Three local teams remain in the CIF-Southern Section basketball playoff picture. Their matchups this weekend are the following:
• Canyon (21-9) at Arroyo Grande (21-8) – The Comanches (third-ranked team) will play the Eagles (11th ranked team) at 7 p.m. Friday in Arroyo Grande in the quarterfinals of CIF-SS Division 2A. Players to watch include JoJo Ballestero who averages 18 for Canyon (Anaheim) and Matt Willkomm who averages about 17 for the Eagles. Both teams have had fairly comfortable margins of victory thus far in playoffs.
• Mission Prep (22-7) at Flintridge Prep (22-5) – The Royals (3rd ranked team) will travel to La Canada (L.A.) to play the second-ranked Rebels at 7 p.m. Friday. Flintridge beat Mission 61-47 in January. Their star, Robert Cartwright, 6-2 junior guard, averages 22 points and six rebounds. Mission has had a balanced scoring attack of late; Andy Rowley had 20 in their first postseason game and Quinton Adlesh had 16 in a nail-biter against Saddleback Valley Christian on Tuesday.
• Chaminade (25-3) at San Luis Obispo (18-10) – The Eagles (top team in division) will face the Tigers on Saturday at 6 p.m. in San Luis Obispo. The Eagles’ 5-11 senior forward Mi’Chael Wright drops 13 points and grabs 10 boards per game. The Tigers not only have made significant strides during this season, they’ve improved from a 1-23 record two years ago and a 9-16 mark last year. They’re led by senior Erica Chandler (13 points, 5 boards per game) and junior Jessica Judge (8 points, 8 rebounds).
Each of the three county teams has stepped up in big games in the playoffs and seem to be peaking at just the right time. All three also seem to emphasize defense.
San Luis Obispo’s coach Dan Monroe likes to follow the motto that “your team might not always have a great offensive night, but you can always have a great defensive effort.”
By keeping teams to an average of about 37 points per game, the Tigers’ identity is a strong defense.
Monroe said he hopes to see a large crowd “come out and support the team” on Saturday that has played so hard this year to get to where they are – just one game away from the finals.
I’ve noticed a great concerted effort to take care of the ball on the part of the Tigers, who turned the ball over much more frequently in a mid-season game against Atascadero than they have of late.
As for Mission and AG, good coaching and good senior leadership appear to have gotten those two teams past the first two rounds.
Connor Woolpert and Andy Rowley, along with bruisers Tyler Baty and Michael Cardwell, have locked down teams on defense and have come up with clutch plays on the offensive end. Quinton Adlesh may be the best sophomore in the county for the Royals.
I’ve thought that Arroyo Grande has had a very promising team that had some hiccups in PAC 7 League play, dropping to the fourth place position at 7-5. But they were right there with the top teams in the league and easily could have done better.
Willkomm is a steady force for the Eagles and a really fun player to watch. Just like his quarterback play in football, he has a knack for making the right decisions on the court and reading the flow of the game.
DeSean Scott, who scored 13 in a first round playoff game, is a defensive presence at 6-4 and a high leaper who will serve them well in plugging the paint. Scott can go stretches without scoring much and sometimes I think he needs the ball more for the Eagles to get good looks down low.
But the Eagles can light it up from the 3-point line, especially when Cobe Williams and Willkomm get hot together. They’re a team that doesn’t shy away from an open shot and that confidence under pressure can really get them back into games quickly and build big leads when they’re firing on all cylinders.
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