Reigning girls’ basketball champs Crescenta Valley, Flintridge Prep host CIF openers

Easily the greatest postseason in area girls’ basketball chronicle took place last season.

Two of the largest highlights were Crescenta Valley and Flintridge Prep claiming CIF Southern Section championships.

The Rebels and Falcons will look to return to CIF glory and will be joined in the CIF postseason by locals Glendale and St. Monica Academy.

With playoff pairings unveiled Sunday afternoon, Crescenta Valley (18-7 record, Pacific League champion) will host St. Anthony (14-13, Del Rey No. 2), Glendale (16-11, Pacific League No. 4) opens Division 2A play at Whittier (12-15, Del Rio No. 2), St. Monica Academy (14-9, International League champion) is likely to play the top seed in Division 5AA and Flintridge Prep has already advanced to the Division 3A second round after receiving a bye. First-round games are set for Thursday night, other than St. Monica, which will play on Saturday.

Flintridge Prep began last season’s journey to a Division 5AA championship with a bye before defeating Santa Ana Calvary Chapel, Santa Clara and Village Christian ahead of the title win over Mission College Prep.

This time around, the Rebels have moved all the way up to Division 3A, but still have high expectation and regard as they garnered the No. 2 seed. Flintridge Prep (23-2, Prep League champion) received a bye past Thursday’s first round and into Saturday’s second, where it awaits the winner of the Perris (14-8, Sunbelt No. 3) at Granite Hills (12-8, Desert Sky No. 3) opening-round tilt.

“I like the spot that we’re in,” Rebels co-Coach Kevin Kiyomura said. “Obviously, with the new way [the CIF] did it with the equity, I feel like the whole division should be pretty tight.

“The games could be a lot closer.”

Flintridge Prep is riding a wave of momentum into the playoffs to the tune of a 15-game winning streak, but by the time it comes to tip-off Saturday, it will have been more than a week since the Rebels defeated Westridge, 45-26, to close out an undefeated league run on Feb. 9.

“The minus could be just having to wait to Saturday to play our first game,” Kiyomura said. “But having gone all the way last year, I do know you really have to be as healthy as you can be, so playing one less game will probably help.”

As the second seed, it’s clear expectations are still high for the Rebels despite their move. If they get past the second round, the favored quarterfinal opponent would be La Salle, which lost to the Rebels, 61-44, in Prep’s season opener.

“It’s so hard to win a championship that we know a lot of things have to go your way, so for me, looking at the bracket,” Kiyomura said, “we like the way it looks.

“Hopefully we can live up to [our No. 2 seed] and make some noise.”

Crescenta Valley was riding a six-game winning streaking heading into last postseason and similarly is on a run in which it’s won six of its last seven contests. St. Anthony is also hot to the tune of four consecutive victories.

Crescenta Valley began its historic run to the CIF Southern Section Division IA championship last season with a first-round win over Pete Knight at home, 50-36. Thereafter, it bested Camarillo, Huntington Beach and Chino Hills before downing Mira Costa for the title.

If the Falcons pull off a win on Thursday, they will travel to play Mark Keppel in the second round. Keppel won the Almont League and is 24-3.

Glendale lost in its Division IA opener at El Rancho, 55-44, last season, but seems to have a more favorable matchup this time around at Whittier. If the Nitros, who won their last two league games, prevail, they would move into the second round against Notre Dame Academy (15-7, Sunshine champion) or Ridgecrest Burroughs (18-3, Mojave River No. 2).

At first glance, it appears as if St. Monica is the No. 1 seed in the Division 5AA tournament, but it’s likely just awaiting the No. 1 seed in the 16-team bracket.

One of just four league champions in Division 5AA, the Crusaders will host the first-round game at New Revelations Church (likely at a 5 p.m. start) against Workman (11-10, Montview No. 3) or Heritage Christian (19-8, Olympic at-large), which is the No. 1 seed.

“It looks like we’re going to face the top seed off a wild card,” Crusaders Coach Owen Keenan said. “For the season we’ve had, I think this is [an] accurate [draw]. In league, we did very well, but outside of league, we took our lumps.”

St. Monica began the season with eight consecutive losses, all to higher-division nonleague foes. Overall, it’s 4-9 outside of the league.

Heritage Christian, on the other hand, has notable wins over the likes of Valley Christian, Whittier Christian, Holy Martyrs Armenian, Saugus, Westridge and Rio Mesa.

St. Monica’s Division 6 run last season took it to the quarterfinals, where it lost to Mesa Grande Academy after a first-round bye and a second-round win over Hesperia Christian.

“We’re gonna try to get as much information as we can on them and we have a whole week to practice,” Keenan said. “We’ll go out there and give it our best.”

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