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Steve Fryer gets you ready for the CIF-SS boys basketball playoffs with his annual predictions. In addition to picking the winners for all 12 divisions, he has analysis and insights on the players who could make the biggest impact in the postseason. In this slideshow, we've put together Fryer's comments and other key information about most of the teams in the playoffs, and it runs alphabetically by school name.
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Fryer: Predictions for every division of the boys basketball playoffs

STAFF COLUMNIST

Orange Lutheran is seeded 15th in the CIF-Southern Section’s 16-team Open Division of the boys basketball playoffs.

The Lancers play at No. 2-seeded Bishop Montgomery of Torrance in the first round.

Last year, Orange Lutheran was seeded 12th in the Open Division. The Lancers beat No. 5-seeded Damien of La Verne in the first round and No. 4-seeded Centennial of Corona in the quarterfinals.

“Yeah, we’ve got it all figured out,” said Orange Lutheran coach Chris Nordstrom, with ample sarcasm.

What Nordstrom and the Lancers have seriously figured out is that playing in the Trinity League gets a team ready for the playoffs, even for a division as rugged as the Open Division. Nine teams in CalHiSports.com’s California top 25 are in the Open Division.

“Being in the Trinity League helps us for sure,” said Nordstrom, in his 12th season coaching Orange Lutheran after a stint as an assistant coach at Mater Dei.

Orange Lutheran might be set for some more Open Division upset wins. The Lancers have the players for it, including senior forwards Zac Jervis and KaVaughn Scott, who, Nordstrom said, is about 70 percent recovered from a sprained ankle, and guards Joseph Riley and Chris Williams.

Playing in the Trinity League is like playing a playoff game every night.

“The Trinity League was really good again,” Nordstrom said. “Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way, when you look at all of the losses in league for JSerra and Servite. But look at their nonleague schedules and you’ll see they played and beat some tough teams. The league might be the deepest it’s ever been.”

The Trinity League has more teams in the Open Division than any other league, with three: Orange Lutheran, Mater Dei and Santa Margarita.

Santa Margarita, seeded 16th, has to play at Chino Hills, the No. 1 team in the state and No. 1 in some national rankings, in the Open Division first round Friday. Orange Lutheran got only a slightly “easier” opponent.

“Our coaches were asking each other, ‘Who do you want to play?’” Nordstrom said. “’Which team sounds like a good idea in the first round?’”

None of them, of course. As Nordstrom said, “I can’t imagine Bishop Montgomery is exactly fired up about having to play us.”

It’s time to fire up the division-by-division predictions about the CIF-SS boys basketball playoffs, which begin Wednesday with first-round games in all divisions except for the Open Division, which plays first-round games Friday.

(Note: Fryer correctly predicted the champions of nine of the 12 CIF-SS boys basketball playoff divisions in 2015.)

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OPEN DIVISION

2015 champion: Bishop Montgomery of Torrance

Top seeds: 1. Chino Hills; 2. Bishop Montgomery; 3. Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth; 4. Mater Dei

Outook: The top four teams in the California top 20 are the top four seeds in this division. So, yeah, it’s a pretty good division. Chino Hills is also the No. 1 team in several national rankings. Chino Hills’ best player, Lonzo Ball, is going to be state player of the year. He is the finest high school player these eyes have seen since LeBron James came here with his Ohio high school team to play Mater Dei – and, yes, better than Mater Dei alum Stanley Johnson, who is the most-polished Orange County player ever. Santa Margarita plays at Chino Hills on Friday, if the Eagles can get through that Coronageddon mess on the 91 freeway. A Santa Margarita win would be among the bigger upsets in CIF-SS basketball history. Orange Lutheran’s got a tough first-round match, too, at Bishop Montgomery. Lutheran beat two higher-seeded teams in last year’s Open Division playoffs, and the Lancers have the goods to do that again this year. Mater Dei will go far if senior center MJ Cage is playing at the tenacious level we’ve seen the past two weeks. Los Alamitos is playing at Sierra Canyon – that’s a long road trip to play a tough team. Sometimes, long bus rides take some energy out of the visiting team in high school sports.

Final 4: Chino Hills, Mater Dei, Sierra Canyon, Bishop Montgomery

Champion: Chino Hills

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DIVISION 1AA

2015 champion: Village Christian of Sun Valley

Top seeds: 1. Long Beach Poly; 2. J.W. North of Riverside; 3. St. John Bosco; 4. Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley

Outlook: A couple of teams that did not get funneled into the Open Division are in this division, including Etiwanda. Etiwanda is not among the top four seeds in this division because, probably, it lost three of its final four regular-season games. But those losses were to Open Division teams Damien, Santa Margarita and Chino Hills. The Eagles are a young team, but they have a couple of sophomores, including Kessler Edwards, who are already very good, and Coach Dave Kleckner is considered one of the best in Southern California. Sonora, 3AA champion last year, was bumped way up to this division. The Raiders are somewhat improbable Freeway League champions, but they might be in over their heads in this group. Canyon, 2AA champion last year, is here and plays at Etiwanda in the first round. San Clemente, South Coast League champion, plays a first-round home game against Fountain Valley in an intriguing matchup. Like Etiwanda, Long Beach Poly and J.W. North were on the “watch list” of Open Division candidates last week.

Final 4: Long Beach Poly; Etiwanda; St. John Bosco; J.W. North

Champion: Etiwanda

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DIVISION 1A

2015 champion: Foothill

Top seeds: 1. Santa Monica; 2. Temecula Valley; 3. Walnut; 4. Riverside Poly

Outlook: Foothill is not as good as it was last season. The Knights are good enough to advance to the semifinals – if the coin-flip gods are with them. They might need to win coin flips to avoid long road trips to Cajon and/or Temecula Valley in the late rounds. Villa Park is an at-large team, but is the best at-large team in county basketball. The Spartans, with high-scoring Evan Battey and Myles Franklin on hand, are in the same quadrant of the bracket as Santa Monica. Local basketball wizard Frank Burlison thinks Santa Monica should be in the Open Division.

Final 4: Santa Monica; Riverside Poly; Walnut; Foothill

Champion: Santa Monica

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DIVISION 2AA

2015 champion: Canyon

Top seeds: 1. Ayala of Chino Hills; 2. Edison; 3. Kaiser of Fontana; 4. El Toro

Outlook: Ayala briefly was in the state top 20. The Bulldogs looked sharp in a win over Servite at the Nike Extravaganza earlier this month. Edison finished second to Los Alamitos in the Sunset League. Edison is good and plays hard every minute of every game, but it’s a semi-mystery here why the Chargers are seeded No. 2 in this division. If this works out, it would be a terrific second-round game: Garden Grove vs. El Toro. El Toro finished second to San Clemente in the South Coast League, which everyone knows is a good league. Garden Grove finished second to Bolsa Grande in the Garden Grove League. Few know that there are some good teams and fine coaching in the Garden Grove League. Capistrano Valley might be a year or so from contending for a CIF-SS title, with so many of its top players underclassmen like sophomore guard Dawson Baker.

Final four: Ayala; Loyola of Los Angeles; Kaiser; West Ranch of Valencia

Champion: Ayala

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DIVISION 2A

2015 champion: Compton

Top seeds: 1. Santa Barbara; 2. Lynwood; 3. Hart of Newhall; 4. Redlands East Valley

Outlook: Santa Barbara is another watch-list team that was not selected to the Open Division and slides into a regular division. If Kennedy beats Grand Terrace in the first round Wednesday, it would likely play Santa Barbara, if Santa Barbara does not get upset by Fullerton, in the second round. The best O.C. team in this division is Northwood, the Pacific Coast League champion. That was a terrific league this season. Northwood has a nice inside-outside game with 6-foot-7 Jake Linsky in the post and a variety of good outside shooters. La Mirada got better recently when 6-5 senior guard Vittorio Reynoso-Avila returned to the lineup after being out because of an injury.

Final four: Santa Barbara; La Mirada; Hart; Lynwood

Champion: La Mirada

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DIVISION 3AA

2015 champion: Sonora

Top seeds: 1. Oak Park; 2. Calabasas; 3. Dominguez of Compton; 4. Esperanza

Outlook: This division presents one of the three best opportunities for an Orange County team to win a championship. Esperanza has one of the county’s top players, 6-6 junior Kezie Okpala. He is a versatile scorer, averaging 23 points a game. The Aztecs are hardly a one-man team, though, with a few other solid players like Travis Kettering, Brendan Harrick and Jared Obermeier. Esperanza is an outstanding defensive team, too. Another fun-to-watch player in this division is Savanna’s 5-7 senior point guard Mark Butler, who is averaging 22 points a game. Some might think Butler is too flashy, but he doesn’t overdo it. Much-improved Buena Park is in this division, but the Coyotes are on the youngish side and might be better next season. If both win Wednesday, there would be a Buena Park-Esperanza matchup in the second round Friday.

Final four: Oak Park; Esperanza; Dominguez; Calabasas

Champion: Esperanza

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DIVISION 3A

2015 champion: Beverly Hills

Top seeds: 1. Rancho Mirage; 2. Diamond Ranch of Pomona; 3. Beverly Hills; 4. Yorba Linda

Outlook: Some might say Rancho Mirage’s 26-0 record is a mirage because the Rattlers (great name, huh?) did not play a challenging nonleague schedule. Corona del Mar did, in what was a deep Pacific Coast League. So did North Hills League champion Yorba Linda, having to play Crestview League teams Foothill, Esperanza, Canyon and Villa Park as part of the two-league Century Conference’s cross-conference scheduling. Yorba Linda also has a go-to scorer in senior Isaac Douglass (18 points a game). Servite, also in this division, has its best team in years and got a much-needed morale boost with a win last week over JSerra only two days after JSerra beat St. John Bosco. Ocean View is a terrific team, too. One wonders, though, if beating up on Golden West League teams the past few weeks has Ocean View prepared for the better competition of the playoffs. An Ocean View-Servite second-round game Friday would be excellent … and it would be at Servite, which has a home-court advantage few teams possess. Diamond Ranch gets quality inside-outside scoring and will be a handful in this division.

Final four: Servite; Yorba Linda; Beverly Hills; Diamond Ranch

Champion: Diamond Ranch

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DIVISION 4AA

2015 champion: Crespi of Encino

Top seeds: 1. La Canada; 2. Harvard-Westlake of Studio City; 3. Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks; 4. Serra of Gardena

Outlook: Around these parts we have called this the “Laguna Beach Against Teams That Don’t Belong Here” division. Laguna Beach is a community public school that does great in the Orange Coast League and against nonleague teams of its ilk, than would go into the 4AA playoffs to get beat by some smallish private school that emphasizes basketball more than Laguna Beach does. On a similar note, the “that’s just wrong” first-round matchup of the CIF-SS playoffs is JSerra at Costa Mesa. JSerra, a Trinity League team, was on an early edition of the Open Division watch list, didn’t get selected for the Open Division and so is in 4AA. JSerra vs. Costa Mesa is a reason why many of us say there should be separate playoff divisions for public and private school teams. That separation might not ever happen for a few reasons – it might not survive a legal challenge, for one. Maybe the competitive-equity playoffs system coming to all sorts of CIF-SS sports next school year will fix this. Sorry for the sidetracked rant … anyways, Harvard-Westlake has wins over Loyola and Calabasas, and lost to Crespi by two points, so we’re going with the Wolverines.

Final four: La Canada; JSerra; Notre Dame; Harvard-Westlake

Champion: Harvard-Westlake

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DIVISION 4A

2015 champion: Maranatha of Pasadena

Top seeds: 1. Viewpoint of Calabasas; 2. Maranatha of Pasadena; 3. Heritage Christian of Northridge; 4. Crean Lutheran

Outlook: As stated earlier, Esperanza is one of three O.C. teams with the best chance of winning a CIF-SS title. Crean Lutheran is also one of the three. Many of the better small-school teams have one outstanding player. Crean has a few of them, including 6-7 junior Michael Bagatourian and brothers Brett and Even Kittelsen. Maranatha has an outstanding player in 6-10 senior center Trevor Stanback, who is averaging 15 points a game and signed with Stanford. Terrance Lang (16 ppg) is a key contributor for Maranatha. Trinity Classical Academy of Valencia might be a good dark horse here.

Final four: Viewpoint; Crean Lutheran; Heritage Christian; Maranatha

Champion: Crean Lutheran

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DIVISION 5AA

2015 champion: Windward of Los Angeles

Top seeds: 1. St. Joseph of Santa Maria; 2. Saddleback Valley Christian; 3. Flintridge Prep of La Canada; 4. Brentwood

Outlook: Saddleback Valley Christian is the best O.C. team in this division. The Warriors have a splendid guard, Trey Smith, who is among county scoring leaders at 26 points a game. A couple of looks at the Warriors, though, showed a team that might not be as consistently cohesive as a championship team should be. If the pieces come together for a snug fit in the playoffs, Saddleback Valley Christian will make a deep advance. St. Margaret’s, which finished second to Crean Lutheran in the Academy League, is in this division. There could be a St. Margaret’s-Saddleback Valley Christian matchup in the quarterfinals.

Final four: St. Joseph; Woodcrest Christian of Riverside; Flintridge Prep; Saddleback Valley Christian

Champion: St. Joseph

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DIVISION 5A

2015 champion: St. Bernard of Playa del Rey

Top seeds: 1. St. Bernard; 2. Rancho Christian of Temecula; 3. Capistrano Valley Christian; 5. Shalhevet of Mulholland

Outlook: The easiest prediction for these playoffs is that Capistrano Valley Christian will get to the second round. That’s because Capistrano Valley Christian has a first-round bye. Capistrano Valley Christian is an interesting team. The Eagles have some fine athletes, but some of them still are getting their basketball skills down. They also have two of the best first names in county basketball, Spider Adetunji and Amazon Nwoye. Orangewood Academy, Division 6 champion last year, is in this division but is not nearly as good as it was last year. Brethren Christian, an at-large team from the Academy League, plays at St. Bernard and that won’t be delightful. St. Bernard comes from the Del Rey League that includes Open Division teams Bishop Montgomery and Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Montebello. St. Bernard beat Cantwell-Sacred Heart twice and lost to Orange Lutheran by five points.

Final four: St. Bernard; Santa Clarita Christian; Capistrano Valley Christian; Rancho Christian

Champion: St. Bernard

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DIVISION 6

2015 champion: Orangewood Academy

Top seeds: 1. Renaissance Academy of Altadena; 2. Price of Los Angeles; 3. McAuliffe of Lancaster; 4. Lone Pine

Outlook: You might guess that Renaissance Academy is only good at jousting. You would guess wrong. First, jousting is not a CIF-sanctioned sport and likely never will be. Second, Renaissance has produced some good basketball teams, like the 2011-12 team that won a CIF-SS championship. Also in this division is Price of Los Angeles, which has won 10 CIF-SS boys basketball titles and was in the Open Division last season. That’s quite a drop, from the top division to 11 divisions down, to Division 6. St. Michael’s Prep is the only O.C. team here. If St. Michael’s upsets Southwestern Academy of San Marino in the first round it would likely play Price in the second round.

Final four: Renaissance Academy; Lone Pine; McAuliffe; Price

Champion: Price

Contact the writer: sfryer@ocregister.com


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