St. Joseph continues to be top dog in the Central Section but won’t play a school outside of league until the playoffs begin. Something to keep a keen eye on are the computer rankings that are the base for playoff seedings where the Knights currently sit at No. 4.
Speaking of keeping a keen eye, the talk of the section is the rematch of No. 2 Clovis North and No. 3 Clovis West on Friday, Jan. 26, a game broadcasted on local 1430ESPN.
And one new and one old team enters the rankings as Bullard (old) and Lemoore (new) come in at No. 9 and No. 10 respectively.
1. St. Joseph-Santa Maria
Last week’s rank: No. 1
Still our No.1 team in the Central Section, the Knights won’t be challenged in league, evidenced by beating Arroyo Grande 87-44, Righetti 108-35 and Atascadero 87-34. They’ve played a top-notch non-league schedule, barely losing to state powers Sierra Canyon 71-65, Bishop Montgomery 62-60 and Modesto Christian 68-67. Class of 2025 Tounde Yessoufou continues to shine at a 27.3 points per game clip to go along with 10.7 rebounds per outing.
2. Clovis North-Fresno
Last week’s rank: No. 2
The Broncos took down Clovis West 68-66 in Round 1 at home and the rematch is scheduled for Friday at the Golden Eagle’s Nest that has the attention of the entire Central Section. Riding an eight game winning streak, the Tony Amundsen-coached squad defeated a very good Monterey Trail team 79-70 on Jan 21 behind senior Jaylen Bryant’s 20-10 game and junior Jordan Espinosa’s 16.
3. Clovis West-Fresno
Last week’s rank: No. 3
The Golden Eagles got back on track with a couple of big wins against Clovis East (89-73) and Buchanan (80-40) and await the rematch against No. 2 Clovis North. Balanced scoring is the key to this club, through four league games junior guard Jackson averages 13 and senior guard Issac Martinez 12.3 ppg. Storylines abound in this one - Clovis West legendary coach Vance Walberg coached Broncos’ coach Tony Amundsen at Newark Memorial in the late 1980s.
Last week’s rank: No. 4
The Golden Hawks got by league foes Liberty 68-65 and Garces 57-47 and defeated Venice 83-35 last week. However, this week is a true test as they’ll take on Frontier, No. 6 Stockdale and No. 10 Bakersfield Christian. If they can win all three there’s a chance they’ll move past the loser of the Clovis West and Clovis North games.
5. San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno
Last week’s rank: No. 5
Don’t look now but the Panthers are playing their best basketball after beating Moreau Catholic 79-55, Justin Garza 76-32 and Madera 98-40. In fact, they’ve won 43 league games in a row but face rival Bullard on Jan 25 on the road. In the Madera win senior guard Amari Carraway pumped in his second 30 point game in a row and Mike Davis Jr. scored 18 with 11 rebounds.
Last week’s rank: No. 6
The Mustangs had no problems in getting by Frontier 61-38 but had to hold on to beat Independence 59-49 last week. Already a 20 game winner this season, the Mustangs can put a wrench in the playoff seedings with a win at No. 5 Centennial on Jan. 26 in a rematch won by the Golden Hawks in OT.
7. Mission Prep-San Luis Obispo
Last week’s rank: No. 10
After starting off last week with a narrow 61-60 loss to No. 9 Bakersfield Christian the Royals beat Lompoc (77-51), Arroyo Grande (60-44) and Cabrillo (66-52) in league. It’s not too early to think about their Feb 3 rematch at No. 1 St. Joseph.
8. Bakersfield Christian
Last week’s rank: No. 8
A rare, four-game week late in the season saw the Eagles go 3-1 including a 64-63 loss to new No. 10 Lemoore on a Saturday showcase without star Bentley Waller, one of the top juniors in the section. We still like the defending D1 Central Section champs (remember, no Open Division this season) and they can boost their pedigree with a win over No. 5 Centennial on Saturday, Jan. 27.
Last week’s rank: NR
The Knights re-enter the Top 10 after defeating Madera 84-48 and a huge 76-63 win at previous No. 8 Edison as freshman Ja’Vance Coleman poured in a career high 33 points. Senior Mark Williams added 20 with 5 rebounds and 3 steals against the Tigers. They still have to play No. 5 San Joaquin Memorial twice in league, including Jan. 25 at home.
Last week’s rank: not ranked
It was a great week to be a Tiger as Lemoore won three games last week, the first being a big league win over Dinuba 60-52 followed by Tulare Western 67-53 and Bakersfield Christian 61-60. They play Hanford and Tulare Union this coming week and will await a rematch at Dinuba on Feb. 3.