Despite being denied the division's top seed, Loyola is the team to beat in the Southern Section Division 1A playoffs. The Cubs were 23-2 in the regular season, with their only losses coming to Mission League rivals Harvard-Westlake. Head coach Jamal Adams has five future Division I players in his starting lineup, something no other coach in the bracket can claim. Seniors Miles Cartwright and Tony Wroblicky have committed to Penn and American, respectively, and underclassmen Julian Harrell, Ryan Oliver and Joe Stein will draw heavy interest from college coaches in the near future.
Sierra League champion Chino Hills was awarded the top seed. The Huskies boast a 25-2 record, but their schedule is not comparable to Loyola's. Point guard Derek Brown has committed to San Jose State and leads the squad with 14 points per game. The 6-foot-2 senior is devoted to getting his teammates involved, averaging six assists per game.
Leuzinger started the season 4-6, playing a brutal non-league slate that included powerhouses Taft, Long Beach Poly and Compton Centennial. The rocky start paid off for the Olympians, as they enter the playoffs on a 15-game winning streak and the division's No. 3 seed. Junior forward Amir Garrett is the Olympian's leading scorer and will be among the top players at his position in next season's recruiting class. The depth and athleticism of Leuzinger's squad makes them the biggest threat to Loyola's title hopes.
Xavier Johnson may provide No. 5 seed Chaparral with the firepower they need to make a run. The 6-foot-6 small forward, one of California's top sophomores, averaged 18.3 points and 11.1 rebounds during the regular season as the Pumas captured the Southwestern League title and finished 24-2 overall. Like Chino Hills, Chaparral's strength of schedule raises doubts, as does last week's unexpected loss to Temecula Valley. If 6-foot-8 center Greg Leslie (16.4 points per game) can provide a steady second option, Chaparral could advance as far as the title game. For now, their primary concern should be their opening game against Tesoro. The Titans are 12-14 and barely got into the postseason as an at-large, but warrant respect as the defending champions of the division.
Valencia guard Lonnie Jackson may be the top player in the division. The 6-foot-3 junior averages nearly 24 points per game for the ninth-seeded Foothill League champions. Jackson's proven ability to take over a game with accurate shooting and strong defensive play makes the Vikings a potential dark horse.