Casa boys, RVC girls ready for NorCals

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Top teams with California prep finals pedigrees await the Casa Grande boys and Rincon Valley Christian girls in NorCal regional quarterfinal basketball contests today.

Casa Grande's Joey Rodriguez averages 17 points, 5 assists and 3 steals per game. Photo by Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

Reaching the round of eight with convincing wins, the Gauchos now face Archbishop Mitty, recent two-time state runners-up; and the Eagles get Pinewood, the defending and four-time state champions.

DIVISION II
Casa Grande (27-5) at Archbishop Mitty (28-2), at San Jose, 7 p.m.
Casa Grande has the size and athleticism to compete with Mitty as the Gauchos showed in handling Pleasant Valley on the road in their NorCal Division II opening-round victory.
After a disappointing home loss to Las Lomas in the North Coast Section semifinals, the Guachos played a strong overall game to bolster their confidence for Mitty.

With three players scoring in double figures a game and balanced both outside and down low, Casa Grande can keep pace on offense. Joey Rodriguez averages 17 points, but equally important are his 5 assists and 3 steals a game. Josh Hayworth and Nick Sherry are formidable in the post – Hayworth with 13 points and 10 rebounds, Sherry averaging 11 and 7. Chase Stafford is a 3-point scoring threat.

Defense will be the difference as it typically is in playoff contests. Casa Grande needs more of the determined effort in its 24-point win over Pleasant Valley. Mitty was equally dominant during its run to the Central Coast Section title, including shutting out Palo Alto for an entire quarter.
One of California’s top teams among all divisions, Mitty is led by guard Kyle Toth and forward Aaron Gordon, a double-double sophomore already heavily recruited by colleges. Another consistent scorer is forward Neil Vranicar.

Mitty was the top seed a year ago when the Monarchs lost in the quarterfinals. Mitty was runner-up in the state title game in 2008 and 2007.

DIVISION V
Rincon Valley Christian (30-3) at Pinewood (24-5), at Los Altos Hills, 6 p.m.
Both teams are led by an athletic corps of seniors who run the floor well and like to score.
Rincon Valley Christian, though, wants to keep the game at a slower pace and play with patience on offense to keep Pinewood close.

Tall, quick point guard Arianna Hanson is the Eagles’ catalyst on offense. Equally strong driving the lane or pulling up for shots, Hanson is a strong passer who finds forward Hannah Dolan for jump shots and center Claire Bailey for points down low. The trio combines for about 40 points and 25 rebounds per contest.

Strong rebounding to gain an edge in second chance points is important for Rincon Valley Christian. Role players could find more chances to score led by guard Kelly Steliga.
Pinewood has a seasoned trio that led the Panthers to the state title game the past two seasons.
Rarely stopped with the ball in her hands is wing Hailie Eackles, averaging 23 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals. Point guard Kelsey Morehead is scoring less, but handing out 5 assists a game. Guard Miranda Seto adds 11 points, 3 assists and 4 rebounds.

The faces have changed, but these schools have some NorCal playoff history, splitting Division V semifinal contests in consecutive seasons.
In 2007, Rincon Valley Christian defeated Pinewood to reach the NorCal finals, where the Eagles fell to Branson, the state champion.

In 2006, Pinewood reached the NorCal finals at Rincon Valley Christian’s expense and went on to take the state title.
Pinewood also won state titles in 1999 and 2005. Rincon Valley Christian was the Division V state champion in 1997.

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@press
democrat.com.