Boys Basketball Power Rankings: Final Edition

St. Mary's senior Devin Williams (left) reaches in for a steal against Lincoln's Elan Spencer. (CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD)

There’s no change at the top, but a bit of a stunner at the bottom.

It’s the final edition of my Local Boys Basketball Power Rankings, a top 5 from around the area with five bubble teams, because the regular season concluded Tuesday.

Take a look:

1. ST. MARY’S (1) 20-7

The Rams held off the rival Lincoln Trojans, winning by 16 to clinch an outright Tri-City Athletic League championship at 9-1. Sierra, once again, has a good case for No. 1 but doesn’t have the depth that St. Mary’s does.

Rams point guard Devin Williams and forward Lance Coleman II are two of the area’s best, and if they’re on-point in the postseason, St. Mary’s could be a sleeper in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II bracket.

Sierra's Josh Patton goes up for a dunk against Bear Creek. (CRAIG SANDERS/THE RECORD)

2. SIERRA (2) 25-2

What a finish to the regular season for the Timberwolves, who ran through the Valley Oak League at 14-0 for their fourth consecutive outright league championship.

Senior Joshua Patton, an All-Area Player of the Year candidate, makes this group go, but senior forward Hunter Johnson always seems to be sharp in scoring and rebounding.

If this team makes its free throws and doesn’t get in foul trouble, it’s a contender in Div. III.

Manteca junior Anand Hundal (left) nearly had triple-doubles twice in VOL's opening week. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MANTECA BULLETIN)

3. MANTECA (3) 20-6

The Buffaloes really want both of those games back against Sierra, but besides that, they’ve handled their business. Manteca is no fun to play in the postseason, with 6-8 Anand Hundal in the post, 6-7 Tydus Verhoeven eveywhere and senior Marcus Montano as an all-around threat.

While it may be next year this is a section championship contender, it’s still a playoff team and a good one at that.

Weston Ranch's Fred Lavender (right) drives with the basketball at Sierra. (CRAIG SANDERS/THE RECORD)

4. WESTON RANCH (5) 17-10

The Cougars are one of the more fascinating teams to watch heading into the postseason. They could be separated from the VOL foes they were swept by in Sierra and Manteca, in the Div. IV bracket. Junior guard Jaelen Ragsdale is one of the area’s best, and has to be the heart and soul of this team in the postseason.

5. CALAVERAS (NR)

Surprise! The Redskins haven’t gotten enough ink from me this year, and they finished 21-3. Now, I know they’re a Mother Lode League team, and a smaller school, but they’ve got wins over Manteca, Sonora (Div. IV power), Ripon Christian (Div. V power) and Galt-Liberty Ranch (great squad this year).

The reason Bear Creek dropped is because it lost to rival McNair — I know that happens in rivalry games — on its own senior night to settle for a split San Joaquin Athletic Association championship with Chavez.

Now, on a neutral court, I may have to take Bear Creek or Chavez, or Tracy or Tokay, over Calaveras, but these rankings weigh heavily on a season’s resume, as well as how a team has played lately.

On the Bubble:

  • Bear Creek Bruins
  • Tracy Bulldogs
  • Chavez Titans
  • Tokay Tigers
  • Brookside Christian Knights
  • Ripon Christian Knights

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Update: National, State, Regional Basketball Rankings

St. Mary's sophomore Naje Murray (right) battles against Piedmont in January. (CALIXTRO ROMIAS/THE RECORD)

This could be a remarkable Sac-Joaquin Section basketball playoff season for area teams from Stockton, Tracy, Manteca and Ripon. So much so, that there are nine teams included in prominent rankings, whether they be national, state or regional.

Here’s an update of those rankings, led, as usual, by St. Mary’s girls basketball, which finished the regular season 26-1 after beating Oakland-Bishop O’ Dowd this weekend.

ESPNW

St. Mary’s remains fourth in the nation.

CAL-HI SPORTS

St. Mary’s is second in the state behind Mater Dei, while Brookside Christian is fifth in the Division IV pecking order.

NORCALPREPS

St. Mary’s girls are first in NorCal, while Brookside Christian is seventh and Lincoln is 20th.

Sierra boys basketball is No. 18 overall in NorCal.

In the divisional rankings, St. Mary’s is first in Div. I and Lincoln is fifth. Kimball is eighth in Div. II and Brookside Christian is first in Div. IV. For the boys, St. Mary’s is eighth in Div. II, Sierra is sixth and Manteca is eighth in Div. III, while Ripon Christian is eighth in Div. V.

MAXPREPS

St. Mary’s girls are fourth in the Xcellent 25 national human rankings and ninth in the computer rankings.

USA TODAY

St. Mary’s remains fifth in the national rankings.

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Phone: 209-546-8272

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By the Numbers: Washington sweeps Pacific Baseball

Pacific baseball junior Jake Jenkins delivers a pitch against Washington Saturday at Klein Family FIeld. (CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD)

I don’t know about everyone else but I was a temperamental video game player as a kid.

Whether it was Crash Bandicoot or NBA Live ’99, when the game felt unfair and when losing was just too much, I’d shut it off — or, you know, bash the controller against the couch until it was dented permanently. While that’s an inappropriate way to handle things as an adult — at least in public — sometimes in life and sports you really do just have to hit the reset button.

And that’s true of Pacific baseball, which came into this weekend with a plethora of confidence and adrenaline flowing, and left disappointed after a four-game sweep to Washington, a team which is a Pac-12 power, won 41 games a year ago and played in an NCAA regional.

That’s the worst of it. The optimistic part is this: that was the first series of the year, Washington is already a winning program and Pacific is trying to learn how to be a winner again, and it was not a crucial West Coast Conference series.

So, looking back on the four-game set at Klein Family Field, here’s my “By the Numbers” look at the Tigers’ first weekend of the 2015 season:

1: While Pacific’s series finale today, a 12-1 loss, might’ve been the toughest, it was a day Justin Thaxton and Jed Sprague won’t forget. Thaxton and Jed Sprague, son of coach Ed Sprague, are both freshmen and both notched the first hits of their collegiate careers today.

31: Pacific stranded nine runners on base today, including a brutal bases-loaded, one-out situation in the first inning which saw no runs score, and stranded 31 runners total Friday through Monday. The offense is there to start rallies, but not finish them thus far.

17: Yes, this is the amount of hits Washington had today, but it’s also the scoreless streak the Tigers suffered from the ninth inning Saturday through the eighth today. Gio Brusa, a junior outfielder and St. Mary’s product, earned a “Little League home run” on a misjudged pop-up and two Huskies errors to end the streak.

8: While junior Jake Jenkins wasn’t able to earn the win in Pacific’s 7-4 Saturday loss, he delivered a solid performance, with eight strikeouts. Jenkins went 7.1 innings, allowing three earned runs and six hits and walking five.

21: Washington quadrupled Pacific’s offensive output this series, outscoring the Tigers by 21, at 28 runs to seven.

50: It’s been an excellent offensive start to the season for J.J. Wagner, the Tigers’ third baseman and St. Mary’s product. Wagner has reached base in 50 percent of his plate appearances, batting .462 with a double and two RBI.

24: One of the major reasons Pacific believes it can make its first NCAA regional ever is the massive core of returning players. Twenty-four of them, to be exact. And as they venture off on a seven-game road trip, starting at UNLV Friday, they’ll need to remember that and trust in their experience.

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Girls Basketball Weekly MVP: Precious Younger

Bear Creek junior Precious Younger is my latest Girls Basketball Weekly MVP. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BRUIN VOICE)

Precious Younger has the versatile attitude that you need to be a leading basketball player.

Younger, a junior forward for Bear Creek girls basketball, plays with swagger, and isn’t afraid to say that a rival opponent’s student section like McNair’s fires her up. Yet, she plays with an unselfishness toward her teammates, dishing the ball as much as she shoots. Plus, she sacrifices herself endlessly on the boards.

And Thursday, Younger shined for 16 points, a whopping 24 rebounds and six steals, as Bear Creek beat McNair 55-48 for the first league championship in program history. Bear Creek opened in 1991 to give that some perspective. And it’s the eighth San Joaquin Athletic Association banner for the Bruins this fall: in boys basketball (co-champions) and water polo, and girls wrestling, basketball, water polo, volleyball, cross country and golf.

Younger has filled the stat sheet throughout the season for Bear Creek, and that’s why she’s my latest Girls Basketball Weekly MVP.

It would’ve been easy for Bear Creek to fold, as McNair, a team that went 29-5 last year and was a Sac-Joaquin Section and NorCal finalist, led at halftime and after the third quarter. But everybody on the Bruins, including senior Macie Linker (14 points, 18 rebounds), came through.

Congratulations, Precious Younger, and as always, thanks for reading.

Jan. 5-10: Brijanee Moore (Weston Ranch, Sr.)

Jan. 12-17: Raziya Potter (Kimball, Fr.)

Jan. 19-24: Aarion McDonald (Brookside Christian, Jr.)

Jan. 26-31: Aquira DeCosta (St. Mary’s, Fr.)

Feb. 2-7: Vantajia Warren (Edison, So.)

Feb. 9-14: Precious Younger (Bear Creek, Jr.)

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

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Phone: 209-546-8272

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Boys Basketball Weekly MVP: Lewis Hayes

Chavez boys basketball's Lewis Hayes (top) rises to shoot at Tracy last season. (CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD)

Upon first glance at Lewis Hayes, it’s hard to believe he’s in high school.

Chavez boys basketball’s 6-foot-5 senior forward is tall, sure, and a lot of players in the area are. But his musculature and strength are beyond his years, as is his talent.

And Hayes put the Titans on his back Friday, pouring out a dazzling 41 points in 15 rebounds in a 76-52 rout of Stagg on senior night.

It was a grand night for Chavez, as with McNair’s upset of rival Bear Creek on the road, the Titans earned a split San Joaquin Athletic Association championship with BC. Much of that is thanks to Hayes.

That’s why Hayes is my latest Boys Basketball Weekly MVP.

Hayes averages team-highs with 18 points and nine rebounds, as well as a block and a half per game. The Titans need him and Justice Harris to thrive come playoff time, whether that’s with a play-in game Friday or a Round of 16 game Feb. 25. Hayes also posted 22 points and 10 rebounds in a lopsided win over Franklin Wednesday.

Congratulations, Lewis, and as always, thanks for reading everybody.

BOYS BASKETBALL WEEKLY MVPs

Jan. 5-10: Anand Hundal (Manteca, Jr.)

Jan. 12-17: Robin Hong (Lincoln, Sr.)

Jan. 19-24: Druce Asah (Tracy, Sr.)

Jan. 26-31: Joshua Patton (Sierra, Sr.)

Feb. 2-7: Devin Williams (St. Mary’s, Sr.)

Feb. 9-14: Lewis Hayes (Chavez, Sr.)

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

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Phone: 209-546-8272

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Win-win situation for Thunder

No matter how this turns out, the Thunder had to grab prolific scorer Jack Combs off of the waiver’s list, and it will end up with a quality player for free.

Either Stockton gets Combs, who led the league with 56 points in 32 games for the Allen Americans before going to Europe, or he declines to play here and Thunder coach Rich Kromm has a heck of a bargaining chip.

I have no idea whether Combs will report to Stockton. He is on his way back from Sweden, and Kromm has yet to talk to him. He could play, or ask for a trade to a team he feels has a better chance of making the playoffs. In that case, Kromm should get a nice player(s) in return.

Stockton’s decision was easy, but it’s hard to fathom what Allen coach Steve Martinson was thinking. To recap, Combs decided to leave the ECHL to play in Sweden, lasted three games, and is back in the USA. The problem for the Americans is that a series of ECHL rules have consired to make it so that they can’t get Combs back.

The simple answer was to trade him, but Martinson gambled that the Thunder, which was at the top of the waiver list, would be the only team to make a claim and then they could swing a deal with Kromm to get their guy back. But seven teams put in a claim, and all others would have to rescind for Allen to trade directly with Stockton.

That’s not likely to happen, especially since one of the teams is the Missouri Mavericks, who play in Allen’s division and have a vested interest in the Americans not getting its top player back.

So for now Combs is a member of the Stockton Thunder. And you might get to see him play as soon as next weekend.

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Prep Boys Basketball Playoff Scenarios for Tonight

LODI NEWS-SENTINEL FILE PHOTO

The Tokay-Lodi boys basketball rivalry is heated enough (no “Flames” pun intended).

And tonight could be legendary. Here’s a look at that, plus the rest of the playoff scenarios:

TCAL: The Tigers visit the Flames, not just for bragging rights, but for the final automatic Sac-Joaquin Section playoff spot in the Tri-City Athletic League. Lodi won the first round in this series, but Tokay features the best complete player on the court in senior L.J. Reed.

And that’s not the only TCAL intrigue. While St. Mary’s has clinched at least a share of the league title, if it loses to rival Lincoln at home and Tracy beats West, then Tracy and St. Mary’s would share the crown. St. Mary’s and Tracy have already clinched automatic playoff bids, as the top three teams do in almost every section league.

VOL: Sierra is going to be tested heading to Weston Ranch tonight, but it’s already clinched at least a share of the VOL title and has head-to-head sweeps against Manteca and Weston Ranch looking ahead to playoff seeding.

If Sierra somehow loses out to Weston Ranch and Lathrop, while Manteca sweeps East Union and Oakdale, then the two would technically split the VOL banner. I’d bank on the Timberwolves being outright champions again.

SJAA: Bear Creek (8-1 SJAA), Chavez (7-2) and Edison (5-4) have already locked up the three playoff bids from this league. However, if Chavez beats Stagg and Bear Creek loses to McNair, the Titans and Bruins would share the SJAA banner. Bear Creek’s overall resume is better, though, and split its games with Chavez and thus would have better playoff seeding.

TVL: Ripon Christian, a three-time CIF State champion, is 7-1 in the Trans-Valley League and hosts Ripon (6-2 TVL) tonight. If the Knights win they’ll be outright champions. Both teams play again Tuesday to finish the regular season. The Knights and Indians are already guaranteed playoff spots, while Escalon is disqualified.

MLL: Calaveras is tied at 8-2 atop the Mother Lode League with Sonora, and has clinched a playoff spot. Its two remaining games are at Bret Harte tonight and hosting Summerville Tuesday. Linden is out of playoff consideration.

CCAA: The three playoff teams from the Central California Athletic Alliance already have a local tinge. Brookside Christian (13-0 CCAA) is the outright champion and has a shot to win its first Sac-Joaquin Section title since 1998. Elliot Christian (9-3) and Millennium (9-4) are also in. VA Excel is 3-9 and won’t be in the playoffs.

MVL: Delta Charter (Tracy), Stockton Christian and Hughes Academy (Stockton) will be the three Mountain Valley League representatives in the Division VI section playoffs.

NOTE: The at-large bids to the playoffs are decided not by a human committee, but my MaxPreps. Of the teams that don’t qualify via a league automatic bid, but are still in the MaxPreps top 12 for their respective division, they will be at-large playoff teams. I won’t even try and guess who these will be. Locally, most of the teams that should be in will be in.

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Phone: 209-546-8272

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Updated California Wrestler Rankings: Lincoln, Escalon Shine

Lincoln wrestler Alex Olivera (top) competes at last year's Sac-Joaquin Section Masters contest at Stockton Arena. (CALIXTRO ROMIAS/THE RECORD)

The latest California Wrestler state Top 40 rankings were released last Thursday, and as usual, small-school power Escalon and large-school heavy Lincoln have shown up strong.

Though Calaveras beat Escalon in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s team duals at Lincoln last week for its fifth consecutive championship, the Cougars and Trojans are the only area programs with three representatives each:

106: West sophomore Greg Viloria is 15th.

113: St. Mary’s senior Kieran Deal is 24th.

113: Lincoln senior Jerle Garcia is 31st.

113: Escalon junior Kyle Jimenez is 32nd.

120: Lathrop junior Alex Garcia is 23rd.

120: Lincoln senior Alex Olivera is 24th.

The link to the 126 rankings is incorrect and goes to the 195, thus I do not have that information here.

138: Kimball senior Reese Chew is 11th.

182: McNair junior Roman Romero is ninth.

182: Escalon senior Matthew Gallego is 22nd.

195: Lincoln senior Yates Hunter is 12th.

195: Escalon senior A.J. Camarena is 30th.

220: Tokay junior K.C. Kranich is 33rd.

285: Ripon junior Tristan Smith is 24th.

285: Calaveras senior Jarred Kirk is 26th.

285: Lodi senior Hector Soto is 39th.

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Gameday Preview: Sierra-Manteca Boys Basketball Rivalry

Sierra senior Hunter Johnson (right) competes at Manteca during his junior year. (CALIXTRO ROMIAS/THE RECORD)

Even though Sierra High School opened less than 21 years ago, the intensity of the rivalry with Manteca has reached a formidable level.

And tonight’s game is for more than that. Buffaloes boys basketball (18-5, 10-1 Valley Oak League) entertains the Timberwolves (22-2, 11-0 VOL) with the VOL at stake.

Sierra clinches a share of a VOL championship with a win tonight, while Manteca can force a tie atop the standings with its guests.

The three automatic Sac-Joaquin Section playoff spots from the VOL have already been locked up — Weston Ranch is the third — but a league title could mean plenty for seeding in the Division III playoffs.

Here’s my breakdown of the game, which I’ll be at updating live on Twitter tonight with scores, photos and videos. For now, here are the Starting Lineups, a Player to Watch for both teams, an X-Factor and a Recent History between these clubs. Enjoy:

STARTING LINEUPS

Sierra

G – No. 4 Daniel Wyatt (5-10, Jr.)

G – No. 11 Devin Nunez (5-11, Sr.)

F – No. 22 Jess Spivey (6-4, Jr.)

F – No. 23 Hunter Johnson (6-4, Sr.)

F – No. 30 Joshua Patton (6-7, Sr.)

Head Coach: Scott Thomason (15th year, 294-129, winning percentage: .695)

Manteca

G – No. 5 Angel Perez (5-10, Jr.)

G – No. 24 Marcus Montano (5-11, Sr.)

G – No. 10 Tydus Verhoeven (6-7, So.)

F – No. 20 Tyler Graves-Kelso (5-10, Jr.)

F – No. 33 Anand Hundal (6-8, Jr.)

Head Coach: Brett Lewis (1st year, 18-5, winning percentage: .783)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Tydus Verhoeven (Manteca, So.)

It may not be fair to ask a high school sophomore to do everything, but Manteca needs Verhoeven too. It’s because Verhoeven is the rare 6-foot-7 guard who can dish and score, think a 21st-century, high school version of Penny Hardaway. Manteca needs him to flourish on the perimeter and drive, yet, against 6-8 Joshua Patton and stalwart 6-4 Hunter Johnson, he needs to crash the boards and assist 6-8 teammate Anand Hundal on the block.

Joshua Patton (Sierra, Sr.)

It’s almost too easy to select Patton, an All-Area Player of the Year candidate, as a Player to Watch, but judging by his recent performance, it’s only fair. In a 53-51 win over Weston Ranch, Patton had 16 points, 21 rebounds and six blocks.

The crazy part was he hauled in 13 second-half offensive rebounds. He neutralized Hundal last time they played, the same Hundal who just dropped 37 points on Weston Ranch.

X-FACTOR

Depth

Both teams rely heavily on their starting lineups. So much so, that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sierra get 55 points, all from its five starters, and win this game. The dueling big men are expected, but whichever team can get some buckets from its guards, like Sierra’s Daniel Wyatt and Devin Nunez, and Manteca’s Marcus Montano, may have the edge.

RECENT HISTORY

Sierra has won 7 of 8 and 13 of 21 over Manteca. The Buffaloes, though, did rattle off a six-game winning streak in the series from 2011-14. Manteca’s Brett Lewis, in his first year as coach, is 0-1 against his in-town rivals.

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New National, State, Regional Basketball Rankings: Boys and Girls

St. Mary's junior Kat Tudor (center) rises up for a layup in a January win over Lincoln. (CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD)

St. Mary’s girls basketball is a 15-time Sac-Joaquin Section champion, seven-time CIF State champion, and in the top 5 in not only state rankings, but national ones across the spectrum.

The Rams keep on getting love across the nation, from ESPN to USA Today to MaxPreps. Here is a look at the area teams in national, state and regional rankings.

ESPNW

  • St. Mary’s remains 4th on the espnW list, where it’s been for awhile.
USA TODAY
  • It took longer for the Rams to move up this list, but they are once again in 5th.
MAXPREPS
  • St. Mary’s is 4th in the Xcellent 25 human-vote rankings, and 13th in the computer rankings. Brookside Christian is 22nd in the computer rankings.
  • Sierra boys basketball has broken into the MaxPreps NorCal Top 25 at No. 24.

CAL-HI SPORTS

  • St. Mary’s girls are ranked 2nd, behind No. 1 Santa Ana-Mater Dei, while Lincoln, Brookside Christian and Kimball are “on the bubble.”
NORCALPREPS
  • St. Mary’s girls are ranked 1st in NorCal, while Brookside Christian is 7th and Lincoln is 20th.
  • In the division-by-division glance, the St. Mary’s girls are 1st in Div. I and Lincoln is 5th; unbeaten Kimball is No. 8 in Div. II and Brookside Christian is No. 1 in Div. IV.
  • On the boys side, St. Mary’s is 8th in Div. II, Sierra is 6th and Manteca is 7th in Div. III and nine-time section champion Ripon Christian is 10th in Div. V.

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Phone: 209-546-8272

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