-16, it’s a great time to win your first section championship.

Players to Watch

No. 2 Jaden Schieberl (RB/SS, junior): Schieberl has compiled 1,668 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns for the Eagles, and is averaging a massive 12.2 yards per carry.

No. 34 Nicholas Alvarez (LB/TE, senior): Alvarez has racked up a team-high 16 sacks. Amador has separated itself in part because of its ability to have offensive balance, and pass behind quarterback Anthony Burns. Alvarez can help disrupt that.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High school football, High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

Know Thine Enemy: Cathedral Catholic Dons

Cathedral Catholic running back Tyler Gaffney, 25, runs against St. Mary's during their CIF State Division II football championship game in December 2008 in Carson. SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO

Eight years have come and gone since San Diego-Cathedral Catholic ended the St. Mary’s football team’s season in heartbreak.

The Dons edged the Rams 37-34 in the CIF State Division II championship game in December 2008 in Carson.

Leading that team was Tyler Gaffney, a future Stanford star and current New England Patriots practice squad player, who reeled off 337 rushing yards and five touchdowns for coach Sean Doyle and company.

The two meet again in the state’s Division 1-AA championship, at 8 p.m. Friday at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium, in what should be an amazing contest between the state-ranked No. 5 Dons (14-0) and No. 6 Rams (14-1). State rankings via Cal-Hi Sports. 

My “Know Thine Enemy” blog returns to break down the Dons:

Cathedral Catholic Dons

Record: 14-0, 4-0 Western League

Recent history: Cathedral Catholic has won three section championships since 2008. The school was once known as University of San Diego, and is right next to the actual University of San Diego, a private school that’s a West Coast Conference opponent of Pacific.

Players to Watch

No. 15 Shawn Poma (RB, sophomore): Poma had 933 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns through the Dons’ first 12 games. Cathedral Catholic’s route to victory is sustaining long drives, and keeping the ball away from the Rams’ offense and junior tailback Dusty Frampton (2,176 rushing yards, 41 touchdowns).

No. 5 Moroni Alae (OLB/SB, senior): Alae provides a pass-rushing spark for the Dons’ defense, with 12 sacks through those first 12 games. St. Mary’s had its first game without a passing touchdown last week, for the first time since the 2014 section Division II championship: a 21-14 loss to Sacramento-Grant. It’s a good time for Alae to try and create havoc and keep that usually explosive passing offense off-balance. The odds of that happening two weeks in a row is highly unlikely, given the experience and confidence of the personnel. Still, Alae is vital.

CalPreps.com computer prediction: Cathedral Catholic 34, St. Mary’s 33

Broadcast: Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

Tickets: $15 adults, $10 seniors, students (w/ ASB), children 5-and-over. Children under 5 free.

Parking: $10 cars, $25 RVs. No alcohol allowed on Sacramento State campus.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High school football, High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

St. Mary’s football ranked seventh in state

 

The St. Mary's football team in the locker room before the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship against Folsom on Saturday at Sacramento State's Hornet Stadium. CRAIG SANDERS/FOR THE RECORD

This St. Mary’s football team might just be the best edition of the Rams in their 88 years of existence.

St. Mary’s hammered Folsom 56-25 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game. Not only was it the second-most points scored in a Division I final, but Folsom was a four-time defending section champion. As a result, the Rams (13-1) leaped to No. 7 in Cal-Hi Sports latest state top 25 rankings.

Here’a a look at how St. Mary’s stacks up elsewhere, before it hosts No. 12 Oakley-Freedom in the CIF NorCal Division 1-AA bowl at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Sanguinetti Field in Stockton.

  • St. Mary’s is No. 1 in both Cal-Hi’s and Prep2Prep Sports’ section rankings. Manteca is up to No. 6 in Cal-Hi Sports’ section rankings.
  • St. Mary’s is No. 2 in SportStars Magazine’s Northern California rankings, behind De La Salle, and No. 2 in NorCalPreps’ and The Sacramento Bee’s Joe Davidson’s (MaxPreps) pecking orders as well. Manteca has leaped to No. 17, from being unranked, in NorCalPreps’ Top 20. Manteca is No. 14 in SportStars Magazine’s Top 20.
http://youtu.be/VnsWAsuOM9o

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

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Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

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Posted in High school football, High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

Know Thine Enemy: St. Patrick-St. Vincent Bruins

The St. Patrick-St. Vincent football team celebrates its North Coast Section Division V title after beating Fort Bragg last week at Alhambra High. JOEL ROSENBAUM/THE REPORTER

The Brookside Christian football team is one victory away from its second state finals appearance, and first since 2010.

Brookside Christian (9-4), which is on an eight-game winning streak, faces St. Patrick-St. Vincent at 7:30 p.m. Friday on the road in Vallejo in the CIF NorCal Division 6-A bowl game.

My “Know Thine Enemy” blog returns to analyze St. Patrick-St. Vincent:

ST. PATRICK-ST. VINCENT BRUINS

Record: 11-3, 2-3 Tri-City-Rock League

Recent history: The Bruins, the North Coast Section’s Division V champion, finished fourth in their league but surged through the section playoffs. St. Patrick-St. Vincent had five consecutive losing seasons before this year. St. Patrick-St. Vincent has three section titles, the most recent one before this year’s was 2006.

Player to Watch

No. 11 Akil Edwards (QB, sophomore): Edwards hadn’t started a game all season, according to a story by Vallejo Times-Herald sports editor Matt O’Donnell, until the section finals. There, he thrived, going 11 of 18 passing for 238 yards and five touchdowns total: three passing and two running. Edwards added 94 rushing yards, and threw one interception. Brookside Christian’s secondary, though, led by Reuben Lee, could be a heck of a test.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High school football, High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

Know Thine Enemy: Mendota Aztecs

The Mendota football team faces Amador in the CIF NorCal Division 6-AA bowl game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Calaveras High in San Andreas. CRAIG KOHLRUSS/FRESNO BEE FILE PHOTO

The dream continues for the Amador football team.

Before this season, the 105-year-old high school had never seen a Sac-Joaquin Section championship on the gridiron. Now, Amador is the host school in the CIF NorCal Division 6-AA bowl game, against Mendota of the Central Section at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Calaveras High in San Andreas.

My “Know Thine Enemy” blog returns to break down the Thundering Herd’s opponent. Go to recordnet.com for looks at St. Mary’s and Manteca’s bowl opponents: Oakley-Freedom and Menlo-Atherton.

Away we go:

MENDOTA AZTECS

Record: 13-0, 5-0 West Sierra League

Recent history: Mendota is the Central Coast Section’s Division V champion. The Aztecs have posted six consecutive winning seasons, have three section titles in the past six seasons and won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, Mendota went 12-0, but did not get selected to play in a state title game (automatic state playoff berths didn’t begin until 2015).

Players to Watch:

No. 2 Junior Cardenas (QB, senior): Cardenas has thrown for 2,411 yards, with 42 touchdowns to just four interceptions.

No. 11 Fabian Jasso (WR, senior): Jasso has 657 receiving yards, second-best on the team, but averages over 20 yards per reception with 17 touchdowns. He has 1,512 receiving yards in his career.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High school football, High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment
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