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Division 2 Playoff Primer

Division 2 has always provided SD with some of its craziest moments.

Flash back to 2020, when 16th-seeded Point Loma upset top-seeded Bonita Vista in the first of four lower-seeded upsets on opening night (14-seed Canyon Crest, 10-seed Del Norte and 11-seed Scripps Ranch all won). That's because this is historically the Division with the most parity.

Could we see a topsy turvy D2 field this year? In my opinion, it's unlikely. I feel the strength is clearly at the top of the division, where any of the Top 4 seeds have a shot at winning it all.

Here's a quick dive into the D2 bracket.

Who's the favorite: Vista

It's rare that I would pick a four seed to be the favorite in a division, but that's what happens when the No. 4 seed has beaten the three teams ahead of them. The Panthers, winners of 6 straight and 10 of their last 11 games, come in with a ton of confidence knowing they match up well with anyone in the bracket due to their connected defense and diverse offense, led by junior guard Gavin Guinn, who has re-emerged as one of the region's top point guards after an injury-plagued start to his career.

Who are the contenders: RBV, VIctory Christian and University City

The top-seeded Longhorns have a ton of motivation coming into the playoffs after losing out on a chance to clinch the Avocado League title outright when they lost to Vista on the final night of the regular season. RBV's top player, sophomore CJ Aldrich, has put together an All-CIF campaign in year 2, and the Longhorns avenged a D3 semifinals loss this year when they beat Victory Christian. They're a safe bet for at least a semifinal appearance.

Victory Christian gained steam in thelr league, finishing as undefeated champions in the rugged foursome of the South Bay League. Senior Derek Edmond and sophomore Jayden Gray are a formidable duo, and the supporting cast, headlined by sophomore Isaiah Owens and junior Angel Escarcega, have gotten better.

University City claimed the 3 seed but lost to both Victory and Vista. Still, when you boast a strong starting five with unheralded guard play, athletic wings - Eastern League Player of he Year Dylan Griffin is one to watch - and a solid big in 6-6 Ben Gavani, you've got to be considered one of the teams to beat.

Who is the dark horse: Eastlake

The Titans managed to regroup after losing talented junior Jordyn Webster for the season (knee) to finish second in the South Bay League and handed Olympian its first loss of the season after the Eagles had rattled off 20 wins to start the season.

The team's core features a lot of varsity experience in the back court with two-sport standout Popeye Martin and 6-4 sleeper Raymar Gonzales, but the wing play of juniors AJ Reavis and Ruben Del Busto - both physical and interior-minded swingmen - gives them the muscle needed to pull some upsets.

Who is on upset alert: Christian

The 7 seed Patriots took off after sophomore standout Juju Lebel became eligible after the sit-out period. It's their tough luck, however, that they're facing a Coastal League-tested Bishop's team in the first round that has the prerequisite guard play and interior defense to make Christian work for a win. If Morgan Stoefen gets hot for Bishop's, the Patriots could fall at home.

Who are the Players to watch:

No. 1 Rancho Buena Vista

CJ Aldrich, So. G - the Avocado League co-player of year has a deep offensive bag.

Ayden Horn, Jr. W - long, wiry and suddenly explosive swingman is rapidly improving

Trent Loitito, Sr. G - Crafty combo guard has grown 6 inches in less than 2 seasons

No. 2 Victory Christian

Derek Edmond, Sr. G - the 2-time South Bay League player of the year combines athleticism, slashing and perimeter shooting.

Jayden Gray, So. G - Versatile combo guard has already eclipsed the 1,000-point scoring mark

Isaiah Owens, So. W - Underrated swingman does the dirty work for the Crusaders, including boards and buckets off the offensive glass.

No. 3 University City

Dylan Griffin, Jr. W - Athletically gifted wing can shoot off the catch, score on straight line drives and defend multiple positions.

Ben Gavani, Sr. F - 6-6 post man gives the Centurions a viable rim protector and scorer on the block and from midrange

Ash Aka, Sr. G - Quick, heady point guard has a strong pull-up game, solid passer.

No. 4 Vista

Gavin Guinn, Jr. G - Rock steady scoring point guard uses strength, pace and craftiness to score from all three levels.

CJ Coleman, Jr. W - Formidable scoring wing has improved defensively and on the boards

Cody Myers, Jr. W - Big-time shooter off the catch and a solid rebounder to boot

No. 5 Sage Creek

Elijah Stephens, Jr. F - Perhaps the single most dominant player in the division, Stephens is a load to contain in the paint and off the bounce going left.

Elias Samady, Jr. G - lefty sharpshooter fills it up in his 6th man role

Zac Peterson, Sr. W - Yet another lefty scoring option, Peterson gets buckets in unorthodox fashion.

No. 6 Eastlake

AJ Reavis, Jr. W - Athletic and strong wing does most of his damage from the elbow in

Ruben Del Busto, Jr. W - Beefy wing forward can stroke it from midrange and is an underrated catch and shoot threat, but punishes smaller defenders around the basket.

Raymar Gonzales - Sr. G - recovers from injury slowed junior year to become a steady scorer and playmaker.

No. 7 Christian

Juju Lebel, So. W - 20-10 threat for two straight seasons, Lebel scores from deep and in the paint with equal aplomb.

Gannon Pisapia, Jr. W - 6-5 wing has blossomed into a "point forward" type than can score from three levels

No. 8 Mt Carmel

Gianni Bernabe, Sr. G - quietly, one of the best scoring point guards in the region, Bernabe can erupt for 30 balls and beat you with the pass.

Raymond Hourani, Sr. F - A 6-6 double double machine, Hourani's motor and underrated passing make him a difficult matchup

No. 9 Patrick Henry

Derek McBride, Sr. F - A glass eater, McBride always plays to his strength: tough rebounding, hard-working defense and efficient scoring around the bucket

Kenneth Klu, Sr. W - The 6-4+ wing has intriguing ball skills and lockdown defender potential

No. 10 Bishop's

Jacob Tsai, Jr. G - Crafty point guard has an advanced midrange pull-up game.

Owen Turner, Jr. G - He can pound it a bit much, but Turner is a very crafty scorer from three levels

No. 11 Helix

Jackson Daniels, Sr. G - underrated lead guard is a slick ball handler and scorer off the bounce. Idaho State bound for football.

No. 12 Ramona

Chase Newman, Sr. WF - The sharpshooter deluxe recently crossed the 2,000-career point threshold.

No. 13 San Dieguito Academy

Jaxen Sladavic, Sr. G - Crafty and tough combo guard scores it from three and with a nice layup package.

No. 14 Canyon Crest Academy

Johnny Chai, Sr. G - Dynamic scoring guard overcame early injuries this season to make all-league second team

No. 15 Coronado

Tekur Velazquez, Sr. G - Quick, slick point guard has excellent vision and is an underrated scorer

Jimmy LaVine, Jr. G - Smooth combo guard is a streaky, yet potent scorer from deep

No. 16 Calexico

Danny Carreon, So. G - 6-3 "big guard" can beat you off the bounce and with his passing.


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