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Fryer on boys basketball: JSerra climbing

OCVARSITY.COM

Joedy Gardner knew what he was in for, and he figures everybody else should have understood the situation, too.

"I told people it would take three to five years to get there," Gardner said.

"There" is the mountain on which Mater Dei occupies the summit. JSerra is not at the summit, as was proven Friday at JSerra's handsome gym where Mater Dei beat JSerra, 80-45, in a fashion alternately methodical and spectacular. But JSerra is making an ascent.

The Lions, 12-6 overall and 3-2 in the Trinity League, are ranked No. 4 in Orange County, behind three teams that beat them – Mater Dei, Capistrano Valley (which beat JSerra by four points) and Mission Viejo (beat JSerra twice, by two and six points). The Lions beat Orange Lutheran, which did not have one of the county's better players, Gabe York, who still was out after his Dec. 31 appendectomy, and lost to St. John Bosco of Bellflower by one.

JSerra's players still are getting accustomed to each other.

Jamal Aytes, a strong, quick 6-foot-7 post, transferred to JSerra from Foothills Christian of El Cajon just as the school year began. He scored 19 points with nine rebounds against Mater Dei. A starting guard, Rex Pflueger, is a freshman; his brother Devon, a junior, is JSerra's leading scorer at 17 points a game.

Gardner acknowledges the challenges of constructing a consistently winning boys basketball team, not only in the Trinity League but also within south county which has a number of strong private- and public-school programs.

"We're going to do it slowly, and do it the right way," Gardner said. "We feel like with this team, we're just really getting into our own skin right now."

THE PLAYOFFS

The CIF-Southern Section playoffs begin Feb. 15. Playoff seedings, at-large teams and first-round pairings will be announced Feb. 12 (a Sunday) for the 12 CIF-SS playoff divisions. Championship games are Feb. 29-March 3 at Anaheim Convention Center and Mater Dei.

Teams qualify for the playoffs if in their final league standings they finish among the top three teams in five- and six-team leagues, and if they finish among the top four teams in seven-team leagues. If there are more than 32 of these qualifiers within a division, wild-card round games will be played to trim the number of qualifiers to 32 teams for the first round. A potential exception, which occurred last season: Division 6A, comprising most of the section's smaller-enrollment schools, was a 16-team bracket with seven wild-card games played to produce a 16-team first round.

Teams that do not finish high enough in their final league standings to automatically qualify for the playoffs might qualify as at-large teams. There are no minimum-number-of-victories criteria for at-large eligibility. Every division but 6A had at-large qualifiers last year, and some divisions had many at-large teams – 1A had 12 at-large teams last season.

CIF-SS RANKINGS

Two county teams are No. 1 in their divisions in this week's CIF-SS rankings: Mater Dei, in Division 1AA; and Capistrano Valley, in 1A. In 1A, the top four teams are Orange County teams: 1. Capo Valley; 2. Orange Lutheran; 3. Mission Viejo; and 4. El Toro. Ocean View is No. 2, behind Canyon of Canyon Country, in 2AA

TOP 10 AND TOP 25

Here is how I voted in this week's Orange County media poll – not the county 10 poll results, just my vote: 1. Mater Dei (17-2 record); 2. Capistrano Valley (19-2); 3. Mission Viejo (19-2); 4. JSerra (12-6); 5. Orange Lutheran (12-6); 6. Ocean View (17-3); 7. El Toro (17-5); 8. Canyon (17-4); 9. Los Alamitos (11-10); 10. Aliso Niguel (16-6).

Beyond my top 10 vote, my ranking of county teams 11-25: 11. Tustin (14-6); 12. Foothill (16-4); 13. Edison (16-5); 14. Sunny Hills (18-5); 15. Cypress (18-3); 16. Fountain Valley (14-6); 17. Trabuco Hills (13-8); 18. Santa Margarita (13-9); 19. Woodbridge (15-6); 20. Dana Hills (10-11); 21. Sonora (11-10); 22. Huntington Beach (12-10); 23. Tesoro (11-10); 24. La Habra (14-8); 25. Savanna (16-3).

TOP PERFORMERS

A few of the many good ones last week: Chad Shelley, Trabuco Hills, 22 points vs. Laguna Hills and 18 vs. San Clemente; Connor Clifford, Ocean View, 67 points and 35 rebounds spread across victories over Huntington Beach, Santa Ana and Segerstrom; Bryan Fisher, Aliso Niguel, 32 points vs. San Juan Hills and 19 vs. San Clemente; and Chris Kapono, Los Alamitos, 18 points vs. Fountain Valley and 16 vs. Edison.

TOP GAMES

This week's better-looking matchups: Wednesday, Rancho Alamitos at Los Amigos (first place at stake in Garden Grove League); Thursday, Foothill at Canyon (the Century League is wild); and Friday, Mater Dei at St. John Bosco (both undefeated in Trinity League), Capistrano Valley at El Toro (South Coast League mania); and Katella at Savanna (first place at stake in Orange League).

NIKE EXTRAVAGANZA

The two-day showcase is Feb. 3 and 4 at Mater Dei. Tickets ($12-$22) are on sale at Mater Dei's ticket window, which accepts cash only, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Matchups include the top two ranked girls teams in California, No. 1 Windward of Los Angeles vs. No. 2 Mater Dei, on Feb. 3 at 9 p.m. preceded by the Mater Dei boys against St. John Bosco at 7:30 p.m.; and, on the all-boys Feb. 4 schedule, Mater Dei vs. La Verne Lutheran (ranked No. 1 in the deep Division 4AA) at 7:30 p.m. and Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, led by the nation's top-rated prospect, Shabazz Muhammad, vs. Whitney Young of Chicago at 9 p.m.


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