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1. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 15-2
The preseason No. 1 Monarchs are not an easy choice for the top even though their only losses are to nationally-ranked powerhouses St. Vincent-St. Mary (LeBron James' No. 1 team) and New York Rice. Their best win is over St. Raymond's of New York, which also is nationally-ranked. Wesley Washington's overall play has been terrific and D.J. Strawberry's defense, which the whole world saw against LeBron James, has also been stellar. Another edge for Mater Dei is that it did much better against St. Vincent-St. Mary than national No. 2 Oak Hill did earlier in the year.
2. Westchester (Los Angeles) 14-1
Coach Ed Azzam's bunch has been so impressive that it makes you wonder just how good it would have been had transfers Gabriel Pruitt and Ray Reese been eligible. The Comets' only loss was on a buzzer-beating shot to New York Rice at the Nike Academy Invitational in Houston. Since Rice won by a bigger margin over Mater Dei, hence the quandary of who should be No. 1. Westchester will play St. Vincent-St. Mary later in the season at the Prime Time Shootout in Trenton, N.J., so there's a chance the Comets can move past Mater Dei in the rankings even if the Monarchs don't lose again.
3. Fairfax (Los Angeles) 13-1
USA Today ranks the Lions No. 6 in the nation and the L.A. Times has them above Westchester. Huh? Did we miss something or did not Fairfax lose the title game of the Nike National Prep Classic to El Camino of Oceanside? Westchester's loss was to New York Rice and the Comets are the defending Div. I champs. Results on the court or on the field never have meant much in USA Today's rankings and here's yet another example. Fairfax and Westchester will meet twice in league play and perhaps two more times in the playoffs, so this is one ranking that definitely will be decided on the court anyway.
4. Horizon (San Diego) 12-1
Steve Brand of the Union-Tribune can't remember when there's ever been three teams from his section among the state top 10 and neither can we. Coach Zack Jones' team, which has lost only to Westchester, heads the contingent. Based on how teams it has played have fared, Horizon's schedule has turned out to be very strong. Tourney titles have come at the Las Vegas Holiday Prep Classic as well as at the Modesto Christian Classic.
5. Garces (Bakersfield) 19-0
The Rams have won the California Prep Invitational as well as their own tourney and didn't lose at the Ragu Classic in Utah. They won last week 65-55 over Eisenhower of Rialto and this week might get another test from Carson. All that, though, still doesn't match the strength of Horizon's schedule and since Horizon also is the defending Div. IV state champ we're going with Horizon at No. 1 and Garces at No. 2 right now among Div. IV teams. The good news for us is that this is another case -- like Westchester vs. Fairfax -- that will be decided on the court by the end of the season.
6. Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 15-1
Stanford-bound Fred Washington has been a force, as expected, for the Knights. The only loss was to Fairfax and with so many strong teams that are Div. IV this year, Bishop Montgomery might be on top of the Div. III state rankings all the way through to the end of the season.
7. El Camino (Oceanside) 12-3
Here's where teams with more than one loss start creeping in. The Wildcats lost two games early when star guard Mikel Watson was banged up and their only other defeat was to an out-of-state opponent. The recent win over Fairfax may have prevented the Lions from being No. 1 in the state and pushed themselves into the top 10.
8. Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood) 10-4
We already know this ranking is going to be at least a spot or two lower next week as the Wolverines have already lost this week to Loyola. Two of the four losses have been to Horizon (one in two overtimes) and another was by just three to Bishop Montgomery. The best win may be the one over Denver East, the No. 1 team in Colorado.
9. Lincoln (San Diego) 15-1
This is the third of the big three from Bordertown. Lincoln's only loss has been to Doherty of Colorado Springs, Colo., and people shouldn't forget about the Hornets in any debate involving Garces and Horizon in Div. IV. Coach Charlie Paulk's team is a major state title contender in that division as well.
10. Technical (Oakland) 8-4
The Bulldogs seem to have played below expectations so far, but they're still almost unanimous as the No. 1 team in the San Francisco Bay Area. Doing well in the preseason also has never been a priority for Oakland Athletic League teams. Getting ready for the game-in, game-out confrontations in that league is more important and you can bet whoever comes out on top in the OAL is going to be a favorite in the NorCal Div. I playoffs.
11. Brea-Olinda (Brea) 12-0
Evan Moore has been a consistent 30-point scorer for Brea-Olinda, which is highly-ranked in Orange County and in Southern California. The schedule is a bit suspect, but 12-0 looks very good at this time of the year.
12. Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland) 9-1
Coach Mike Phelps began this week needing just seven more wins to become the winningest boys basketball coach in state history. The biggest win for the Dragons so far was 67-65 over previously unbeaten Salpointe Catholic of Tucson, Arizona, in a title game at the Nike National Prep Classic. Guess who's ranked No. 1 this week among all Class 5A teams in Arizona?
13. Fontana 14-1
Sean Green has moved over to Fontana from Rialto and his addition to go with four-year starter Trayvon Williams has made the Steelers the team to beat in the Inland Empire. In their recent 93-75 win over San Gorgonio at the Kiwanis tourney, though, it was Ira Graham who scored 30 points on 7-of-8 three-point shooting.
14. Loyola (Los Angeles) 10-3
Had the Cubs not lost last Saturday to Mayfair at the Pangos Dream Classic they would easily have been in the top 10. Their win this week over Harvard-Westlake (which isn't reflected here) should move them back up.
15. Oakland 9-2
Point guard supreme Ayinde Ubaka and company figure to duke it out with Oakland Tech and Fremont for supremacy in the Oakland Athletic League.
16. Sacramento 12-1
We thought for sure the Dragons would be No. 1 in the Sacramento Bee's rankings since they started the week with a 10-game win streak and have a win over Foothill (which has a win over Vallejo). But the Bee went with Valley of Sacramento, which didn't make sense to us since Valley just lost to St. Mary's of Stockton although earlier in the season the Vikings were the team that beat Bishop O'Dowd. Sacramento could be an intriguing team to watch all season long as the school may be closed in June.
17. Carson 10-3
Ikene Ebekwe has had dominant moments throughout the season for the Colts, although the team has been a bit up and down. Two wins over Taft of Woodland Hills were good, but a loss to Div. IV Montclair Prep wasn't. Carson could go way back up this week with a win over unbeaten Garces.
18. Vallejo 10-3
Any team with DeMarcus Nelson on it probably ranks in the top 20, although the Apaches haven't been as good as we thought they'd be. Their best win against a California foe was against Berkeley in the finals of the Mel Good tourney in Yuba City. Nelson already has a 47-point game this week in a league opener vs. Fairfield.
19. De La Salle (Concord) 6-3
The Spartans had a 65-game home court win streak snapped last week in a loss to Fremont of Oakland. Their most impressive result of the season also has come in a loss, but that one was by just 47-44 to Fairfax.
20. San Gorgonio (San Bernardino) 12-2
Khorry Lewis, Kevin Houston and Jacob Daigle have all been explosive on the offensive end of the court at various times this season for the Spartans. They'll play at the MLK Classic on Jan. 20 at Riverside King.