La Jolla Country Day tops final 2019-2020 Southern California girls basketball rankings

With high school basketball season officially over, here is our final girls basketball power rankings post of the season. Our end-of-season rankings are reflective of how the teams stand as of the last week of the year and are not necessarily a direct reflection of who won and achieved the most on the year as a whole.


Week of March 16th, 2020

1. La Jolla Country Day (32-1)

The runaway winner for status as the best high school girls basketball team in SoCal, LJCD finished the season a staggering 32-1. They would’ve brought their 16-game winning streak to Sacramento to face Archbishop Mitty–who they beat 62-54 earlier in the season–in the CIF Open Division title game had it not been canceled. As disappointing an end as it was for all state finalists, the Torreys finished with a regional championship and star point guard Te-hina Paopao in the final five for Gatorade’s National Player of the Year award. The top-ranked team in the country had a season for the ages.

Making it out of SoCal in the highest division is already an amazing achievement. But winning four of their five playoff games in double-digits against Mater Dei Catholic, Cathedral Catholic, Etiwanda, and Windward is ridiculous. Only Bonita Vista was able to play them down to the final seconds, and LJCD still pulled it out.

2. Windward (27-6)

When Windward lost to Mater Dei in the CIF Southern Section Open Division finals, head coach Vanessa Nygaard recalled that last year, Windward beat Sierra Canyon in the Open Division finals but lost to them in state. While they didn’t get a chance for revenge against Mater Dei in state or end up making the state finals, Nygaard sure was right that they were “not done yet.”

The Wildcats opened the state playoffs by beating Sierra Canyon behind an insane rally in the last couple minutes of the game, avenging last season’s state playoffs loss and an overtime loss to them earlier this season. They also knocked off red-hot Long Beach Poly for the second time in the playoffs to outlast any other Southern Section Division 1 teams before falling to La Jolla Country Day.

3. Long Beach Poly (26-7)

Poly turned heads all season long including through the Southern Section and state playoffs culminating in knocking Southern Section champion Mater Dei out of the state playoffs. Mater Dei finished 30-1 against teams that were not Long Beach Poly, but the Jackrabbits were 2-0 against them in 2019-2020. Equally impressively, the Jackrabbits handed La Jolla Country Day, the top team in the country, their only loss of the season in December. Poly took Windward down to the very end in the Southern Region Open Division semifinals before falling 44-41.

4. Mater Dei (30-3)

For so much of the season, Mater Dei landed around the third and fourth spots in our rankings and it felt like a snub, even if it’s justified. That’s how it panned out in the season-end rankings as well given that they fell in the first round of the state playoffs, so let’s take a moment to recognize what an amazing season they had.

The Monarchs won the CIF Southern Section Open Division, and as head coach Kevin Kiernan pointed out, that’s the primary target the CIFSS elites aim for all season–even if they didn’t finish with “the icing on the cake.” They got that title in outstanding fashion, knocking out Etiwanda, Lynwood, Sierra Canyon, and Windward in four extremely well-played postseason games. Their 77-65 victory over Windward in the championship game was as impressive and poised of an offensive clinic as you’ll see in an Open Division finals game against one of the best defenses in the country. And on the year, Mater Dei went 30-1 against teams not named Long Beach Poly with one of the hardest schedules in the country.

5. Etiwanda (27-6)

The Eagles finished the season in excellent fashion to end in our top five. They beat Sierra Canyon and Lynwood in Open Division pool play and nearly knocked off Mater Dei as well. Then they got their second win of the year against Corona Centennial in the first round of the state playoffs to claim undisputed dominance within the Inland Empire for the season. Etiwanda held their own against La Jolla Country Day before falling to them by 10 in the state Open Division quarterfinals.

6. Sierra Canyon (26-8)

While the Trailblazers fell off towards the end of the season, they still proved themselves as one of the best teams in the country in 2019-2020. Only a total of seven combined points separated them from advancing past Mater Dei and Windward in the Open Division playoffs of the Southern Section and CIF state tournament.

7. Corona Centennial (26-6)

Cen10 was just a few points away from coming out of their pool in the Southern Section Open Division as well, losing by just two points to Windward and beating Long Beach Poly and Rosary Academy. They lost to Etiwanda in the first round of the state playoffs to end the year but not before establishing themselves as one of the top teams in the country on the year.

8. Rosary Academy (23-12)

The Royals saved their best ball of the year for last, advancing to the CIF Division 1 championship game which they won last season. The potential of missing out on back-to-back state titles is heartbreaking, but winning back-to-back regional championships is outstanding. To get through the field, they had to beat Westview, West (Torrance), King, and Cathedral Catholic. The Dons had beaten them by 13 points earlier in the season, but the Royals marched into San Diego and came out with the region-clinching victory.

9. Cathedral Catholic (21-12)

After a regular season filled with plenty of both ups and downs, the Dons saved a lot of their best ball of the season for last. They made the San Diego Section Open Division finals and then made the state CIF Division 1 Southern Region finals (state semifinals) in a brutally crowded field before narrowly falling to Rosary Academy.

10. Harvard-Westlake (25-9)

After starting the year 0-4 with consecutive losses to the elites, Harvard-Westlake went 25-5 from then on. They won the Mission League and won the CIFSS Division 1 title with only double-digit margins of victory.

11. M.L. King (28-7)

King gets the nod at 11 for having just knocked Lynwood out of the state playoffs before pushing Rosary Academy in the CIF state Division 1 quarterfinals. Before that, they also made it to the CIFSS Division 1 semis before falling narrowly to Troy.

12. Lynwood (22-9)

Going under the radar, Lynwood finished the regular season 22-5 and made the Southern Section Open Division field. Once they got there, they took Mater Dei, Sierra Canyon, and Etiwanda all down to the wire, losing all three but none by more than seven points. For a team that was overlooked by many the entire season, they turned heads by proving they were capable of beating just about anyone in the country. They fell short earlier than expected in the state playoffs, but one could easily argue that on the season as a whole, they were a top-10 team in SoCal.

13. Orangewood Academy (27-7)

Orangewood Academy had to go through nearly every elite in the 2-AA bracket en-route to a sectional championship, and also had an impressive win over Bonita Vista in the state Division 1 playoffs. They fell to Cathedral Catholic in the second round but not after an outstanding season.

14. Marlborough (18-8)

After falling short by one point against Fairmont Prep in the CIFSS Division 2-AA semifinals, Marlborough had one of their best wins of the year to beat Troy by double-digits in the first round of the state playoffs. Of their eight losses on the year, most of them came against elite competition, or at worst, great competition–Harvard-Westlake (twice), Etiwanda, Fairmont Prep, Chaminade (twice), Buchanan, and Centennial.

15. West Torrance (22-11)

After challenging themselves with a tough non-league schedule, West had a solid showing in the playoffs and made it pretty far in some brutal fields. They beat rival North both times in league to win league in undefeated fashion, they made the CIFSS Division 1 semifinals before losing to eventual champion Harvard-Westlake, and they had a great double-overtime win over Fairmont Prep to open the CIF Division I state playoffs. Then the Warriors ran into another buzzsaw in Rosary Academy who was playing some of their best ball of the year en-route to a Southern Region title.

16. Troy (23-10)

Like the Warriors of West, the Warriors of Troy went undefeated in league play and won some difficult playoff games after a brutal non-league schedule. On the way to the Southern Section Division 1 finals, they beat Roosevelt and King.

17. Fairmont Prep (25-8)

The Huskies were a question mark coming down the stretch of the season with some great wins and a couple underwhelming losses in the regular season. But they showed out on the way to the Southern Section 2-AA finals, beating Ventura, Saugus, and Marlborough in close games before dropping narrowly their rubber match against rival Orangewood Academy. Fairmont Prep also took West to double-overtime in the first round of the Division 1 state playoffs.

18. Chaminade (23-8)

Not seeing Chaminade in the state playoffs was strange given the season they just had, but they only made the Division 1 quarterfinals in section so they must hold the distinction as the best team in SoCal not to play a state playoff game. No team that missed the Southern Section Division 1 or Division 2 semifinals made the CIF Open Division or Division 1, although Chaminade probably would’ve been the clear choice had the 16th seed been awarded. The team they got knocked out by, King, was a worthy opponent as well, although they fell the next round against Troy before winning some state playoff games.

19. Bishop Montgomery (21-7)

Bishop Montgomery is in the same club as Chaminade, having gotten knocked out by a great team (West) in the CIFSS Division 1 quarterfinals and facing the disappointment of no state playoff games. Still, they finished the season with an undefeated league title and some great wins including H-W and West earlier in the season.

20. Roosevelt (21-9)

The Mustangs are the third team in this part of the rankings that was a candidate to earn a state playoff birth but fell to great competition in the CIFSS Division 1 quarterfinals. After beating Camarillo by double-figures in the round of 16, they lost to finalist Troy by one point in overtime and that was the difference between their season continuing and ending.

21. North Torrance (24-4)

After a regular season with only two losses, both coming narrowly against West in league play, it was unclear how North was going to hold up in pressure situations against good playoff teams. Not that they hadn’t beaten plenty of great teams in the regular season, but compared to most of the teams above them on this list they had fewer close games against evenly-matched foes.

But they were ready to contend, nearly making the CIFSS 2-AA finals after close wins against Oxnard, St. Paul, and Pasadena. The Saxons also pushed Harvard-Westlake for four quarters before falling in the state Division I playoffs.

22. Saugus (24-5)

The Centurions fell by just two points to finalist Fairmont Prep in the Southern Section Division 2-AA quarterfinals after turning heads all season.

23. Rolling Hills Prep (24-4)

Yet another Division 1 quarterfinalist who wasn’t far from playing Division I state playoff games, RHP knocked off Esperanza by double-digits before falling to future champ Harvard-Westlake in the Division 1 finals.

24. Flintridge Prep (24-5)

The Rebels advanced to the CIFSS Division 2-AA quarterfinals before eventual champion Orangewood needed four quarters to put them away.

25. Bonita Vista (21-10)

It is very rare that I boost teams specifically for losses, but Bonita Vista looked like a top-25 team in SoCal with room to spare in their last two games of the season. Both were postseason losses, but the first was to nationally top-ranked La Jolla Country Day by just two points, and the other was a close loss against Orangewood Academy in the state playoffs in which they showed a lot of resilience. Before the LJCD game, they knocked dangerous La Costa Canyon out of the San Diego Section Open Division playoffs.

Honorable mentions:

Esperanza, Camarillo, Westview, Palisades, El Cajon Christian

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