Countdown to Tipoff Rankings: Girls Nos. 11-15

St. Mary's Ariel Johnson, left, goes for the steal against Orinda-Miramonte in the NorCal Open Division girls basketball championship last March at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. RECORD FILE 2015

For San Joaquin County high school girls basketball fans, last season ended as incredibly as possible

The St. Mary’s girls basketball team was no stranger to CIF State championships, picking up its eighth, but winning the relatively-new, vaunted Open Division was something special. When the Rams beat Santa Ana-Mater Dei 76-69 at Cal’s Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, the second half was like watching a Pac-12 game.

It’s my second season covering prep basketball for The Record, and in honor of that, I’m incorporating returning player rankings, a top 15, and a “Countdown to Tipoff” for boys and girls hoops.

How it works: These player rankings are returning players only. These are weighed both by past varsity success and statistical prowess and the potential impact these players may have this year. All factors will be weighed, including whether a player must sit out time after a transfer. At least one player on both the boys and girls lists are a transfer.

Now, this counts down not to the first day of regular-season hoops, which for a handful of teams in the area is Friday, Nov. 27, but the day the near entirety of the section begins: with the Foundation games on Monday, Nov. 30.

Away we go:

Co-No. 15 – Shaylene Stark (McNair G, 5-foot-5, Jr.)

Stark is a double-digit scorer waiting to happen, who’s explosive on the perimeter and can make plays inside and out for the Eagles, a program which made a deep NorCal bracket run just two years ago. In an incomplete statistical report, she was averaging over 10 points per game for McNair last year.

Co-No. 15 – Jasmine Pharms (Stagg F, 5-foot-8, Sr.)

Pharms was the quintessential double-double machine for the Delta Queens, with 18 points and 16 boards per contest. It was quite an athletic year as a whole. She’s a three-sport athlete, who also plays volleyball and track and field. In track, she was a CIF State finalist and medalist as a thrower, and was The Record’s top female track and field athlete for 2014-15 because of it.

No. 14 – Precious Younger (Bear Creek F, 5-foot-11, Jr.)

Younger was the heart and soul behind a Bruins team which won the first league championship in school history. With a new coach, Jesse Holmes, leading the way, Younger figured to be the focal point as Bear Creek tries to defend its San Joaquin Athletic Association crown. She’s taller than most of her foes, but specializes in driving the lane and making difficult baskets.

No. 13 – Neenah Young (St. Mary’s G/F, 5-foot-10, So.)

Young’s true potential started to show at the end of St. Mary’s championship run. Though she’s a forward, her 3-point shot is quite good, and she made two key treys in the Mater Dei victory.

Look for her to compete for more playing time on, you know, the best girls prep basketball team in the USA.

No. 12 – Lianna Tillman (Lincoln G, 5-foot-8, Jr.)

Tillman has a motor that never stops, and her quickness, court vision and ability to score really define the Trojans’ offense. She has a great knack for forward Zahria Hendrix, too, who’s probably Lincoln’s biggest offensive threat. Look for Tillman and Hendrix to lead Lincoln to a Tri-City Athletic League championship with St. Mary’s out of the way.

No. 11 – Ariel Johnson (St. Mary’s F, 5-foot-9, So.)

This St. Mary’s bunch is loud. In a fun way. You should’ve heard the revelry at the postgame press conference after they beat Orinda-Miramonte in the NorCal finals. Yet, amid all of that, and all of the press around this team, Ariel Johnson is very, very soft spoken.

That’s OK, because her game speaks for itself. She’s a force as a scorer, rebounder and defender, and will likely be playing Division I ball in three years.

COUNTDOWN TO TIPOFF RANKINGS

Nos. 11-15: Pharms, Stark, Younger, Young, Tillman and Johnson

Nos. 7-10: Friday

No. 6: Monday

No. 5: Tuesday

No. 4: Wednesday

No. 3: Thursday

No. 2: Nov. 27

No. 1: Nov. 30

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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