The storylines and talent run deep as the Sac-Joaquin Section announced its playoff brackets on Wednesday. We take a look at what to watch for ending with five section finals at Sleep Train Arena.
Sheldon is going for a 4-peat in Division I headlined by a trio of Top 10 players in Dakarai Allen, D'Erryl Williams and Darin Johnson. The Huskies have good complimentary players with Ryan Manning, Antonio Lewis and Jalen Hicks. Their only weakness is the lack of a true post, which isn't as big of an issue in high school. Sheldon looks bound for the Open Division, but should have a third matchup with Pleasant Grove on March 2.
There are 22 teams in the Division II bracket, but most eyes are on No. 1 seed Sacramento and No. 3 Antelope. It was the expected finals a year ago before the Dragons were upset by Lodi in the second round. Sacramento is rounding into form with the return of Chaminade bound guard De'Von Boyd to pair with Aaron Cameron and inside threats of James Hadnot and freshman Devin Young. Antelope will rely on its senior duo of Gabe Bealer and Isaiah Ellis. This playoff run could be important in terms of recruiting for both prospects, who are ranked as 3-star recruits.
There are other talented players to watch for in Division II, including junior guard Gabe Vincent for No. 2 seed St. Mary's-Stockton. He is ranked No. 16 in the NCP Top 40, but will see a move up after the season. Also be on the lookout for unranked seniors De'Sean Parsons of Grant and Devin Moss from Rocklin and Burbank junior point guard Jalen Coates. With talented players around the bracket, there are plenty of combinations we could see at Sleep Train Arena on February 27.
Modesto Christian is the overwhelming favorite in Division III with great depth and senior experience from Raymond Bowles, Thomas Wallace and Zerrion Payton. The Crusaders' only loss in NorCal is to No. 3 Bishop O'Dowd and is No. 5 in Northern California. A section win could signal a trip to the Open Division.
Weston Ranch is the No. 4 seed after picking up a late season win over No. 2 Sierra, which was a section finalist a year ago. Weston Ranch boasts a trio of ranked seniors with Eric Duncan, Dylan Alexander and Daiveon Leverett. The Cougars lost to Modesto Christian 70-59 earlier this month and could get a rematch in the semi-finals.
Casa Roble brings the best size in Division III led by Sacramento State signee Eric Stuteville, who comes in a 6-foot-10. His younger brother, 6-foot-9 junior forward Mason Stuteville, is also a recruit to watch in 2014 class. The Rams could be in play to reach the section finals.
Colfax forward Will Buell is the top prospect in the Division IV field and is ranked No. 25 in the NCP Top 40 for 2013. Look for him to land at a high academic school. Colfax was the regular season champions of a wide open Pioneer Valley League and is the top seed in Division IV.
6-foot-2 senior Michael Meserole (Liberty Ranch) is averaging 25 points per game for the No. 4 seed Hawks as one of the top scorers in the Sacramento area. Liberty Ranch finished second in league behind Cosumnes Oaks, which is getting 18 points per game from junior Alex Van Dyke.
Capital Christian is the No. 2 seed, but the favorite in Division V. Despite a pair of league losses to end the year, the Cougars boast the most talent of any Division V team in Northern California with junior Nifae Lealao leading a balanced scoring attack at 12 points per game. They remain the favorite for a NorCal title in Division V.
The top seed in Division V is Central Catholic, which boasts Colgate-bound post John Fenton and 2-star junior recruit Jonathan Boddie. Fenton is averaging 17 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks per game.
Division I: Sheldon over Pleasant Grove. They meet for a third time and expect the finals to be as close as the two regular season meetings.
Division II: Sacramento over Antelope. The Dragons have an easier road to the finals compared to the bottom half of the bracket, where you could easily have four different picks of who advances.
Division III: Modesto Christian over Casa Roble. Too much firepower for Modesto Christian, which is among the second tier of teams in NorCal.
Division IV: Riverbank over Colfax. Riverbank is a surprise winner as a No. 3 seed with two of its three losses to Modesto Christian.
Division V: Capital Christian over Central Catholic. Don't let the league losses fool you. Capital Christian is still the team to beat.