Jeff Smith 2 p.m., Dec. 18
CIF Finals Previews
All games at Jenny Craig Pavilion, University of San Diego
(2) Torrey Pines (21-10) vs. (5) Vista (25-7) Saturday 8:05 p.m.
Section Titles Torrey Pines – 5 (last in 2001), Vista – 3 (1994)
The Division I title race has been wide-open all season long, and Saturday’s championship nightcap between two North County teams reflects that. Second-seeded Torrey Pines and fifth-seeded Vista battled key injuries and appeared finished after slow starts in league play, but both teams heated up and stayed hot in the playoffs to set up an entertaining title game.
Torrey Pines was slowed in preseason play by senior Joe Rahon’s turf toe injury that prevented the Boston College-bound guard from planting properly on his shots. Even with the services of a fully healthy Rahon, the Falcons lost their first two league games and appeared headed for a down season. Since then, however, Torrey Pines has won 11 of its last 12 and is making its third finals appearance in four seasons led by the duo of Rahon (22.2 ppg) and senior guard Garrett Galvin (18.3 ppg).
Vista started the season 14-2 before losing senior point guard John Fletcher to a thigh injury that appeared to derail the Panthers’ season. Vista struggled without Fletcher – including a 1-3 start in the Avocado East League – but the Panthers haven’t lost since his return and followed up a league title with a postseason run. Vista advanced to the title game by notching the biggest upset of this year’s playoffs, a 57-50 win at top-seeded El Camino in the semifinals that was the Panthers’ first win over the Wildcats in 10 seasons. Fletcher, guard Sedrick Childress and forward Patrick Johnson make up a senior core for Vista that will be looking to end their careers on a high note.
(1) La Costa Canyon (30-2) vs. (2) Lincoln (21-8) Friday 8:05 p.m.
Section Titles La Costa Canyon – 2 (2011), Lincoln – 11 (2011)
The headlining matchup of this year’s finals between La Costa Canyon and Lincoln on Friday night will decide not only crown a champ in Division II, but will also decide who is the best team in San Diego. The top-seeded Mavericks and second-seeded Hornets survived a loaded bracket to return to the Jenny Craig Pavilion.
La Costa Canyon won the Division I title last year and has stayed on top this season after an enrollment drop moved the Mavericks down. Division I signees Matt Shrigley (San Diego State) and David Travers (Georgia State) lead a La Costa Canyon team that is talented, balanced and hasn’t lost to a section opponent this season.
Two-time defending Division II champion Lincoln advanced to the finals by beating Hoover in a finals-caliber semifinal matchup, and the Hornets are looking to become the first team in San Diego to win three straight Division II titles. It starts with junior guards – and twin brothers – Tyree and Tyrell Robinson for the Hornets, who have been bolstered by the late-season return of senior point guard Jerry Cobb.
(1) Cathedral Catholic (27-3) vs. (3) Mission Bay (18-7) Saturday 2:45 p.m.
Section Titles Cathedral Catholic – 9 (2000), Mission Bay – 1 (2007)
For the fourth time in five seasons, the Division III title game is an all-Western League affair. Top-seeded Cathedral Catholic and third-seeded Mission Bay will meet for the third time this season on Saturday afternoon, after splitting their regular season meetings.
Cathedral Catholic is enjoying one of its finest seasons in school history – a surprise given that the Dons only have one senior on their roster. Junior forward Xavier Williams (12.3 ppg) is one of five players that average at least eight points per game for Cathedral Catholic, and the Dons’ offensive balance is complimented by a stingy defense that traps to force turnovers and keeps opponents out of the paint with a zone.
Mission Bay is making its second straight finals appearance, and the Buccaneers will be looking for their first championship in five seasons. Mission Bay has the talent to play with any team in the section, boasting a transition-based attack led by senior guards Jerald Albritton and Vince Petties-Wilson.
In the first meeting Cathedral Catholic overwhelmed Mission Bay with its pressure, and in round two the Buccaneers overcame an 11-point second half to deficit to upset the Dons. Which way will the third game go?
(1) Francis Parker (17-11) vs. (3) La Jolla Country Day (19-9) Saturday 11:15 a.m.
Section Titles Francis Parker – 5 (2010), La Jolla Country Day – 2 (2002)
The first of three championship games on Saturday is a rubber match between a pair of Coastal League rivals – top-seeded Francis Parker and third-seeded La Jolla County Day. Each team won at home by comfortable margins in league play, suggesting that this game could go either way.
Francis Parker is in the Division IV finals for the fourth straight season, and is looking for its second section title in three years. Led by UCSB-bound senior guard Dalante Dunklin, the Lancers battled through early-season injuries and a tough schedule to finish as co-champs in the Coastal League. Francis Parker is playing its best basketball of the season right now, and aims to keep rolling in the finals.
La Jolla Country Day was the last team to beat Francis Parker, handing the Lancers a 53-35 defeat on Feb. 3 in a win that moved the Torreys into a tie for first place in league. La Jolla Country stumbled to a third place finish, but the Torreys bounced back in the playoffs and have a chance to knock off the two teams that finished ahead of them after upsetting second-seeded Army-Navy in the semifinals. Junior guard Sage Burmeister (16.3 ppg) and senior forward Frank Bamford (11.4 ppg) are the standouts on a balanced team.
(1) Foothills Christian (18-11) vs. (2) The Rock (18-9) Friday 4 p.m.
Section Titles Foothills Christian – 4 (2010), The Rock – None
Midway through the season Division V appeared up for grabs, but Foothills Christian and The Rock finished in a flash to rise to the top of the small schools. The top-seeded Knights have won 12 of their last 14 games entering the finals, while the second-seeded Warriors come in winners in 13 of their last 14.
Just before the playoffs, Foothills Christian’s title hopes appeared to take a hit when they lost senior guard and leading scorer Dalton Mosser to a season-ending wrist injury, but the Knights have bounced back to make a sixth straight section finals appearance. The backcourt trio of senior Andre Johnson (18.3 ppg in playoffs), sophomore Caleb Hoffman (18 ppg) and junior Nick Loudon (20 points in semifinals) have filled in and aim to lift Foothills Christian to its fifth section title in six seasons.
In the short five-year history of its program, The Rock is making its first section finals appearance led by sophomore guard Holden Haskett, junior guard Jay Dutra and senior forward Keelan Elliott. Though the Warriors’ players don’t have championship experience, first-year head coach Waheed Mitchell does – Mitchell won three consecutive section titles at Horizon from 2006-08.
Pictured: Senior guard Joe Rahon (driving) and Torrey Pines face Vista in the Division I finals on Saturday night
More like this:
- Division I Finals: Torrey Pines vs. Vista — March 3, 2012
- Division IV Finals: Francis Parker vs. La Jolla Country Day — March 3, 2012
- CIF Semifinals Previews — Feb. 27, 2012
- Bracket Breakdown: Division I — Feb. 20, 2012
- CIF Finals Previews — March 4, 2011