The CIF Southern Section released their 2020 high school boys basketball playoff brackets on Sunday. The 32-team Division 2-AA boys basketball bracket is loaded with talent. Santa Clarita Christian and Heritage Christian are the two top seeds, and first-round games tip off on Wednesday.
Scorebook Live California reporter Connor Morrissette breaks down the top storylines from Division 2 AA before play begins on Wednesday.
WHO ARE THE FAVORITES?
I think the top three seeded teams are the favorites: Santa Clarita Christian, Heritage Christian and St. Bernard. These are the most complete teams in the Division 2AA field. Santa Clarita Christian beat Heritage Christian in a double overtime thriller in the Classic At Damien in December. When St. Bernard was fully healthy they won the Westchester Tournament beating Heritage Christian in the title game. The Warriors lost those two games by a combined five points and they weren’t fully healthy. These three teams are legit.
WHO ELSE HAS A SHOT?
Rolling Hills Prep, Chaminade, Los Osos, Capistrano Valley, Fairmont Prep, Santa Monica, Oak Park, St. Francis and San Gabriel Academy all have outside shots at winning too. That’s what makes this Division so tough, there are SO MANY contenders. There are no easy games, especially after the first round. Buckle up.
WHICH PLAYERS WILL BE X-FACTORS?
Justin Rochelin – Heritage Christian – 2021
When he’s fully healthy, Rochelin is a beast. He’s an incredible athlete with double digit scholarship offers, he just hasn’t been able to stay on the court this year. He should be full go for the playoffs and if he can stay that way, watch out, Heritage Christian has the most firepower of any team in the Division with Rochelin in the fold.
Nick Bowden – St. Bernard – 2020
I love this kid. He’s an undersized shooter who wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s willed St. Bernard to wins in the regular season and that should continue in the playoffs. It’s tough to bet against St. Bernard with Bowden on the floor. He scored 51 points on his senior night against Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary.
Benny Gealer – Rolling Hills Prep – 2022
When Gealer is in control and finds his shot, Rolling Hills Prep is extremely dangerous with Gealer on the perimeter and JT Tan on the inside. Gealer needs to be consistent and efficient in order for Rolling Hills Prep to win another sectional title. He’s very important to the Huskies.
Keith Higgins – Chaminade – 2021
We all know that KJ Simpson can score. If Higgins can complement his teammate and take some of the scoring load off, the Eagles will go far.
Daniel Michelini-Jackson – Santa Monica – 2022
Michelini-Jackson has come up big in just about every Santa Monica victory this season. When he’s on, the Vikings are on.
Clark Slajchert – Oak Park – 2020
This is an obvious one. Oak Park’s playoff fate rests on the shoulders of Slajchert, a Penn commit. He’s one of the best scorers in the region and will need to put up big numbers consistently in order for the Eagles to make a run. That strategy has worked well so far this season, Oak Park is 26-2.
Jason Gallant – St. Francis – 2020
Andre Henry is the main man for St. Francis, but Gallant has proven to be a great option on offense for the Golden Knights as well this season. When Henry and Gallant are scoring, St. Francis is tough to beat.
My gut is telling me to pick St. Bernard, so that’s what I’m going to do. They’re healthy and should get back to the level they were at when they won the Westchester Tournament in December. Nick Bowden and Reese Dixon-Waters will lead the way.