NCS basketball playoffs: An early preview

Posted by Staff Writer Eric Branch:
In the prep notebook that will run in Wednesday’s paper, I looked at some of the stiff competition awaiting the Empire’s best teams in the North Coast Section basketball playoffs, which start next Tuesday.
Due to the constraints of the newspaper, however, I didn’t have space to make a more comprehensive list. So here’s a list built for the blog:

Boys’ Division II
Top Empire teams: Montgomery (20-6), Ukiah (21-5)
Top Bay Area team: Redwood (24-2)
The skinny: This division looks less daunting than Division III or Division IV. Redwood is obviously good — the Giants are ranked No. 9 among the state’s Division II teams in CalHiSports’ latest rankings — but they are also unproven. Redwood went 14-14 last year and this season’s league title was its first in 31 years.

Boys’ Division III
Top Empire team: Analy (25-1).
Top Bay Area team: Bishop O’Dowd (21-3).
The skinny: Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland was upset by Analy in the NCS playoffs last year. This season, the Dragons are ranked No. 9 in the state and their frontline features 6-8 sophomore Brandon Ashley, 6-6 sophomore Richard Longrus Jr. and 6-5 senior Jordan Barton. O’Dowd’s losses came against Southern California powers Loyola, Price and Taft, which are all ranked among the top 13 in the state.

Boys’ Division IV
Top Empire teams: Cardinal Newman (20-6), Cloverdale (23-2).
Top Bay Area teams: Salesian (25-1), St. Mary’s (18-8), St. Patrick/St. Vincent (21-4).
The skinny: Salesian of Richmond, the defending state champion, is ranked No. 3 in the state in CalHiSports’ latest rankings. The Pride are led by 6-foot-7, 205-pound forward Desmond Simmons, who has signed with Washington.
St. Mary’s of Berkeley is ranked No. 4 among the state’s Division IV teams in CalHiSports’ latest rankings. The Panthers are led by 6-4, 200-pound swingman Dominique Lee, who has signed with Utah.
St. Patrick/St. Vincent of Vallejo is ranked No. 3 among the state’s Division IV teams and beat St. Mary’s, 67-66, on Jan. 22. The Bruins also narrowly lost to Salesian, 55-51, last week.

Girls’ Division I
Top Empire team: Santa Rosa (18-9)
Top Bay Area team: Berkeley (20-3)
The skinny: The Yellowjackets are ranked No. 9 in the state and No. 1 in Northern California. Junior point guard Brittany Boyd is a Division I talent and 6-1 senior forward/center Taylor Wallace has signed with UC Riverside.

Girls’ Division II
Top Empire teams: Montgomery (21-6), Maria Carrillo (20-7).
Top Bay Area team: Carondelet (19-5).
The skinny: Carondelet of Concord, winners of six NCS titles in the past seven years, is ranked 18th in the state and is led by 6-2 junior Erica Payne, regarded as one of the top 25 prospects in the nation in the Class of 2011.

Girls’ Division III
Top Empire team: Analy (18-5)
Top Bay Area team: Bishop O’Dowd (21-3)
The skinny: The Dragons, ranked sixth in the state, have three future Division I players in Robie Mayberry (Pepperdine), Mikayla Lyles (Cal) and Alexis Bostick, who hasn’t signed but recently took a recruiting visit to Oregon State.

Girls’ Division IV
Top Empire team: Cloverdale (24-2)
Top Bay Area team: St. Mary’s (23-3)
The skinny: St. Mary’s of Berkeley is led by 5-11 senior forward Danielle Mauldin, who averages 15.0 points and 11.4 rebounds a game. Mauldin has signed with St. Mary’s College. The Panthers are ranked No. 6 among the state’s Division IV schools.