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Who is our preseason No. 1?

Given that Archbishop Mitty was the No. 1 team in Northern California at the end of last season and returns its best player while Carondelet, Pinewood and San Ramon Valley lost their top players, the choice for No. 1 atop the Bay Area News Group preseason rankings was easy.

Longtime Mitty coach Sue Phillips returns a wealth of talent to her roster, including last season’s West Catholic Athletic League player of the year, junior Morgan Cheli, and Loyola Marymount-bound senior Maya Hernandez. The Monarchs beat Pinewood last season to recapture the Central Coast Section Open Division title that Pinewood won over Mitty during the spring 2021 pandemic-shortened season, and then beat San Ramon Valley and Carondelet to win the NorCal Open crown. The top players last season at Pinewood (Elle Ladine, Washington), Carondelet (Talana Lepolo, Stanford) and San Ramon Valley (Natalie Pasco, Boise State) are now playing in college.

Early-season storylines

As always, we’ll know more — probably a lot more — after the opening month. But, generally, the top programs continue to roll along even as they replace departed stars. When February arrives, we expect to see Pinewood pushing Mitty for the CCS Open title and the likes of Carondelet, Salesian, San Ramon Valley and Bishop O’Dowd battling for the North Coast Section Open championship. … How good will O’Dowd be? The Dragons remain the only Bay Area girls team to win a CIF Open Division state title, capturing the first of the eight that have been played. That was in 2013. Longtime coach Malik McCord lost his top player from last season, Amaya Bonner, now at Cal, but 5-9 freshman guard Devin Cosgriff is a budding star. She already has double-digit scholarship offers, including from UCLA, USC, Arizona and Cal. … O’Dowd wasn’t chosen for the state Open regionals last season. Neither was Salesian, which went on to beat O’Dowd and St. Ignatius for the NorCal Division I title and then defeated Windward-Los Angeles in the Division I state final. … Salesian and O’Dowd could be back in the top bracket this season.

Pinewood not yet at full strength

Pinewood will be without two seniors who were expected to contribute, Skylar Chui and Chlea Facelo, both lost for the season to off-season knee injuries. The Los Altos Hills school also has Ladine’s shoes to fill. She averaged 23.4 points and 14.7 rebounds per game last season on her way to being named the Bay Area News Group’s player of the year. But help is on the way. Ava Uhrich (Burlingame) and Vallory Kuelker (Gunn) will be eligible in January after going through the transfer sit-out period. Uhrich, a 5-10 senior post, averaged 13.9 points and 12.5 rebounds for a Burlingame team that won 19 games last season. Kuelker is a sophomore. … Burlingame also lost its leading scorer from last season, 6-1 junior Elana Weisman, who transferred to Mitty. Weisman averaged 19.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

Players to watch

Gabrielle Abigor, Berean Christian, 6-3, junior

Averaged 27.6 points, 18.3 rebounds, 9.3 blocks and 4.3 steals for a team that finished 21-7 last season.

Makiah Asidanya, Salesian, 5-7, senior

On a team with balanced scoring, the first-team all-Bay Area News Group selection led the way with 10.4 points per game. Also averaged 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 steals as Salesian won the CIF Division I state title.

Sophia Askew-Goncalves, Oakland Tech, 6-2, senior

Averaged 11.0 points and 10.9 rebounds per game last season to help Oakland Tech win the CIF Division III state title.

Sierra Chambers, San Ramon Valley, 5-8, junior

With Natalie Pasco having moved on to Boise State, Chambers could take on even more of a scoring role for the talented Wolves.

Morgan Cheli, Archbishop Mitty, 6-2, junior

First-team all-Bay Area News Group pick led Mitty to CCS Open and NorCal Open championships. Averaged a team-leading 14.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 3.1 assists per game.

Alex Facelo, Pinewood, 5-3, junior

Pinewood’s second-leading scorer last season at 9.0 points per game. Will shoulder a bigger load with reigning Bay Area News Group player of the year Elle Ladine now at the University of Washington.

Maya Hernandez, Archbishop Mitty, 6-0, senior

Bound for Loyola Marymount, she is Mitty’s second-leading returning scorer behind Morgan Cheli. Hernandez averaged 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season.

Jamie Kent, Carondelet, 6-0, senior

Averaging a double-double for the season – 10.1 and 10.5 rebounds per game — as Carondelet captured East Bay Athletic League and North Coast Section Open Division titles.

Karyss Lacanlale, Acalanes, 5-5, sophomore

Diablo Athletic League Foothill Division MVP as a freshman helped the Dons win 25 games.

Dymonique Maxie, Moreau Catholic, 5-8, junior 

Helped the Hayward school win 25 games last season, averaging 14.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game.

Amanda Muse, Heritage, 6-3, senior

The UCLA-bound center received first-team all-Bay Area News Group recognition last season after she averaged 17.1 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game for a team that went 17-8.

Kaella Peters, Palo Alto, 5-3, senior

Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division MVP last season. Helped the Vikings reach the CIF NorCal Division I regional.

Jade Ramirez, Pinewood, 5-6, senior

As with Alex Facelo, Ramirez will have more responsibility this season after averaging 7.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists for last year’s CCS Open Division runner-up.

Mari Somvichian, Oakland Tech, 5-6, senior

Averaged a team-leading 12.5 points per game, to go with 3.5 assists and 2.3 steals, as Oakland Tech won the Division III state championship.

Trinity Zamora, Piedmont, 6-0, senior 

Averaged 23 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks for a team that finished 24-7 and reached the D-II NorCal quarterfinals

Bay Area News Group preseason Top 20

(Mercury News & East Bay Times)

No. 1 ARCHBISHOP MITTY (30-2 last season)

Final ranking last season: 1

How it finished: Lost to Sierra Canyon in Open Division state final.

Season opener: Saturday at Heritage, 1 p.m.

No. 2 CARONDELET (26-3)

Final ranking last season: 2

How it finished: Lost to Mitty in Open Division regional final.

Season opener: Saturday at St. Mary’s-Berkeley, 11:30 a.m.

No. 3 SALESIAN (20-5)

Final ranking last season: 5

How it finished: Beat Windward-Los Angeles in Division I state final.

Season opener: Tuesday vs. Oakland Tech, 7 p.m.

No. 4 PINEWOOD (22-3)

Final ranking last season: 3

How it finished: Lost to Oak Ridge in Open Division regional quarterfinal.

Season opener: Dec. 8 vs. San Ramon Valley, 5 p.m.

No. 5 SAN RAMON VALLEY (26-5)

Final ranking last season:4

How it finished: Lost to Mitty in Open Division regional quarterfinal.

Season opener: Dec. 8 at Pinewood, 5 p.m.

No. 6 BISHOP O’DOWD (17-9)

Final ranking last season: 7

How it finished: Lost to Salesian in Division I regional semifinal.

Season opener: Saturday vs. Cardinal Newman at Pinole Valley, 4 p.m.

No. 7 OAKLAND TECH (21-11)

Final ranking last season: 19

How it finished: Beat La Salle-Pasadena in Division III state final.

Season opener: Saturday vs. McClatchy-Sacramento, 5:30 p.m.

No. 8 VALLEY CHRISTIAN (21-8)

Final ranking last season: 8

How it finished: Lost to Bishop O’Dowd in Division I regional quarterfinal.

Season opener: Nov. 30 vs. Los Altos at Fremont-Sunnyvale, 4 p.m.

No. 9 HERITAGE (17-8)

Final ranking last season: 14

How it finished: Lost to Vanden-Fairfield in Division I regional first-round game.

Season opener: Saturday vs. Archbishop Mitty, 1 p.m.

No. 10 ST. IGNATIUS (21-9)

Final ranking last season: 6

How it finished: Lost to Salesian in Division I regional final.

Season opener: Tuesday vs. Carondelet, 7 p.m.

No. 11 MOREAU CATHOLIC (25-6)

Final ranking last season: 12

How it finished: Lost to St. Mary’s-Stockton in Division I regional first-round game.

Season opener: Nov. 30 vs. Archbishop Riordan, 6:30 p.m.

No. 12 ACALANES (25-4)

Final ranking last season: 15

How it finished: Lost to Salesian in Division I regional first-round game.

Season opener: Saturday vs. Analy, 3 p.m.

No. 13 PALO ALTO (22-5)

Final ranking last season: 10

How it finished: Lost to Cardinal Newman in Division I regional first-round game.

Season opener: Dec. 3 at Branham, 6 p.m.

No. 14 MONTE VISTA (21-10)

Final ranking last season: 11

How it finished: Lost to Valley Christian in Division I regional first-round game.

Season opener: Tuesday vs. Skyline, 7 p.m.

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No. 15 ST. FRANCIS (17-9)

Final ranking last season: 9

How it finished: Lost to Laguna Creek-Elk Grove in Division I regional first-round game.

Season opener: Tuesday at Homestead, 7 p.m.

No. 16 MENLO SCHOOL (18-8)

Final ranking last season: 16

How it finished: Lost to Antelope in Division II regional semifinal.

Season opener: Nov. 30 vs. Lincoln-San Francisco at Mills, 4:30 p.m.

No. 17 PIEDMONT (24-7)

Final ranking last season: 17

How it finished: Lost to Lincoln-Stockton in Division II regional quarterfinal.

Season opener: Dec. 2 at Reno in Reno tournament, 7:30 p.m.

No. 18 PRIORY (16-10)

Final ranking last season: Not ranked

How it finished: Lost to Oakland Tech in Division III regional semifinal.

Season opener: Nov. 30 vs. Lowell at Mills tournament, 6 p.m.

No. 19 JAMES LOGAN (19-9)

Final ranking last season: 18

How it finished: Lost to Antelope in Division II regional first-round game.

Season opener: Tuesday at Heritage, 7:30 p.m.

No. 20 SAN LEANDRO (22-6)

Final ranking last season: 20

How it finished: Lost to James Logan in NCS Division I semifinal, an outcome that eliminated the team from NorCal consideration.

Season opener: Tuesday vs. Skyline, 6:30 p.m.

News Source: mercurynews.com

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2A new map shows the US states worst affected by this year's record flu seasonCredit: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2There have been 4,500 deaths related to the flu this season. Stock photoCredit: Getty

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