The first set of boys basketball section rankings were unveiled yesterday, so it's only natural that we follow up with the girls today, before most leagues begin conference play on Tuesday or Wednesday.
A fair disclaimer: These rankings were incredibly difficult, starting right at the top. Ridgeview beat Hanford. Stockdale beat Ridgeview. Clovis beat Stockdale. Hanford beat Clovis. Clovis West has played mostly out of section teams but has its own impressive resume. And Bullard is 1-1 against Clovis. You get the idea. Luckily for us, five of those six teams will get a chance to duke it out in the Division I playoffs, with the exception being Ridgeview. I've pegged the Wolf Pack No. 1 for now, mostly because of an impressive 73-47 victory over Hanford early in the season. But there's talk of the teams scheduling a second game that could give the Bullpups a chance to earn back the top spot.
Meanwhile, Ridgeview will continue to dominate lower-division competition all the way likely to the state tournament. Then competition will stiffen in a hurry.
Finally, as a friendly-service reminder: These records and rankings do not reflect any of Friday night's results. Everything is through Thursday's games only.
1. Ridgeview (14-3, Division II, last year: lost in D-III championship) — One good player can really make a basketball team, and the Wolf Pack have one of the section's best ever in Erica McCall. But that's not all Ridgeview will throw at you: Point guard Candace Wilkerson and off guard Alex Green are tremendous players in their own right. If they're hitting 3-pointers, look out. If they're not — well, if you can hold McCall somewhat at bay, you can beat this team like Stockdale did.
NOTABLE WINS: vs. No. 2 Hanford, vs. Lynwood, at Morro Bay, at No. 16 Bakersfield, vs. No. 7 Garces, at No. 19 Independence
NOTABLE LOSSES: vs. Santa Ana-Mater Dei, at No. 5 Stockdale, at Playa del Rey-St. Bernard
2. Hanford (13-4, Division I, last year: won D-I championship) — The section's preminent power over the past decade or so was dealt a shock with a lopsided loss to Ridgeview in the first week of the season. Since then, the Bullpups have gone about their business and built perhaps the section's best resume — but even with Ridgeview scuffling a bit, I'm not ready to ignore a 26-point loss head-to-head. If the teams meet again, that could certainly change.
NOTABLE WINS: vs. Concord-Clayton Valley, vs. Fairfield-Armijo, vs. No. 17 Oakhurst-Yosemite, vs. No. 10 Fresno-Edison, vs. No. 4 Clovis, vs. Modesto Christian, vs. Harbor City-Narbonne, vs. Brentwood-Heritage, at No. 9 Visalia-Redwood, at No. 13 Hanford West
NOTABLE LOSSES: vs. No. 1 Ridgeview, vs. El Dorado Hills-Oak Ridge, vs. Sacramento, vs. Brooklyn (N.Y.)-Heritage
3. Clovis West (10-4, Division I, last year: lost in D-I quarterfinals) — I honestly considered ranking the Golden Eagles everywhere from No. 1 to No. 6. Their only in-section wins are underwhelming, but they've took down some increasingly impressive out-of-section teams and should be a factor the whole way. We'll know a lot more in TRAC play, particularly Jan. 29 when Clovis comes calling.
NOTABLE WINS: vs. No. 24 Clovis North, at Loomis-Del Oro, vs. Chico-Pleasant Valley, vs. Soquel, vs. Sacramento-St. Francis, at Modesto Christian
NOTABLE LOSSES: vs. Lynwood, vs. Santa Ana-Mater Dei, vs. Aurora (Colo.)-Grandview, vs. Moreno Valley-Canyon Springs
4. Clovis (14-5, Division I, last year: lost in D-I quarterfinals) — The Cougars were so, so very impressive on Tuesday at Stockdale — for about three and a half quarters. Then Stockdale turned the heat up a bit and Clovis nearly wilted on the road, needing to survive a missed free throw with seconds left just to get to overtime. But Clovis got it done in the extra session and threw another loop into the Division I playoff picture. Junior guard Samantha Earl is a pure scorer, and this team Ds it up well enough to challenge anyone — the loss to Hanford was by just six points.
NOTABLE WINS: vs. Concord-Clayton Valley, vs. No. 24 Clovis North, vs. No. 6 Fresno-Bullard, vs. No. 10 Fresno-Edison, at No. 5 Stockdale
NOTABLE LOSSES: vs. Fairfield-Armijo, vs. No. 6 Fresno-Bullard, vs. No. 2 Hanford, vs. Sacramento-Christian Brothers, vs. Laguna Hills
5. Stockdale (10-4, Division I, last year: lost D-I championship) — It's hard to understate how much the Mustangs were hurt by that overtime loss to Clovis, and how much they're hurt because most of the section's D-I strength is in parts north. That gives Stockdale few opportunities to reverse the Clovis loss, and its best wins — against Garces and Ridgeview — are in different divisions and likely won't carry as much weight in seeding. That means Stockdale will likely hit the road in the playoffs. It doesn't mean they won't make it back to Selland Arena, though; this is a deep team that will cause many opponents problems.
NOTABLE WINS: vs. Mesa (Ariz.)-Mountain View, vs. Camarillo, vs. No. 25 Lemoore, vs. No. 7 Garces, vs. No. 1 Ridgeview
NOTABLE LOSSES: vs. San Diego-Serra, vs. Westlake Village-Oaks Christian, vs. Canyon Country-Canyon, vs. No. 4 Clovis
6. Fresno-Bullard (12-3, Division I, last year: lost in D-I quarterfinals) — There are six teams involved in this free-for-all at the top of the section, and somebody has to be No. 6. That doesn't mean the Knights, with freshman sensation Aarion McDonald leading the way, aren't a threat to win it all. They very much are, as evidenced by a list of quality wins that includes a split with Clovis. If Bullard wins the CMAC, as expected, it could garner as high as a No. 3 seed in Division I.
NOTABLE WINS: at No. 15 Clovis-Buchanan, vs. No. 4 Clovis, vs. No. 14 Tulare Western, vs. No. 10 Fresno-Edison, vs. No. 17 Oakhurst-Yosemite, vs. Loomis-Del Oro, vs. Santa Rosa-Montgomery, at No. 24 Clovis North
NOTABLE LOSSES: vs. Santa Ana-Mater Dei, vs. No. 4 Clovis, vs. Concord-Clayton Valley
7. Garces (14-2, Division II, last year: lost in D-II semifinals) — Leading scorer Rachol West has been joined by freshman sister Celeste, and the younger one is a force in the paint, leading all freshmen in the state in rebounding. That duo will help the Rams dominate the SEYL and makes them favorites to reach the Division II section final. Problem is, Ridgeview likely will be waiting there.
NOTABLE WINS: vs. No. 9 Visalia-Redwood, vs. Templeton, vs. Atascadero, at Morro Bay, at No. 16 Bakersfield (x2)
NOTABLE LOSSES: vs. No. 1 Ridgeview, at No. 5 Stockdale
8. Selma (18-1, Division III, last year: lost in D-III first round) — One of the section's best stories thus far this season has been the meteoric rise of the Bears, who aren't Division III in almost any sport but might win a competitive bracket in girls hoops. Selma has a bunch of good wins and didn't lose until last week at a tournament in Southern Cal. It's unlikely Selma is challenged in league play, so the Bears could bring a gaudy record into the postseason, where things could get interesting with a rematch against Hanford West or other tests looming.
NOTABLE WINS: vs. No. 11 Madera (x2), vs. No. 17 Oakhurst-Yosemite, vs. No. 13 Hanford West, vs. No. 9 Visalia-Redwood
NOTABLE LOSS: at Montebello-Cantwell-Sacred Heart
9. Visalia-Redwood (13-3, Division II, last year: lost D-II in championship) — Here's one of two teams that could spoil an all-Kern County matchup in the Division II championship, though Redwood lost a double-digit game at Garces in the Rangers' second game. Since then, the Rangers have taken care of business and probably done enough to earn a No. 3 seed and a possible rematch at Garces in the D-II semifinals.
NOTABLE WINS: vs. No. 22 Chavez, vs. No. 18 Lindsay (x2), vs. No. 10 Fresno-Edison, vs. No. 14 Tulare Western, at No. 13 Hanford West, vs. No. 25 Lemoore
NOTABLE LOSSES: at No. 7 Garces, vs. No. 8 Selma, vs. No. 2 Hanford
10. Fresno-Edison (8-6, Division I, last year: lost in D-I semifinals) — The Tigers lost several key pieces from last year's final four team still return some experience. The quality wins have been lacking, outside of a recent victory against Centennial, but Edison has been competitive against the section's other top teams, too. Even if the Tigers don't challenge Bullard in the CMAC, they'll be a tough out in February.
NOTABLE WINS: vs. No. 25 Lemoore, vs. No. 21 Tollhouse-Sierra, vs. No. 16 Bakersfield, vs. No. 12 Centennial
NOTABLE LOSSES: vs. No. 2 Hanford, vs. No. 6 Fresno-Bullard, at No. 4 Clovis, at No. 9 Visalia-Redwood, vs. Sacramento-Christian Brothers, vs. Oakland Tech
11. Madera (12-3, Division II, last year: lost in D-II quarterfinals) — The Coyotes' schedule hasn't been great, but wins are wins, and this is a team positioning itself for a top-four seed in Division II. Bria Fernandes, just a sophomore, leads Madera with 14.2 points a game, and chances for big wins in the CMAC abound with two games each against Bullard and Edison.
NOTABLE WINS: vs. No. 21 Tollhouse-Sierra, at No. 17 Oakhurst-Yosemite
NOTABLE LOSSES: at No. 8 Selma (x2), vs. Sacramento-Bradshaw Christian
12. Centennial (9-3, Division I, last year: lost in D-I first round) — As a first-year coach in 2010-11, Clayton Madden led the Golden Hawks to a surprise SWYL championship. Now he's got what he was waiting for: His daughter, freshman Taylor Madden, on the team. She's still working back to 100 percent after knee surgery last year, so this is a team that could get better as the season goes along.
NOTABLE WINS: vs. No. 20 Tehachapi, vs. No. 16 Bakersfield, vs. Santa Maria-Pioneer Valley, vs. No. 23 Shafter, at No. 15 Clovis-Buchanan
NOTABLE LOSSES: vs. Templeton, vs. Atascadero, vs. No. 10 Fresno-Edison
13. Hanford West (15-4, Division III, last year: lost in D-III semifinals) —There's another girls basketball program in Hanford, and it's not too bad, either. Remember, the Huskies pushed Independence to the ropes in the D-III semifinals last year before the Falcons went on to upset Ridgeview in the championship game. Now they've closed the gap (at least for this year) on Hanford and are a legitimate threat to win Division III. The main competition could be Selma, which beat Hanford West 52-51 in the teams' late-December meeting. Hmmm.
NOTABLE WINS: vs. Templeton, vs. No. 14 Tulare Western, at No. 25 Lemoore
NOTABLE LOSSES: vs. No. 14 Tulare Western, vs. No. 8 Selma, vs. No. 9 Visalia-Redwood, vs. No. 2 Hanford
14. Tulare Western (13-4, Division II, last year: lost in D-II quarterfinals) — I'm pushing the Mustangs a spot below the Huskies just because Hanford West won the teams' latest meeting. Tulare Western also had a questionable loss to Sunnyside early in the season. Still, the East Yosemite League seems ripe for the picking, with defending Division II champion Monache, which is down a bit, and Delano perhaps the only real competition.
NOTABLE WINS: vs. No. 24 Clovis North, vs. No. 17 Oakhurst-Yosemite, at No. 13 Hanford West
NOTABLE LOSSES: vs. No. 6 Fresno-Bullard, vs. Fresno-Sunnyside, vs. No. 9 Visalia-Redwood, vs. No. 13 Hanford West
15. Clovis-Buchanan (6-5, Division I; last year: lost in D-I semifinals) — A ho-hum resume got a boost when Buchanan with a win over Bakersfield in a New Year's tournament. This is a final four team from a year ago that has different key faces except one: Megan Lee, a senior whose 14.4 points a game is double the average of any of her teammate's. In a TRAC that's as strong as ever at the top but not nearly as deep as usual, the Bears seem like a good bet for third place.
NOTABLE WINS: at No. 17 Oakhurst-Yosemite, vs. No. 16 Bakersfield
NOTABLE LOSSES: vs. El Dorado Hills-Oak Ridge, vs. No. 6 Fresno-Bullard, vs. Fresno-Memorial, vs. Liberty, vs. No. 12 Centennial
16. Bakersfield (8-11, Division I; last year: no playoffs)
17. Oakhurst-Yosemite (7-7, Division II; last year: lost in D-II first round)
18. Lindsay (9-5, Division IV; last year: lost in D-IV championship)
19. Independence (10-5, Division II; last year: won D-III championship)
20. Tehachapi (12-3, Division III; last year: lost in D-III first round)
21. Tollhouse-Sierra (12-6, Division III; last year: lost in D-IV semifinals)
22. Chavez (11-2, Division III; last year: no playoffs)
23. Shafter (4-5, Division III; last year: lost in D-III quarterfinals)
24. Clovis North (7-10, Division I; last year: lost in D-II semifinals)
25. Lemoore (8-7, Division II; last year: lost in D-II quarterfinals)