What are the expectations for the East San Gabriel Valley with the 2016-17 high school basketball season in its second week and holiday tournaments in full-go mode?Not much different with the usual contenders hoping to go on deep playoff runs like Bonita, which advanced to the Division 3AA final last season, losing to Oak Park 68-49 in the championship, and then advancing to the CIF State Division III Southern California Regional semifinals.
Damien performed well in being selected to the prestigious Open Division, advancing to the quarterfinals before losing a heartbreaker to Bishop Montgomery, 58-56. Walnut advanced to the Division 1A quarterfinals and Diamond Ranch won the Division 3A title under coach Eric Cooper, but both those teams are expected to take a step back while Los Altos and Workman could be two teams that go on deep playoff runs.Here’s an early look at the Tribune top ten rankings.
Without a doubt, the best show in town and already proving it with a perfect 5-0 start capped with a dominant 97-80 victory over Colony in the championship of the Sierra Vista-Covina boys basketball tournament.
Junior guard Cameron Shelton was named MVP of the tourney, and senior Justin Hemsley and Elijah McCullough were named to the all-tournament team. Add Ezekiel Alley to the group and there’s reason reason to feel optimistic about another great season for coach Mike LeDuc’s Spartans.
Shelton, who scored 39 points in the championship win over Colony, forms a potent dynamic duo along with Hemsley, who added 28 points and 16 rebounds in the title game.
Winning late in the season won’t be easy however, because Damien will compete in Division 1AA — the toughest in Southern California and will have its hands full in the Baseline League, where it has to go head-to-head against defending national and state champion Chino Hills, who is showing no signs of slowing down.
2. Los Altos
The Conquerors have the most exciting guard in the Valley in sophomore Jarod Lucas, who as a freshman averaged 26 points, five rebounds and five assists for the 24-4 Conquerors that shared the Hacienda League with Diamond Ranch. Lucas led all California freshman in scoring.
Lucas is drawing interest from all over the country, and the best is yet to come. He is a must watch for any high school basketball junkie.
Junior Julian Lopez is back after averaging 10 points and is the No. 2 scoring option, and junior Jordan Ramirez and senior Cameron Martin also are back. In fact, Los Altos only graduated one senior who rarely saw playing time, so basically the entire squad is back from a four-loss team hoping for something special.
Los Altos was somewhat unlucky having to compete in the tough 3AA Division a year ago, losing in the second round to Cathedral.
The playoffs figure to be a tough chore again, because the Conquerors will compete in Division 1A — the second toughest division in CIF.
The Bearcats return a super talented guard in 6-foot-3 Joe Quintana, who shared Palomares League most valuable players honors and helped his team advance to the Division 3AA finals and SoCal regional semifinals.
Quintana averaged 22 points with six rebounds and five assists, but it will be tough replacing Tribune first-team standout Tyler Poepping along with Russell Hernandez, who also graduated. Quintana recently signed with Loyola Marymount after considering Pepperdine, UC Riverside and others.
4. San Dimas
The Saints figure to be the Valle Vista league favorites with senior Ronny Rafeh back, who was a Tribune first-team selection a year ago after averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds. Rafeh also was named to the CIF-SS Division 4AA second team after helping his team finish 21-7.
Also back for the Saints is junior Donnell Leffridge IV, who earned Valle Vista first-team and all-area second team honors.
San Dimas is 3-1 after finishing third in its own San Dimas tournament, beating South Hills 67-59 in the third place-game after losing to Upland in the semifinals.
The defending Montview League champions have been frustrated in recent years by having solid teams that are usually placed in tough playoff divisions because of small school powers. However, with division realignment based purely on competitive equity, the small school giants are gone and the Lobos could be a contender in the 4AA playoffs after finishing 20-8 last year with another solid group back.
The Lobos are already 4-1 with impressive victories over Verbum Dei (69-59) and Compton Centennial (65-62).
Returning for the Lobos is Montview League MVP Oliver Lopez, who averaged 21 points last year. Also back are returning senior All Montview selections in Mario Pena and Art Garcia. Add to that St. Monica transfer Ike Udengwu, a sophmore guard who played on varsity for St. Monica last year and once again, the Lobos have something to feel good about.
6. Bishop Amat
The Lancers have come a long way under coach Brandon Ertle and could be a viable threat in the Division 3AA playoffs, a generous placement for such a talented cast after finishing 22-6 last year.
The Lancers already are off to a 4-0 start beating Bethel Baptist 56-55 to capture the Morro Bay tournament title last week.
Jarren Ford was named the most valuable player with Gjerard Wilson and Hunter Benson named to the all-tournament team.
Wilson is only a sophomore, but he leads the team in scoring with 14 points a game
The Mustangs lose prolific scoring guard Dwight Ramos, who averaged 38 points and was a Division 1A first-team selection, but the Mustangs are always in the conversation with one of the best programs in the Valley.
But let’s be honest, there will be a huge dropoff from the team that competed for a Hacienda league title a year ago and finished 24-6.
Senior Ryan Dai, junior Dane Johannsen and sophomore Eli Ramos figure to be the trio to watch, but after a 3-2 start and being placed in Division 1A because of recent success could make postseason opportunities difficult.
8. Diamond Ranch
The Panthers lose several key members from last year’s championship team that finished 25-9, including 7-foot-1 center Roman Silva and guard Ryan Haywood, who were both on the Tribune first-team. Also graduating is Tyler McLean, which could explain the 1-3 start.
But the cupboard is not completely bare. Sophomore Coree Joseph is the player to watch averaging 19 points and freshman Conner Parker will be a big help, but the Panthers might be a year away from doing damage again. The Panthers will still be a threat in the Hacienda, but clearly Los Altos is the favorite.
Coach Marcus Bryan took over a tough situation a year ago replacing legend Mike LeDuc, now at Damien. The Tartans were young and struggled to an 11-16 finish, but the school with one of the richest boys basketball traditions in the Valley is back and off to a 4-1 start and figures to be at least third best behind Bonita and Ayala in the Palomares League.
The Tartans defeated Chaffey, Norte Vista and Chino in the Jurupa Valley tournament, losing only to host Jurupa Valley in the tournament.
Don’t let the Raiders’ early 3-3 record fool you. The Raiders figure to battle San Dimas for the Valle Vista League title and already own impressive wins over Nogales (69-25), Bell Gardens (72-48) and Burroughs (51-49).
The most impressive result, however, was losing to Rancho Cucamonga by only six points, 68-62, in the San Dimas boys basketball tournament. Rancho Cucamonga won the tournament, is 4-0, and competes in the prestigious Baseline League with Damien and Chino Hills.
Curtis Hong is arguably the Raiders’ best player. He dropped 31 points in the Raiders’ victory over Burroughs.