Top O.C. players to watch in the girls basketball playoffs


OCVarsity lists Orange County's top players to watch in the CIF-SS girls basketball playoffs:

Taelor Griffin, Orange Lutheran: Or, really, any consistent Lancers scorer. The defense is there, but Orange Lutheran has suffered from offensive lapses at times. In its regular season finale against Santa Margarita, OLu scored just two points in the third quarter. That won’t fly in the postseason. Griffin is one of the county’s fastest players and her attack-minded nature makes her the natural candidate to be that reliable threat.  

Cierra Hall, Fairmont Prep: The versatile junior forward proved to be the difference for the Huskies last year when they captured the program’s first-ever CIF title, now she’ll lead Fairmont in the loaded Open Division. Hall – who’s averaging 18 a game – does a majority of her damage from 15-feet in, but has shown range out to the 3-point line. Along with Tristen Rollon, Fairmont has a legit 1-2 punch. Who emerges as a steady No. 3 option?             

Dani Iwami, Los Alamitos: The senior southpaw flirted with a triple-double on several occasions this season, but finally notched a 13-point, 11-assist, 10-steal effort against Fountain Valley a week and a half ago. The Iwami-Cailyn Crocker backcourt has been a devastating combo in Los Al’s current 13-game win streak, wreaking havoc on both ends of the floor.

Reili Richardson, Brea Olinda: The Arizona State-bound senior is the latest star in a long lineage of top-notch Ladycat hoopers. Richardson is capable of taking over a game as a scorer, facilitator or defender. Having already beaten five Open Division opponents, look for Richardson, Tyiona Watkins and Jasmine Rachal to spearhead a lengthy Ladycats run.

Ally Rosenblum, Mater Dei: Good things happen when the offense runs through the future UCLA forward. The Monarchs will have the size advantage against just about any opponent it encounters, and they’ve been at their best when they feed the 6-foot-3 Rosenblum in the post. When defenses collapse the paint after a few buckets in the lane, shooters like Jayda Adams and Sarah Rahon should see their share of open looks from downtown.

Jaqueline Saucedo, Orangewood Academy: There was a certain type of magic surrounding the Spartans when they started the year off 13-0. Over its final 13 outings of the regular season, Orangewood sputtered, going just 6-7. Saucedo notched double figures in just four games over that second half stretch, after leading the club in scoring up until the start of January. If she can get back on track alongside fellow forward Estefania Giner, Orangewood is a threat to win a few games in Division 1AA. 

Sydney Sharp, Foothill: The county’s leading scorer is capable of going off at any point, evident by a 48-point heat check in late December and a number of 30-plus point outbursts since. The Knights dropped from Division 1A to 2AA this season, and while Sharp can single-handedly win a game with her scoring, Foothill will need a few others to chip in on offense if it hopes to make a run.  

Kianna Smith, Troy: No newcomer has made more of an impact on the county hoops scene than the JW North transfer. Pairing Smith with Barbara Sitanggan, Warriors coach Roger Anderson said he’d match his backcourt up against any other tandem in the state. Troy will get that opportunity in the coming weeks as it’s bound to see a number of formidable opponents. Adding another future Division I talent into the mix never hurts matters, though.

Sierra Vaglica, Woodbridge: The Warriors point guard is the lone senior starter on a roster filled with sophomores and juniors. Vaglica reads the game extremely well, knowing when to defer to teammates and when to get her own. Woodbridge has won nine in a row and will lean on its veteran floor general to carry that momentum into the postseason.

Frankie Wade-Sanchez, Huntington Beach: With Cajon High jumping up to the Open Division, the Oilers are considered one of the favorites to reach the 1A finals. Wade-Sanchez leads one of the county’s top scoring trios with her polished mid-range game. Teammates Kaylyn Nakaji and Samantha Gray also finished as top-20 scorers, so recognizing who has the hot hand will be pivotal moving forward for Huntington Beach. Wade-Sanchez’s strides as a passer is one of the chief reasons the Oilers are seeded No. 2 in Division 1A.

Bonus five: Natalia Bruening (Corona del Mar); Meghann Henderson (Sonora); Austyn Masuno (Oxford Academy); Nikki Miller (Rosary); Shaye Uyematsu (Canyon)

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