As the season heads toward its finish at the CIF state championships this weekend in Sacramento, it's down to Mater Dei and Westchester for the final No. 1 ranking, unless the unthinkable happens and both lose in their title games. Photo at left by Kirby Lee/The Sporting Image.

(After games of March 15; previous rank in parentheses)

1. (1) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 34-2

The Monarchs will go for their fifth CIF state title on Friday vs. Woodcreek of Roseville and will be heavy favorites. If they have any trouble and Westchester wins big against Oakland Tech, the debate about State Team of the Year will be heated.

2. (2) Westchester (Los Angeles) 32-3

Here's an idea: If the Comets get it done against Oakland Tech, maybe we should call LeBron James, the prep superstar from Ohio, and let him decide between Mater Dei and Westchester. After all, James' team played and beat both. Mater Dei has the edge in comparative scores vs. James' team, but Westchester does if you look at New York Rice, which is another national power that beat both California schools.

3. (3) Horizon (San Diego) 31-1

Do the Panthers play defense or what? One game after Garces soared for 118 against San Diego Lincoln, the Rams couldn't even get to half that total vs. Horizon. You also have to love the fact Horizon rallied from a 54-45 deficit in the fourth quarter.

4. (5) Fairfax (Los Angeles) 28-4

Believe it or not, but we almost put the Lions ahead of Horizon in the No. 3 spot even though Horizon just beat Garces. We were that impressed with coach Harvey Kitani's club going to Bakersfield for a win, then going down to Oceanside for an avenging win over El Camino and then losing by just two to Westchester. Another plus for Fairfax is that championship at the Iolani tourney in Hawaii. Two of the teams the Lions beat in that event -- Iolani and Seattle Franklin -- have gone on to win state championships.

5. (4) El Camino (Oceanside) 31-3

Gyno Pomare is going to be an absolute monster next year for the Wildcats. The junior -- along with junior Justin Armstrong and senior Mikel Watson -- made for a memorable run that didn't end until a one-point loss to Fairfax in the SoCal Div. I semis. It was a game El Camino led by seven points with less than three minutes left.

6. (7) Technical (Oakland) 23-5

Quentin Thomas netted 15 points to back up the 17 points of standout Leon Powe as the Bulldogs rolled past Valley of Sacramento, 60-48, in the NorCal Div. I final. Tech came out smoking as it pressed from the opening tap and broke out to a huge early lead that was never made up. A start like that might be a good idea against Westchester, too.

7. (11) Carson 23-4

Here's where the top 20 starts getting goofy. It basically boils down to the Colts having a win over Garces, which has a win over Eisenhower. Carson's playoff loss also was to Fairfax, which also looks better than it did last week.

8. (8) Garces (Bakersfield) 35-2

What a career it was for seniors Kyle Shiloh, Anthony Esparza and Zach Ryan. Next year, 7-foot junior Robert Swift will be even more the center of attention. We also need to say this week that we hope we didn't disrespect the players in any way for our criticism of USA Today's rankings in this space in recent weeks.

9. (10) Eisenhower (Rialto) 25-8

The Eagles won a SoCal Div. I playoff game last week over Canyon Springs and then did reasonably well in a semifinal loss to Westchester. We're also giving a slight edge to Ike over Loyola since it looks like Div. I-AA in the Southern Section was just a bit better than Div. I-A.

10. (9) Loyola (Los Angeles) 26-5

The Ike vs. Loyola ranking could change in the Cubs' favor if Harvard-Westlake were to win the Div. III state title. On the other hand, if Foothill wins, the Cubs would likely drop another spot in next week's final rankings.

11. (14) Foothill (Sacramento) 33-2

Guards Chris Walker and Sam Kirby have been devastating in the playoffs so far for the Mustangs. In the NorCal Div. III final, Walker and Kirby hounded the San Jose Mitty backcourt relentlessly and helped hold the Monarchs to just two points in the second quarter.

12. (15) Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood) 29-6

Wins last week over Compton Centennial and previous No. 12 Artesia have pushed the Wolverines closer to the top 10. It will be very tough, though, for them to move past Loyola, which won the same league they played in.

13. (18) Valley (Sacramento) 28-7

While we were critical of the Vikings getting the No. 2 seed in the NorCal playoffs, we'd also have to be nuts for now not ranking them ahead of Bishop O'Dowd, a team they beat twice. Both Valley and O'Dowd could drop a notch or two in the final rankings if both Oakland Tech and Foothill lose in this week's state championships.

14. (6) Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland) 29-2

Johnnie Bryant's 32 points was not enough as the Dragons finally lost a close game, this one to Valley of Sacramento in the NorCal Div. I semifinals. It then hurt their ranking even more when Valley was beaten decisively in the final by Oakland Tech. Attention will now turn toward whether head coach Mike Phelps will be able to return next season.

15. (12) Artesia (Lakewood) 30-3

The Pioneers had a 21-game win streak ended in their loss to Harvard-Westlake in the SoCal Div. III final. Other than playing Mayfair twice in league, though, Harvard-Westlake had played a much stronger schedule coming into that game. Artesia still could have won if H-W's Ed White hadn't gotten so hot shooting the three ball.

16. (16) Silverado (Victorville) 29-3

The Silverhawks gave a good account of themselves in a first-round SoCal Div. I playoff loss to Westchester and played well enough in the CIFSS Div. I-AA playoffs that they have secured a spot in this year's final top 20.

17. (19) Canyon Springs (Moreno Valley) 26-6

The Cougars were even with Loyola in the CIFSS Div. I-A final heading into the fourth quarter and did the same against Eisenhower in the first-round of the SoCal Div. I playoffs. They faltered down the stretch in both games, but did enough throughout the rest of the season to have probably earned a final top 20 ranking.

18. (nr) Hercules 25-8

This second-year program will enter the Div. IV state final with a 20-game winning streak. Their ranking has also benefitted greatly by how well Alameda County Athletic League rival Berkeley did in both the North Coast Section and NorCal Div. I playoffs. Hercules beat Berkeley twice and won the league title.

19. (nr) McClymonds (Oakland) 20-10*

The Warriors will go down as the best double-digit loss team in the state this season if Oakland Tech wins the Div. I state title, maybe even if it doesn't. Mack went overtime with the Bulldogs the last time the two played and won the time before that. The Warriors also were tied with Sacramento Valley with 38 seconds left before losing by 58-52. *Note: Forfeit losses not included.

20. (nr) Centennial (Compton) 19-11

Coach Rod Palmer's squad took it to overtime before losing to Harvard-Westlake in the CIFSS Div. III-AA final. The Apaches also won the Bay League title over Inglewood (the SoCal Div. II finalist) and were competitive in almost every game, no matter the competition.

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