February 13, 2013
Sizing up the Sac-Joaquin Section boys basketball brackets

Here's a closer peek at the Sac-Joaquin Section boys basketball playoffs, by division, with schedules, outlook and projections. It gets fun from here...

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Check for more in Thursday's Bee, including a profile on the unsung talent leading the unsung team in area scoring leader Michael Meserole of Liberty Ranch...

Division I
Top 4 seeds: Sheldon (21-5), Pleasant Grove (21-5), Bella Vista (22-5), Golden Valley (23-4).
Defending champion: Sheldon
Outlook: Sheldon is as concrete a favorite as the field has seen in many years, thanks to so many returning starters and the momentum of having won the last three D-I section titles. Sheldon can shoot with Darin Johnson and Ryan Manning and it can score on the break and inside with Dakarai Allen, or salt teams away with D'Erryl Williams posting up late. Pleasant Grove played Sheldon tough twice this season
and craves a playoff showdown with its rivals behind three-year varsity starters Cole Nordquist, Malik Thames and Matt Hayes. The Eagles drawing a No. 2 seed speaks of the strength of the Delta River League. Bella Vista has a strong guard leader in Ahmad Smith and has had years of lower-level success before the move to D-I. Granite Bay is battle tested from the rigors of the Sierra Foothill League with good guard play and Kennedy looms as a threat with an feisty, unselfish team.
Golden Valley of Merced has the section's longest winning streak of 13 games with guard play and defense despite having just one senior on the roster.
Early matchups of note: No. 9 Kennedy at No. 8 Lodi is a fun game, and the winner gets top-seeded Sheldon should the Huskies win their opener. Golden Valley of Merced is 23-4 and takes on Oak Ridge of the DRL, which played in a much stronger league. No. 7 Franklin could face Pleasant Grove in a second-round game.
Projected final: Sheldon over Pleasant Grove

First-round games:
Wednesday, Feb. 20, home sites, 7 p.m.
No. 17 Rodriguez/No. 16 Bear Creek at No. 1 Sheldon
No. 9 Kennedy at No. 8 Lodi
No. 12 Bethel at No. 5 Granite Bay
No. 13 Oak Ridge at No. 4 Golden Valley
No. 14 Chavez at No. 3 Bella Vista
No. 11 Davis at No. 6 Lincoln-Stockton
No. 10 Turlock at No. 7 Franklin
No. 15 Armijo/No. 18 West at No. 2 Pleasant Grove

Division II
Top 4 seeds: Sacramento (21-6), St. Mary's (20-7), Antelope (21-6), Grant (20-7).
Defending champion: Antelope
Outlook: A much-anticipated showdown between powerhouse programs Sacramento and Antelope would make for a terrific meeting of size, ball handlers, shooters and animated coaches. Antelope is the defending champion and features bangers Gabe Bealer and Isaiah Ellis and guard Tyler Winston. Sacramento has 6-foot-6 post freshman Devin Young flanked by senior shooters Aaron Cameron and De'Von Boyd. The field has all sorts of contenders in Cosumnes Oaks with football star Alex Van Dyke, Grant with 6-7 versatile guard De'Sean Parsons, Del Campo with forwards Vasilije Saraba and Semir Cahtarevic, Burbank with scorer David Straughter and Rocklin with Devin Moss, who has a penchant for making dramatic late plays.
Early matchups of note: No. 9 Del Oro opens at No. 8 Del Campo and No. 10 Laguna Creek plays at No. 7 Rocklin. Roseville, survivors of the rugged Sierra Foothill League that included Granite Bay, Rocklin and Del Oro opens Friday against El Camino, with the winner playing at No. 2 St. Mary's of Stockton.
Projected final: Sacramento over Antelope.

First-round outbracket games:
Friday, home sites, 7 p.m.
No. 17 River City at No. 16 Wood
No. 21 Vacaville at No. 12 Buhach Colony
No. 20 Cordova at No. 13 Johansen
No. 19 Johnson at No. 14 Benicia
No. 22 Atwater at No. 11 Gregori
No. 18 El Camino at No. 15 Roseville

Division III
Top 4 seeds: Modesto Christian (24-3), Sierra (23-4), Casa Roble (21-6), Weston Ranch (19-8).
Defending champion: Foothill
Outlook: Modesto Christian is the favorite for its size and speed and
having fared well against top state-wide competition. What's more, the Crusaders are proven in the section playoffs with four titles since 2008 in D-IV and section-leading 14 overall titles. Placer with versatile Isaiah Pineiro and Lincoln with tough Marcus Salgado are survivors of the down-to-the-wire Pioneer Valley League. Also a threat is is Casa Roble with brothers Mason and Eric Sutterville roaming the lane at 6-8 and 6-10, respectively. Sierra of Manteca reached the finals last season and has talked all season of finishing the job. And never underestimate a Drew Hibbs-coached team like Foothill, either.
Early matchups of note: No. 12 Rio Americano visits No. 5 Lincoln, which is battle tested from the Pioneer Valley League that includeds Colfax, Placer and Foothill. No. 10 Inderkum, fresh off its first league title, takes on No. 7 Placer.
Projected final: Modesto Christian over Casa Roble.

First-round games:
Wednesday, Feb. 20, home sites, 7 p.m.
No. 16 Manteca at No. 1 Modesto Christian
No. 9 Foothill at No. 8 Foothill
No. 12 Rio Americano at No. 5 Lincoln
No. 13 River Valley at No. 4 Weston Ranch
No. 14 East Union at No. 3 Casa Roble
No. 11 Vanden at No. 6 Patterson
No. 10 Inderkum at No. 7 Placer
No. 15 Ceres at No. 2 Sierra

Division IV
Top 4 seeds: Colfax (22-5), Summerville (21-3), Riverbank (22-3), Liberty Ranch (19-8)
Defending champion: Modesto Christian
Outlook: Riverbank and Summerville are on a roll from their southern Section leagues as high-scoring teams. Colfax has tradition with nine title-game appearances and four titles since 1995 and has another strong team under coach Mike O'Connell to won the competitive Pioneer Valley League. Liberty Ranch features the area's top scorer in crafty
guard Michael Meserole and has gone from four wins to six to this. Mesa Verde and sophomore scorer Brett Lynch is coming off a win over previous Bee No. 3 Capital Christian. Encina, fast and athletic, has won 12 consecutive games. A darkhorse is West Campus, fresh off a win over Capital Christian with a potential second-round matchup looming at No. 1 Colfax.
Early matchups of note: We could see No. 4 Liberty Ranch against No. 5 Mesa Verde in a second-round game, and No. 7 Encina would present quite a challenge for No. 2 Summerville should the teams meet in the second round.
Projected final: Colfax over Summerville

First-round games:
Wednesday, Feb. 20, home sites, 7 p.m.
No. 16 Hughson at No. 1 Colfax
No. 9 Escalon at No. 8 West Campus
No. 12 Amador at No. 5 Mesa Verde
No. 13 Mariposa at No. 4 Liberty Ranch
No. 14 Waterford at No. 3 Riverbank
No. 11 San Juan at No. 6 Brett Harte
No. 10 Ripon at No. 7 Encina
No. 15 Delhi at No. 2 Summerville

Division V
Top 4 seeds: Central Catholic (24-3), Capital Christian (21-4), Ripon Christian (22-4), Brookside Chrisitan (25-1).
Defending champion: Capital Christian
Outlook: Capital Christian is the favorite here, never mind two surprise losses last week in the Golden Empire League to unheralded Mesa Verde and West Campus. The Cougars either come out angry or buckle. Expect anger and effort behind leaders Trey Belton, D.J. Wilson and Nifae Lealao. Brookside Christian of Stockton averages 87.5 points with seven players scoring 9.6 points or more. Central Catholic has the field's best big man in 6-9 John Fenton, averaging 18.1 points and 17.8 rebounds. Woodland Christian guard Benny Mitchell scores 19 a game.
Projected final: Capital Christian over Central Catholic

First-round games:
Wednesday, Feb. 20, home sites, 7 p.m.
No. 9 Delta at No. 8 Buckingham
No. 12 Millennium at No. 5 Woodland Christian
No. 11 Delta Charter at No. 6 Elliot Christian
No. 10 Bradshaw Christian at No. 7 Forest Lake Christian

Division VI
Top 4 seeds: Faith Christian (22-5), New Life Christian (14-7), Stockton Christian (15-9), Turlock Christian (12-15).
Defending champion: Victory Christian
Outlook:The smallest schools compete with the same passion as the
larger, more recognized programs, and this the just the second year of D-VI play. Faith Christian of Yuba City is coming off its first league title in 20 years and is riding a nine-game winning streak. Nearby New Life Christian of Marysville is a new school rising fast. Sophomore Jacob Araya leads Stockton Christian with a 22.5 scoring average.
Projected final: Faith Christian over New Life Christian

First-round games:
Wednesday, Feb. 20, home sites, 7 p.m.
No. 8 Trinity Prep at No. 1 Faith Christian
No. 5 Lodi Academy at No. 4 Turlock Christian
No. 6 Freedom Christian at No. 3 Stockton Christian
No. 7 Victory Christian at No. 2 New Life Christian

Bee file photo by Jose Luis Villegas: Sheldon and Pleasant Grove, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 by The Bee, are seeded first and second in the Division I playoffs and expect to meet in the finals.

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Bee staff writers Joe Davidson and Bill Paterson provide news, analysis and insight on the area high school sports scene in their Prep Blog. Have a question to ask them? Send them an email any time at jdavidson@sacbee.com or bpaterson@sacbee.com.

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