With a roster full of length and athleticism, Taft has established itself as the clear-cut favorite to win the Los Angeles City Section Division 1 bracket. Senior power forward Anthony January headlines the Toreadors roster. While the 6-foot-7 January lacks prototypical size for the position, he's got impressive leaping ability and is one of the few high school players who truly plays above the rim. With January, 6-foot-7 center Brandon Berry and a host of athletic, penetrating guards, Taft is in an excellent position to win a CIF title.
Basketball teams can be at their best when there's a single leader that creates a pecking order of sorts. Fourth-seeded Palisades has perhaps the most dynamic playmaker in the city in senior point guard Donovan Johnson, who leads his team in points, 3-pointers and steals. From there, the pecking order solves itself naturally, with role players like Tyler Hildreth, Brenden Otero and Tyler Duke falling in behind the Dolphins' star player. Palisades has shown it can compete with its group of players, as the Dolphins swept second-seeded Fairfax this season.
Fifth-seeded Crenshaw is placed in a favorable position within the bracket, where the Cougars have a reasonable shot of reaching the semifinals. Head coach Ed Waters' team shouldn't have problems dispatching Sylmar in the first round, and if they can go on the road to take down Palisades, their likely round two opponent, the only team that will likely stand in their way to the championship game is top-seeded Taft. Crenshaw is on a roll right now, however, and a Cinderella-like run could very well happen. The Cougars have won 11 straight games as they head into the City Section postseason.
The Dorsey Dons won 23 games during the regular season, but that impressive record doesn't reflect the team playing a weak preseason schedule and struggling in its only real tests this season. The Dons lost both games to Coliseum League rival Crenshaw, which included a 33-point beatdown in late January. Senior center Donald Muepo Jr. is a nice player, but he's hardly a dominant force down low, and is simply not cut out to be the best player on a championship-caliber team. It wouldn't be surprising to see Dorsey drop its opening round game against tenth-seeded Dorsey.
Player to Watch
Palisades point guard Donovan Johnson injured his lower back early in the season on a hard foul against Redondo Union, but he's returned to action and has had an up-and-down senior season. The 6-foot-2 backcourt sensation is a dynamic player at times; when he gets hot, he can be the best player on the court, period. Johnson has scored over 20 points eight times this season, though he's had games where he's struggled with his shooting percentages. Johnson is at his best when he's attacking the basket and getting to the foul line instead of settling for long jump shots. If Johnson can remain in attack mode throughout the playoffs, Palisades can feed off that energy and surprise some people in the Division 1 bracket.
Matchup to Watch
No. 3 Westchester vs. No. 2 Fairfax, Feb. 25
This is pretty simple. Westchester only lost two games all season long in the Western League, both coming against rival Fairfax. Those losses alone dropped the Comets to the third seed, where they will be motivated to prove those two regular season losses were a fluke. This matchup will also feature two of the top coaches in Southern California, with Westchester's Ed Azzam matching wits with Fairfax's Harvey Kitani.
We expect Westchester to avenge its regular season losses against Fairfax to advance to the Los Angeles City Section Division 1 title game. Their run will end there, however, as the Toreadors are far and away the most talented team in the bracket.