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Tuesday, Jan 29 2013 07:56 AM

Girls basketball: Central Section top 25 (thru Jan. 26)

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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer zewing@bakersfield.com

Better late than never, here's girls basketball rankings to go with the boys rankings from Saturday. The timing actually is good, because Tuesday happens to be one of the biggest days of the regular season in girls hoops. Down this way, Bakersfield and Stockdale square off for the outright lead in the Southwest Yosemite League midway through the season — that's followed Wednesday by Tehachapi at Garces in another battle of unbeatens in the Southeast Yosemite League.

But the real action Tuesday, at least as far as the top of the section is concerned, comes up north. Bullard and Edison meet for the first time this year in the County Metro Athletic Conference, and Clovis and Clovis West do the same in the Tri-River Athletic Conference. All four are unbeaten in league, and all four appear in the top 10 of these rankings. You'll notice that there are few changes at the top of these rankings, but that likely won't be the case in the next update after all these powerful teams collide.

All records and rankings reflect everything through Saturday's games, except in a couple of rare cases where results weren't available.

1. Ridgeview (18-3, 3-0 SYL, Division II, last time: 1) — As much as many of us (including myself) would have a lot of fun watching the Wolf Pack take on Hanford for a second time, there's nothing wrong with Ridgeview standing by its plan to allow players to go to winter formal. And — as many devout Wolf Pack defenders told me on Twitter — Ridgeview also has nothing to prove in a second game with Hanford, having already routed the Bullpups 73-47. But it would be fun — and it would give Ridgeview a nice test mixed into a February schedule that at the moment includes four overmatched SYL foes and the early rounds of the Division III playoffs. That's not exactly the sort of slate that's going to get you ready for the state tournament. Michael Martin also mentioned the possibility of Ridgeview playing Lynwood, another state-ranked team that the Wolf Pack beat earlier, in a February rematch.

2. Hanford (17-4, 7-0 WYL, Division I, last time: 2) — Formal-gate has obscured the fact that both Ridgeview and Hanford have significantly improved their state-wide resume in the past two weeks. Ridgeview beat state top-15 member Gardena-Serra, and Hanford took out Sacramento to avenge an earlier loss. The West Yosemite League isn't bad, thanks to the presence of Redwood, Hanford West and Lemoore, but the Bullpups still won't face the same kind of league schedule as the other Division I heavyweights. Of course, that hasn't made a bit of difference each of the past two years.

3. Clovis West (14-5, 4-0 TRAC, Division I, last time: 3) — Here's an amazing statistic that underscores how good girls basketball has been in the Central Section this year: Among the top nine teams in these rankings, the only loss — by any team — was Clovis West's 16-point defeat at the hands of Orinda-Miramonte, which happens to be Cal Hi Sports' No. 12 team in the state. In other games, the Golden Eagles have resumed domination of the TRAC, winning by an average of 57 points per game. The next team on the slate, Clovis, won't go down nearly so easily.

4. Clovis (18-5, 4-0 TRAC, Division I, last time: 4) — For all the McStars across the Valley (from Erica McCall to Bayli McClard to Aarion McDonald), one top player who seems to get overlooked is Cougars guard Samantha Earl, who averages 18.0 points a game and is in large part responsible for Clovis' biggest win, an overtime victory at Stockdale early in the month. How she plays Tuesday could shape the TRAC race.

5. Stockdale (16-4, 4-0 SWYL, Division I, last time: 5) — Remember, if it weren't for a bad (OK, really bad) first half against Clovis, Stockdale would still be the No. 1 team in the Valley because of a victory over Ridgeview. The Mustangs, who were missing post player Dakota Oliver because of foul trouble for most of that first half, have looked the part since, notching quality SoCal wins over Valencia and Harvard-Westlake and storming through their first four SWYL games. Again, the seed might not be good, but Stockdale is as capable of winning the D-I title as anyone.

6. Fresno-Bullard (16-3, 4-0 CMAC, Division I, last time: 6) — It seems like the Knights and freshman sensation Aarion McDonald should be higher than this, but everyone in the top five took care of business and then some, so Bullard has to sit here for now. But like Stockdale, this isn't a team you want to play in the playoffs. The days of the D-I girls basketball playoffs being a two- or three-team show are over. These quarterfinals are going to be legit. Imagine, for instance: Hanford vs. Bakersfield, Stockdale vs. Bullard, Clovis vs. Edison and Clovis West vs. Centennial. Wow.

7. Garces (19-2, 4-0 SEYL, Division II, last time: 7) — Nothing approaching a scare for the Rams since their back-to-back losses to Ridgeview and Stockdale in late December, but then, the schedule has very light, too, particularly in the last two weeks. That changes somewhat with a visit from Tehachapi on Wednesday, but there's still a not-bad chance this team carries a 26-2 or 27-2 record into the Division II semifinals and a tough matchup with Redwood or Madera.

8. Fresno-Edison (16-6, 4-0 CMAC, Division I, last time: 10) — The first change in the rankings from last update comes courtesy of the red-hot Tigers, who not only have ripped through their first four CMAC opponents by an average of 41 points a game but also took out previous No. 14 Tulare Western in the matchup that was moved to primetime Saturday in the MLK Showcase in Visalia. Three players average more than 11 points for Edison, including Brittany and Mariah Sims.

9. Selma (22-1, 4-0 CSL, Division III, last time: 8) — Speaking of impressive records, the Bears are riding pretty high, too. The second half of the Central Sequoia League round-robin won't be easy with Exeter and Immanuel looming, but Selma and senior Juliana Jarquin, who averages a double-double, could even afford a loss or two and still emerge as the top seed in D-III. But do a few close games against a (relatively) weak league show some vulnerability in Selma?

10. Visalia-Redwood (16-5, 5-2 WYL, Division II, last time: 9) — There's certainly nothing to be ashamed of in a 30-point loss to Hanford — the WYL is used to that from the Bullpups — but Redwood digressed from three weeks earlier, when they played a relatively tight game with Hanford. Now a rematch with Hanford West looms on what really is Super Tuesday in Valley girls basketball. The Rangers beat the Huskies by one point in their previous meeting.

11. Hanford West (20-4, 5-2 WYL, Division III, last time: 13) — That one-point setback to Redwood actually came just a week after Hanford West also lost by a point to Selma. That's the result that will sting the Huskies when it comes to determining the No. 1 seed in D-III, but either way, these two teams seem ticketed for Selland Arena, where seeding and homecourt advantage disappear. Three of the Huskies' four losses came by a total of four points; the other was to crosstown rival Hanford, a program that tends to cast a rather large shadow.

12. Madera (14-5, 2-2 CMAC, Division II, last time: 11) — Comfort comes for the Coyotes in knowing that they won't have to mess with CMAC heavyweights Edison and Bullard in the Division II playoffs. But Ridgeview and Garces aren't exactly agreeable alternatives, and Madera seems a notch below either when it comes to the D-II semifinals. Still, in a section full of stars, the Coyotes boast their own: Bria Fernandes, a sophomore averaging 14. 2 points and making 61 percent of her two-point shots.

13. Centennial (11-5, 2-2 SWYL, Division I, last time: 12) — I've still got the Golden Hawks a slot ahead of Bakersfield despite a loss at BHS last week, because the teams have split two close games and Centennial still has a better overall resume. But this year is just a trial run for this team, anyway: The balanced Golden Hawks have five players who average between 6 and 9 points per game. Only one is a senior, and none are juniors.

14. Bakersfield (12-11, 4-0 SWYL, Division I, last time: 16) — The Drillers are getting on a roll at the right time, riding a four-game winning streak that culminated with a huge comeback win over Centennial. It starts with defense for BHS, which has given up more than 46 points in a game exactly once: In a 57-51 loss to Garces at the Stockdale holiday tournament. Of course, the Drillers haven't played Stockdale yet, either, something we can only say for another 12 hours or so.

15. Lindsay (14-6, 4-0 ESL, Division IV, last time: 18) — Speaking of defense, Tehachapi has given up 40 points just five times all year — and not since Dec. 8, when Lindsay beat the Warriors, 42-38. That victory is one reason junior Christina Castro (18.8 ppg) and the Cardinals seem like the top team in Division IV. Yes, Chowchilla beat Lindsay 48-47 early in the year, and Taft and Mendota both sport good-looking records, but further examination of resumes tells me no girls team might be a bigger favorite in Selland Arena than Lindsay (not even Ridgeview, which likely will have to tangle with Garces.

16. Tehachapi (17-3, 4-0 SEYL, Division III, last time: 20)
17. Tulare Western (15-7, 2-2 EYL, Division II, last time: 14)
18. Clovis-Buchanan (7-9, 1-3 TRAC, Division I, last time: 15)
19. Independence (11-8, 1-3 SWYL, Division II, last time: 19)
20. Shafter (11-6, 6-0 SSL, Division III, last time: 23)
21. Oakhurst-Yosemite (10-9, 3-1 NSL, Division II, last time: 17)
22. Chavez (14-3, 5-1 SSL, Division III, last time: 22)
23. Tollhouse-Sierra (13-7, 1-1 NSL, Division III, last time: 21)
24. Lemoore (11-9, 3-4 WYL, Division II, last time: 25)
25. Porterville-Monache (14-8, 4-0 EYL, Division I, last time: NR)

Dropped out: No. 24 Clovis North

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