Mater Dei, Tustin and Sonora, the county's top three boys' basketball teams, received top seedings for the Southern Section playoffs which begin tonight.
Mater Dei, 28-1 and ranked No. 1, received a first-round bye in Division I-A. The Monarchs beat Edison for the I-A title last season and reached the Southern California Regional final, where they lost to eventual State champion Crenshaw, 63-61.
Mater Dei opens the playoffs Friday by playing host to the winner of tonight's Cerritos-Rancho Cucamonga game.
Tustin, 24-1 and ranked No. 2, plays host to Chino Don Lugo in the first round of Division II-A Friday. The Tillers reached the II-A semifinals last season, losing to Compton Dominguez.
Sonora, 23-3 and ranked No. 3, received a first-round bye in Division III-AA. The Raiders, who lost to Servite in the III-AA semifinals last season, open the playoffs Friday by playing host to the winner of tonight's Pomona Ganesha-Western game.
Here's a division-by-division look at the playoffs:
Defending Champion: Long Beach Poly.
Top teams: Long Beach Poly (17-9), Chino Hills Ayala (22-4), Westlake Village Westlake (18-4), Santa Ana Valley (18-7).
Dark horse: Fontana. Good team, lousy performance in league play.
Top players: Steve Aylsworth (Westlake), Mike Batiste (Long Beach Wilson), Phil Belin (Palos Verdes Peninsula), Corey Benjamin (Fontana), Ty-Juan Berry (Ayala), D'Cean Bryant (Lynwood), Nick Day (Redlands), Chris Funderburk (Lynwood), Ike Harmon (Santa Ana Valley), Ortege Jenkins (Long Beach Jordan), Horacho Jimmerson (Rialto Eisenhower), Brian Johnson (Bellflower St. John Bosco), Andrew Klein (Peninsula), Olujimi Mann (Santa Ana Valley), Michael Riggins (Santa Ana Valley), Jammall Slaughter (Fontana), Mike Smiley (Westlake), Erik Thomas (Eisenhower), Ali Ton (Los Alamitos), Jeremy Vandervoet (Los Alamitos).
Notes: There probably is no team more talented in the division than Santa Ana Valley. Unfortunately, the team has all the cohesiveness of oatmeal. Santa Ana Valley reached the semifinals last season. . . . Esperanza went 5-1 after losing leading scorer Josh Greer because of a leg injury. . . . Ayala's Berry twice beat Rowland with last-second, 30-foot shots this season. He is averaging 21.3 points and is being recruited by Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State and Nebraska. . . . Fontana's Slaughter (25.7-point average) and Benjamin (24) are the top scoring duo in the division. . . . Fontana has scored more than 80 points in nine games and has exceeded 100 three times. Yet the Steelers were beaten by Ayala, 58-55, in December. . . . Jordan's Jenkins (16.3 points, nine rebounds) was the eighth-grader who cost Lakewood Coach Tim Sweeney his job. Four years ago, Sweeney allegedly contacted Jenkins, who did not go to school within the Lakewood enrollment boundary. . . . Lynwood beat Compton Dominguez, considered one of the top five teams in Southern California, two weeks ago. . . . Upland has held teams to fewer than 50 points 14 times this season and fewer than 40 points three times, including a 31-27 victory over Temple City. . . . Wilson's Batiste (19.6 points, 12.1 rebounds) has signed with Long Beach State.
Defending champion: Mater Dei.
Top teams: Mater Dei (28-1), La Puente Nogales (23-3), Corona (23-3), Glendora (23-3).
Dark horse: Rialto (17-8), has a talented center in Okeme Oziwo and could have the honor of losing to Mater Dei in the final.
Top players: John Betham (Corona), Schea Cotton (Mater Dei), Phil Domingo (Fountain Valley), Josh Gills (Glendora), Shaun Jackson (Mater Dei), Greg Jacobsen (Glendora), Andy Lauridsen (Orange), Jonny McKee (Corona), Clay McKnight (Mater Dei), DeShawn Mency (Rancho Cucamonga), Greg Minor (Canyon Country Canyon), Okeme Oziwo (Rialto), Danielo Petronovich (Claremont), Will Porter (Nogales), Donte Quinine (Rowland), Shomario Richard (Nogales), Paul Tayyar (Fountain Valley), William Watkins (Perris).
Notes: Mater Dei's Cotton has returned from a hamstring injury in fine fashion, averaging more than 25 points the past two weeks. Cotton missed five games because of the injury. . . . The Monarchs are favored to win their 10th section title in the last 12 years. . . . McKnight has signed with UC Irvine and Jackson with Wyoming. . . . The last team to beat Mater Dei in the section playoffs was Marina in 1991. The Vikings were led by Cherokee Parks, who attends Duke. . . . Fountain Valley will be without starting guard Dan Keller, who broke his foot Wednesday. . . . Canyon's Minor averages 27.6 points. . . . Claremont's Petronovich set a team record with more than 70 three-pointers this season. . . . Nogales' Richard, a senior, has more than 700 assists in his career. He is averaging 27.7 points and 9.9 assists this season. His backcourt mate, Porter, a junior, benefits the most, averaging 18 points. . . . Rialto's Oziwo (13.1 points, 11.5 rebounds) has signed with Arizona State.
Defending champion: Oxnard Santa Clara.