Long Beach Poly Coach Carl Buggs says there is a direct correlation between his girls' basketball team's success in the postseason and the arrival of Jasmine Dixon on campus.
When Dixon turned up as a freshman, the Jackrabbits won their first Southern Section title since 1995. During her sophomore and junior seasons, Poly won back-to-back state championships.
Dixon, a guard/forward who will attend NCAA power Rutgers in the fall, leads Poly into the Division I-AA playoffs Saturday, when the Jackrabbits begin their bid to reach the championship game for the seventh consecutive season.
Championship games in all divisions of the Southern and City Section playoffs will be contested Feb. 29-March 1.
A playoff preview:
CITY CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION
Defending champion: Woodland Hills Taft
Seeded teams: 1. Chatsworth (21-5), 2. Los Angeles Washington (24-5), 3. Harbor City Narbonne (24-4), 4. Los Angeles Fairfax (24-7).
Outlook: The seeding was thrown for a loop when Reiko Thomas was injured and Narbonne blew a six-point fourth-quarter lead and lost to Washington, 48-47. That misstep by Narbonne, which beat Washington in an earlier meeting, gave the No. 1 position to inconsistent Chatsworth. The Chancellors lost their last three to high-level Southland opponents, but should breeze into the title game for lack of significant competition. . . . Sisters Kimberly and Gennifer Brandon, who are 6 feet 1 and 6-3 respectively, have each averaged 13 points and about 10 rebounds for Chatsworth . . . Ashely Wakefield and Mykiea Russell have averaged 10 points for Washington. . . . Narbonne is still the class of the field, with notable victories over Brea Olinda, Redondo, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa and La Jolla Country Day. Narbonne was excluded from last year's playoffs for violating section rules, and Taft won last year's title game over Washington, 39-36, and became the first team from the San Fernando Valley to win the major division championship.
SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION I-AA
Defending champion: Long Beach Poly
Seeded teams: 1. Poly (21-2), 2. Millikan (23-3), 3. Brea Olinda (23-3), 4. Santa Ana Mater Dei (23-3).
Outlook: Poly is not necessarily the most skilled team in the division, but the Jackrabbits have depth and overwhelming physical strength, led by Jasmine Dixon and Monique Oliver. They also have athletic guards, especially defensive stopper April Cook. If they get any kind of perimeter production, it's over. . . . Millikan, led by Courtney Clements, has never won a section title but is the only Southland team to defeat Poly this season. . . . Kelsey Harris-led Brea played the season without two of its best players, but the Ladycats return intact next season. They are going for their 16th section title. . . . Mater Dei has a couple of outstanding freshmen in Alexyz Vaioletama and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. . . . Any number of teams would have been a reasonable fourth-seeded team, including Lynwood, Ventura or Fullerton Troy, but Mater Dei's victory over Manhattan Beach Mira Costa earlier this month was the difference. . . . Ventura will be interesting to watch. The Cougars don't score points -- leading scorer Nicole Frank averages only 7.8 -- but neither do opponents, who average only 32. . . . There are potentially major second-round games: La Puente Bishop Amat vs. Ventura and Santa Margarita vs. Troy.
SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION I-A
Defending champion: San Clemente
Seeded teams: 1. Redondo (22-3), 2. Pasadena Muir (23-1), 3. Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (21-5), 4. San Clemente (22-4).
Outlook: Atonye Nyingifa of Redondo has been one of the two outstanding performers of this season, along with Poly's Dixon. . . . Coach Mary Mulligan has guided San Clemente to five titles in the last seven seasons. Four starters, led by Kristen Riley and Andrea Wertz, are back from last year's squad, which upset Muir, Redondo and Mira Costa -- the three top-seeded teams this season -- to win the title.
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Martin Henderson's final regular-season girls' basketball top 25:
*--* Rk School (Rec.) Division LW 1. L.B. Poly (21-2) Div. I-AA 1 2. L.B. Millikan (23-3) Div. I-AA 2 3. Miller (23-2) Div. II-AA 3 4. Muir (23-1) Div. I-A 5 5. Brea Olinda (23-3) Div. I-AA 6 6. Redondo (22-3) Div. I-A 7 7. Narbonne (24-4) City 4 8. Lynwood (20-6) Div. I-A 8 9. San Clemente (22-4) Div. I-A 9 10. Magnolia (22-5) Div. III-AA 10 11. Perris (23-4) Div. II-A 11 12. Ayala (23-4) Div. II-A 12 13. Cajon (24-3) Div. II-A 13 14. Ventura (24-2) Div. I-AA 14 15. Edison (20-3) Div. II-AA 15 16. Mater Dei (23-3) Div. I-AA 16 17. Mira Costa (21-5) Div. I-A 17 18. Foothill (22-4) Div. I-A 18 19. Chatsworth (21-5) City 19 20. Troy (22-4) Div. I-AA 20 21. B. Montgomery (21-6) Div. I-AA 21 22. JSerra (20-7) Div. I-AA 23 23. Santa Margarita (21-4) Div. I-AA 24 24. Santa Monica (23-4) Div. II-AA 25 25. Summit (24-1) Div. III-AA NR *--*