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JUCO Playoff Preview

February 23, 2012
West Coast Hoops

Regional Quarterfinals (Saturday, February 25th):


#1 Citrus vs. #17 Imperial Valley:

Imperial Valley: Beat Canyons, 69-65, in November. SG Brandon Newman led the Arabs with 18 pts, including 3 threes, plus 6 rebs, 3 asts and 2 steals, but the real key was Ctr Josue Mulamba...who is no longer with the team. Fairfax HS (Los Angeles) grad SF Darius Singletary (10 pts, 5 rebs, 7 asts) is a strong all-around player, while PG Melvin Cook (10 pts) and SF Ryan Ena (7 pts) lend support.

Bottom Line: Citrus is an impressive 25-1, and combined with an 8-0 record last summer that's an astounding 33-1. The Owls faced Imperial Valley in the summer and won a fairly close game, but Mulamba was a big part of IVC's team then and he's no longer there. IVC won after a travel marathon to AHC in the mini-round, and I'll be there Saturday to see the next stop on the road trip when they pull into Citrus.

#2 Mt. San Antonio vs. #15 El Camino:

Mt. San Antonio: Beat Chaffey in OT in December and LA Southwest in January but lost to Santa Rosa later in December. Mt. SAC is deep and athletic, led by a tremendous trio of PF Darnell Martin (12.7 pts, 7.0 rebs, 3.7 asts), SG Corey Allen (18.7 pts, 3.7 rebs, 4.7 asts) and SF Lavell McDade (14.7 pts, 5.7 rebs, 3.0 asts, 2.3 stls). PG Ervin Ware (7.0 pts, 7.0 asts), younger brother of LB State standout Caspar, is solid and SG Garret Nevels (14.5 pts) brings scoring off the bench. Add SG Ashton Robinson (6.3 pts, 4 total threes), SF Taj Spencer (8.7 pts, 3.0 rebs) and defensive-minded Ctr Chaz Thomas (2.7 pts, 2.7 rebs) and you have one of the deepest rosters in California.

El Camino: Beat Orange Coast in November but lost to Mt. San Jacinto in December and both LA Southwest and Cerritos in February. Former Westchester HS standout PG Joshua Wilson (15.5 pts, 9.5 rebs and 3.8 asts) is the team’s best player, and amazingly the 6-1 guard led the Warriors in rebounding in all four games. PF Cameron Gray (8.3 pts, 5.0 rebs), SG David Howard (9.0 pts), SF Christen Clark (9.7 pts, 5.5 rebs) and Ctr Julian Camper (11.0 pts, 4.0 rebs, 68% fgs) are the other key players. SF Jamar Cannon is streaky but has 3-point range.

Bottom Line: Mt. SAC is one of the deepest and most athletic teams in the state. El Camino is a good team, and Wilson in particular is an outstanding player, but the Warriors just look a little overmatched here against a very strong Mt. SAC team.

#3 Mt. San Jacinto vs. #19 Riverside:

Mt. San Jacinto: Lost twice to Antelope Valley, once in December and once in February, and beat El Camino to win a tournament in December. The Eagles only lost 5 games this summer, so those results are a bit deceiving. They’re very athletic and very good. SG Anthony Dees (14.7 pts, 6.7 rebs, 10 total threes), SF Josh Gouch (12.0 pts, 7.3 rebs) and PF Montreal Harris (13.0 pts, 7.0 rebs, 2.0 stls) form the heart of the team, ably led by PG Alex Wilson (7.3 pts, 6.3 asts). Ctr Greg Dixon (6.5 pts, 6.0 rebs, 2.0 blks) was solid in the two December games but did not play in the February game. SG Taylor Bell (10.7 pts, 4.3 rebs, 6 total threes), PG D’Anthony Peterson (4.0 pts, 1.7 asts) and PF Jamar Cannon (5.7 pts, 4.3 rebs) round out the rotation.

Riverside: Beat Cypress, 74-62, in January and Fullerton, 67-53, in February. RCC has an excellent backcourt in PG Mason Biddle (19.5 pts, 3.0 asts) and SG Corey Walker (12.0 pts, 5.5 rebs, 4.0 asts), and an excellent shooter/scorer in SF Bernard Ireland (12.5 pts, 7.5 rebs, 5 total threes). Those three constitute most of the offense, however, and that will be Riverside's challenge - finding another scorer. PF Keenan Braden had 13 pts and 5 rebs vs. Cypress but did not play vs. Fullerton, and he was missed. Ctr Stephen Shepherd (5.0 pts, 4.5 rebs) is tall and athletic, SF Solomon Singer (4.0 pts, 6.5 rebs, 2.5 asts, 1.5 stls) is a slashing disrupter and PG Dominique Lanier is a 3-pt threat. Ctr Jacob Straley (4.0 pts, 2.0 rebs) provides more size and PF Reggie Kindle Power provides inside muscle.

Bottom Line: This might be the best match-up of the day, at least in the South, as it features two athletic teams that play with intensity. MSJC would seem to have more firepower, and they're the home team, so they would seem the logical favorite. But it will be a battle.

#4 San Bernardino Valley vs. #13 LA Valley:

San Bernardino Valley: Beat Cerritos, 76-72, in December and Antelope Valley, 74-68, in January. SBVC isn’t deep, but the rotation is outstanding. PG Kirby Gardner (13.5 pts, 3.0 asts), PF Aaron Moore (13.0 pts, 8.0 rebs, 4.0 asts), SF Chris Franklin (17.5 pts), Ctr Tevin Harris (8.0 pts, 6.5 rebs) and SG Justin Stanley (8.0 pts, 3.0 asts) are the starting lineup, with SF Cameron Lewis (9.0 pts, 4.0 rebs) and Ctr Xavier Jones (4.0 pts) round out the rotation. The Wolverines reflect Coach Quincy Brewer’s intense approach, which is a major reason for SBVC’s success this year in the tough Foothill Conference.

LA Valley: Lost to Antelope Valley, beat Ventura and edged LA Pierce - all in overtime - and beat Canyons in the mini-round of the playoffs. LA Valley is led by their strong backcourt of PG Alex Strauther (13.3 pts, 4.5 rebs, 11.5 asts, 1.5 stls) and SGMarcus Johnson (20.8 pts, 3.3 rebs, 2.0 asts, 18 total threes), each of whom makes the other better. And Ctr Robert Looper (13.5 pts, 8.5 rebs) is solid in the middle. Wings SF Dominique Cotton (12 pts, 4 threes, 8 rebs vs. COC), PF Javion Garner (7.3 pts, 5.3 rebs, 2.7 blks), PF Eddie LaTorre (7.0 pts, 12.0 rebs in 2 games), SF Daryl Singontiko (2.3 pts, 3.3 rebs) and SG Margarito Pelayo (7.5 pts, 8 total threes) round out the rotation. Nobody – with the possible exception of Strauther – is even remotely a D-1 prospect, but Coach Virgil Watson brought them in second in the tough WSC-South, once again getting more out of what he has then just about anyone else around.

Bottom Line: As wonderful a run as LA Valley has had this season, it's hard to see them being able to deal with SBVC's intensity, defense and athleticism. And the game is at SBVC. The Wolverines would seem the heavy favorite here.


#1 San Francisco vs. #17 Contra Costa:

San Francisco: Lost to Fresno, 97-71, in November and beat Foothill, 76-51, in February. Obviously those results are impossible to reconcile, but the loss to Fresno was the fluke as CCSF hasn’t lost a game since then. The Rams are the defending champs, but might be better than last year. 6-foot-5 PG Delon Wright is an extraordinary player and will join his brother Dorrell (Golden State Warriors) in the NBA in a few years; he averaged 16.5 pts, 2 rebs, 2.5 asts, 2.5 blks and 4.0 steals while making 10 of 14 shots (2 threes) and ZERO turnovers. SG Thomas Cooper (15 pts, 5/7 fgs, 2 threes, 4 rebs, 4 asts, 3 stls vs. Foothill) and PF Raysean Hairston (10.5 pts, 4.0 rebs) are also mid-to-high major guys. SF Jamal Ford (7 pts, 3 asts vs. Foothill) is a prep school guy and 6-10 Ctr Gabriel Aguirre (6 pts, 4 rebs) would be a feature guy on most teams. Ctr Stuart Wesonga and SF Shawn Smith are extremely athletic, and PG Joe Slocum made an impression on the travel circuit during HS. And then there are the returnees from last year: SG Ivan Dorsey (11 pts vs. Foothill; 14 pts in last year’s state semifinal vs. Saddleback) and Ctr/PF Myron Respress, both of whom come off the bench. And to think…coach Justin Lebagh kicked onetime St. Mary’s signee PG McKenzie Moore (4 pts, 7 rebs vs. Fresno) off the team and the Rams haven’t lost since.

Contra Costa: Beat Chabot, 64-56, in the Chabot Tourney in December. It’s been quite a turnaround for the Comets, who won just 2 games last season, and this might have been their best win of the season. SF Kenonte Ramsey slashed for 13 pts and 5 rebs, and SG Robert Ellis came off the bench for 17 pts. The starting backcourt of PG Justin Hamilton (5 pts, 2 asts) and SG Justin Pollard (8 pts, 4 atss) is more solid than spectacular, and Ctr Isaac Jackson (7 pts, all on FTs, 8 rebs, 2 blks) was the most productive of the bigs. It’s mostly a roster of role players who play hard for Coach Miguel Johnson and the result has been a special season for a program that needed one.

Bottom Line: CCSF is the defending state champ, and they're deeper and probably more talented this year than last. Wright is the best prospect in California and guys like Slocum and Wesonga would be feature guys on most teams...and they don't even start here. It's been a wonderful comeback year for Contra Costa, but this one could get ugly.

#2 Yuba vs. #18 West Hills:

Yuba: Beat Cerritos, 80-62, in December. The 49ers are among the most talented teams in California, with standout PG Cody Kale (15 pts, 8 rebs, 7 asts) from Rocklin HS leading the way and SF Spencer Butterfield (25 pts, 5 rebs, 4 asts) and PF Deaundray Robinson (13 pts) providing offense. Yuba shot 58% for the game vs. Cerritos, which was ranked #10 in the South at the time. SG Anthony Romero, PG Tyler Fry and PF Anto Olah (8 pts, 7 rebs) are solid complementary players.

West Hills: Beat Sequoias, 60-57, in February. That win clinched 2nd place in the CVC for the Falcons, who last made the postseason in 2008. Ctr Darius Gordon (24 pts, 16 rebs, 3 asts, 1 blk, 1 stl) is a special player, arguably the best player in the CVC – he can score and rebound and even has 3-pt range. It all revolves around him, of course, but PG Michael Balogun (18 pts, 5 threes, 4 asts) is a good scoring point and SG Tyler Davis (10 pts, 2 threes) is an excellent shooter. SF Kennis White had a quiet game vs. COS with 2 pts but a year ago had 16 pts, also against Sequoias, plus 5 rebs and 3 asts. SF Ahmer Bailey (4.0 pts, 3.5 asts in the two COS games) can score a little and is a good passer.

Bottom Line: Yuba is a very talented team with some frontline depth, and as long as they keep Gordon from completely going off the 49ers would seem to have too much firepower for the Falcons.

#3 Santa Rosa vs. #14 Feather River:

Santa Rosa: Beat Mt. San Antonio, 78-76, in December. What makes that particularly is not just that Mt. SAC is one of the Southland’s better teams but that Santa Rosa did it without Ctr Henry Gill, who was out with an ankle injury. PG Sama Taku was outstanding with 20 pts, 9 rebs and 7 asts, feeding wings SG Max Fujii (14 pts, 2 threes, 5 asts, 2 stls) and SF Kevin Aronis (15 pts, 3 threes). PF Connor Gilett had 10 pts including a three and SF Luke Aston came off the bench for 3 more threes. La Verne Lutheran HS grad Ctr Jordan Salley (9 pts, 3 rebs, 2 blks) is solid in the middle, and Gill showed what he can do last year vs. Yuba (10 pts, 6 rebs, 2 blks).

Feather River: I didn’t see Feather River play this season as they went two-and-out at the Fresno tournament in November.

Bottom Line: Santa Rosa owns a win over CCSF (in November) and would likely have been the North's top seed before a stumble vs. Cosumnes River in the regular season finale. The only reason FRC is in the playoffs is because they won the GVC and that means an automatic playoff spot. SRJC is especially tough at home, and should be a heavy favorite here.

#4 Diablo Valley vs. #13 Chabot:

Diablo Valley: Beat Cosumnes River, 89-44, in February. And what a beatdown it was as DVC dominated in every aspect of the game. SG Ronnie Baker (25 pts, 3 threes, 5 rebs, 6 asts, 2 stls) was the star of stars that night, but PG Brian Goins (17 pts, 8 rebs, 5 asts, 2 stls) is the key to the team and arguably the best point in California. He’s also a two-time MVP of the summertime Las Positas shootout, leading DVC to an 8-0 mark in those events. Add Nevada signee Ctr Raphael Carter (8 pts, 9 rebs), PF Tyrelle Phillips (18 pts, 7 rebs) and fill-in-the-blanks guy SF Damon Jones (13 pts, 4 threes, 6 rebs, 3 asts) and you have a very solid team that plays for one of the best in the business, Coach Steve Coccimiglio. They’re not deep, but PF Daniel Zitani (8 pts vs. CRC) can provide some punch, as he showed in capturing the MVP of the Finals of the 2010 Las Positas Shootout with 17 pts in the unofficial championship game.

Chabot: Lost, 64-56, to Contra Costa in December. The Gladiators entered that game ranked #9 in the North and led by 10 in the first half. PG Kurtis Ong had 13 pts and 2 asts, PF Markese Fields had 11 pts, 4 rebs and 3 asts and SG Jameal York had 9 pts, 8 rebs and 4 steals to lead the Gladiators. SF Damarius Jones came off the bench for 12 pts but was just 5-for-16. Chabot is a very athletic team that struggles to score, and their ability to put the ball in the basket will determine how long the playoff run lasts. Shooting 36% wasn’t enough against Contra Costa. PG J’Quon Wroten had just 3 pts vs. Contra Costa but distinguished himself on the travel circuit during HS with the Las Vegas Dogcatchers and could be a wild card.

Bottom Line: DVC is the deserving favorite here, but this is a very dangerous game for the Vikings as Chabot is deep, athletic and battle-tested after playing in the rugged Coast-North. And it's an intriguing coaching match-up of two of the best in Coccimiglio and Chabot's Denny Aye. If I still lived in the Bay Area this is the game I'd watch.


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