The high school basketball season in California has officially come to an end as of Saturday night, with Corona Centennial capturing the Open Division title with a win over NorCal Champs Modesto Christian. Given that we are at the end of the season, this article provides the final Top 15 Team Rankings for the Central Section for the 2021-2022 season. This season was filled with first-time accomplishments, intriguing match-ups, and spectacular individual performances. After three tries, Clovis West won their first Open Division Sectional Title, Bakersfield Christian jumped up two divisions to capture their first Division 1 Section Championship and 3rd straight Section Title overall, Clovis North won the NorCal Division 1 State Regional Title doing it all on the road as a #13 seed, Golden Valley brought home the school’s first Boy’s Sectional Title, Joseph Hunter put up ridiculous scoring numbers and a single-game school record of 54 points and a career of 2,000 points and change, and the emergence of a phenomenal 2025 class headed by Tounde Yessoufou. I will provide a breakdown of each team’s ranking and how they ended up in that spot, as well as some minimal predictions for next season. For these rankings, I have taken into consideration performance in the postseason, strength of schedule, wins and losses against common opponents, and head-to-head match-ups. I have spoken with coaches, media outlets, and others in the basketball community in the Central Section in putting these rankings together. The number in parentheses before the teams’ names is the previous ranking from our last updated ranking. We begin with the team that has been at the top of the Section for months, the Clovis West Golden Eagles.

1. (1) Clovis West Golden Eagles/Fresno (31-2):

The Golden Eagles have been the top team in the Central Section for a majority of the season and finish at the top of these rankings after winning the program’s first Open Division Central Section Title over the St. Joseph Knights. The Golden Eagles overcame a 20 point deficit in the 3rd quarter before junior guard Issac Martinez took over and helped force overtime. Clovis West dominated extra play en route to the Open Division Section Title. The Golden Eagles then made a run to the NorCal Open Division State Regional semifinals before falling to eventual NorCal Open Division Champs Modesto Christian, 48-44. Clovis West only suffered two losses all season, both to teams that made it to the State Championship game for their respective divisions (Modesto Christian in the Open Division and the Division 3 State Champs, Pleasant Valley). The Golden Eagles were led by seniors big man Tyus Parrish-Tillman and Trey Carr, junior Issac Martinez, sophomore Jackson Young, and a surrounding cast that epitomized winning team basketball. The Golden Eagles have a lot to look forward to in the next few years, as they return a majority of their key players but will miss the size in the post provided by Parrish-Tillman. Nevertheless, I expect to see Clovis West at, or near, the top of these rankings next season. Clovis West left no doubt they were the top team in the Section by going 10-0 in TRAC league play and defeating the next 6 teams on this list, all of which were legitimate contenders for top team in the Section. 

2. (2) St. Joseph Knights/Santa Maria (27-4):

The Knights followed up their Central Section Open Division Championship from 2021 with another season filled with successes, as they earned wins over the top team in Colorado and Alaska, going 12-0 in league play and winning another Central Coast Mountain League title, and earned a second consecutive trip to the Open Division Sectional Championship Game. Halfway through the third quarter of the Open Championship Game against Clovis West, the Knights had a 20 point lead (47-27) and looked to be headed to a 2nd straight Open Title. However, the Golden Eagles turned things around and came out victorious, as the Knights would fall to the Golden Eagles in overtime, 72-63. The Knights were awarded the #7 seed in the SoCal Open Division State Regionals and had to travel to Harvard-Westlake of Studio City, in which the Knights came up short by a score of 63-55. Despite coming up short in the Open Division Section Championship, the Knights season was a success winning multiple tournaments and solidifying their spot as the #2 overall team in the Central Section. The Knights are considered by most to be the most talented team in the Section and were led by the stellar play of freshman phenom Tounde Yessoufou, senior guard Dre Roman, junior guard Luis Marin, and a roster with size and depth. Although the Knights will be losing Roman to graduation, they will return two of the top 10 players in the Section next season and will be a preseason top 4 team next year. 

T-3. (4) Clovis North Broncos/Fresno (22-12):

The Broncos wrapped up their season Friday night with a tough loss to Damien of La Verne in the Division 1 State Championship Game, 65-57. Despite the loss, the Broncos had an amazing season, especially in the postseason, as they won the NorCal Division 1 State Regional Championship over St. Ignatius by a score of 58-56. The Broncos entered the Central Section Open Division playoffs as the #3 seed and traveled to St. Joseph of Santa Maria to play for a spot in the Open Division Championship game. Although the Broncos held a 2 point lead over the Knights going into the 4th quarter, the Knights fought back and defeated Clovis North 69-63. The Broncos then lost a tough 3rd place game to San Joaquin Memorial 83-76, behind a monster 49 point game by Joseph Hunter. The Broncos were seeded #13 in the NorCal Division 1 State Regional playoffs, and they would find the formula for success that they displayed throughout the first two months of the season. The Broncos defeated #4 Miramonte, #5 Folsom, #1 seed Sacred Heart Prep, and #3 seed St. Ignatius, all on the road to earning a spot in the Division 1 State Championship Game and the NorCal Division 1 Regional Title. This monumental run by the Broncos earned them the nickname Road Warriors, as they traveled hundreds of miles over a two-week span en route to the State Championship Game. The Broncos had a very impressive season, as they got a huge win over NorCal Open Division Champs, Modesto Christian, finished 2nd in the TRAC league, and earned a spot in the Central Section Open Division playoffs for the 3rd consecutive season. Despite the postseason successes for Clovis North, I have then tied with the Panthers for the #3 spot, given that they lost the head-to-head match-up but made a deeper run in the State playoffs, as San Joaquin fell in the opening round in the same regional bracket as the Broncos. The Broncos were led by super sophomore Connor Amundsen, senior Niko Jones, sophomore Jordan Espinoza, and a great surrounding roster that will return all but Jones next season, with an impressive incoming freshman class. It would be hard to imagine the Broncos not making it back to the Central Section Open Division playoffs and will be a preseason top 4 team going into next season. 

T-3. (2) San Joaquin Memorial Panthers/Fresno (23-8):

The Panthers round out the top 4 teams in the final Central Section rankings, as they earned a 3rd straight bid to the Central Section Open Division playoffs, won the County Metro League going 10-0, and competed against some of the top competition in California throughout the preseason tournaments, making deep runs in each event. The Panthers were seeded #4 for the Central Section Open Division playoffs, and would open up with the #1 seed Clovis West. This surprised many in the basketball community, as all indicators were that they would be the #3 seed and travel to Santa Maria to face #2 seed St. Joseph. The upside for the Panthers was they did not have to travel out of Fresno, the downside was they had to open up with the top team in the Section and the rowdy environment of the Eagles Nest. The Panthers had suffered a tough loss to the Golden Eagles in the Clovis West Nike Invitational, 68-62, back in December, but given the way top prospect Joseph Hunter had been scoring the ball throughout league play, San Joaquin posed a serious threat to the top seed. Despite a valiant effort from Hunter, scoring a game high 37 points, the Panthers did not have enough firepower to hold off the numerous runs by the Golden Eagles, losing 83-69. The Panthers would defeat the Broncos of Clovis North in the Open Division 3rd Place Game, 83-76, as Hunter went off for a game high 49 points. The Panthers were seeded #9 in the NorCal Division 1 State Regionals, but suffered a loss in the opening round to #8 seed Oakland Tech, 72-65, as Hunter ended his high school career with 31 points. The Panthers lacked the depth they have bolstered on their roster in years past and were heavily reliant on the play of their core three, Hunter along with juniors Amari Carraway and Mike Davis Jr., which caught up to them in both the Sectional and Regional playoffs. The highlights for the Panthers this season were earning a 3rd consecutive bid to the Central Section Open Division playoffs, Coach Roznovsky becoming the winningest coach in program history, and the individual accolades of Fresno State commit Joseph Hunter. Hunter surpassed the 2000 career point scoring mark and set a single game school scoring record, as he went for 54 points in a win over Madera South. Hunter averaged 30 points per game for the season and showed why he was the top prospect in the Section and a candidate for Mr. Basketball in California. I have the Panthers tied with the Broncos for the 3rd seed in these final rankings, as they won the head-to-head match-up but did not have the same success as Clovis North in the State Regionals, along with losing to Modesto Christian who the Broncos defeated. It will be interesting to see how the Panthers look next season after the departure of Hunter and his volume scoring. Inevitably San Joaquin will bring in some fresh faces and have a solid young group of players that will move up to varsity next season, but I will hold off until the school year starts on any predictions for the Panthers for next season.   

5. (7) Bakersfield Christian Eagles (22-10):

The Eagles had one of their most historic seasons in program history, which is saying a lot considering they have won back-to-back Division 3 Section Championships, are two years removed from a SoCal Division 4 State Championship, and winning the South Yosemite League since joining in 2018. Bakersfield Christian has been one of, if not the top, teams in the South Valley for several years and end this season as the undisputed top team in Kern County and just outside the top 4 in the Section for these final rankings. The Eagles played a rigorous schedule this season, which prepared them to make a run for a 3rd consecutive Section Championship. However, with new playoff formatting, it was unclear what division the Eagles would be placed in. Bakersfield Christian’s base was Division 3, but Coach Brown appealed to move up to Division 1 and was granted the appeal. The Eagles entered the Central Section playoffs as the #1 seed in Division 1, and if they wanted to earn another Section Title, they would have to defeat 3 TRAC league teams to accomplish this feat. The Eagles earned wins over Buchanan and Clovis East before defeating Central of Fresno to capture the program’s first Division 1 Section Championship in school history, 55-49. Not only was this the first Division 1 Title for the Eagles, it was the first Division 1 Section Title for a South Valley team since the Bakersfield Drillers won it in 2003, twenty years ago. Bakersfield Christian was given the #5 seed in the SoCal Division 2 State Regional playoffs. In the first round they faced St.Paul, and were trailing by one point with 4 seconds left on the game clock. Senior Erick Chaney connected on a last-second three point shot to give the Eagles a 54 to 52 victory, as they advanced to the second round of the state playoffs. The Eagles magical season came to an end as Rancho Cucamonga, the #13 seed, won the game on a putback layup as time expired in regulation, losing 67 to 65. The Eagles were led by standout seniors Jackson Tucker and Erick Chaney, along with seniors Zach Hiebert and Quinnton Ocampo, and junior Charlie Stump. The Eagles will be graduating about 95% of their offense from this season and I am curious to see who transfers in and what role players like standout sophomore Bentley Waller will have next season, but this season was one for the record books for Bakersfield Christian, and their Division 1 Section Title is why I have them ranked at the #5 spot to finish the season. 

6. (8) Central Grizzlies/Fresno (19-12):

The Grizzlies had another solid season that resulted in a second consecutive trip to the Central Section Division 1 Championship game. Despite the successes of the season, the Grizzlies were left with multiple “what if” endings to games and had they gone in favor of Central it is likely that we would have been looking at a team that played in the Open Division. The Grizzlies finished 3rd in TRAC league play and got one of their best wins of the season defeating the Clovis North Broncos in late January, 67-63. The Grizzlies were up on Clovis West in the 2nd half of their second league meeting bh 22 points, but let the lead slip away and lost in overtime. Had they prevailed over the Golden Eagles, it is very likely that they would have been one of the four teams to make it to the Sectional Open Division pllayoffs and finished with a higher seed in these final team rankings. The Grizzlies were awarded the #3 seed for the Central Section Division 1 playoffs, and defeated #6 Porterville and #7 Bullard to earn another trip to the D1 Championship game. The Grizzlies hung tough, but could not muster enough offense and lost to Bakersfield Christian, 55-49. The Grizzlies were awarded the #11 seed for the NorCal Division 2 State playoffs and opened up  with a first-round win over #6 seed Salesian Prep, 61-59. The Grizzlies season would come to an end as they lost in the second round to the #3 seed St. Patrick-St. Vincent by one point, 63-62. The Grizzlies were led this year by juniors LaDanian Streets and Henry Madden III, and seniors Marques Green and Marquise Green, all who averaged double-digit points per game for the season. Although the Grizzlies will lose quality senior leadership and size, they return a solid group of juniors and have some younger players on the rise, which will be needed in TRAC league play given the returning firepower of both Clovis North and Clovis West. 

7. (11) Bullard Knights/Fresno (21-13):

The Knights did it again this season and went on an improbable run in the postseason, despite dealing with roster inconsistencies throughout the preseason and regular season, as well as younger players being forced into prominent roles earlier than anticipated. Very similar to last season, the Knights played multiple games without senior scoring guard Tyric Herod, which forced fellow senior Lejuan Watts to shoulder the burden as a scorer and having to literally do it all to keep Bullard in games throughout the season. This was most evident in the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic, which is always loaded with NorCal talent. However, as the postseason approached, the Knights started to trend in the right direction, as they finished tied for 2nd in the County Metro League with a record of 7-3. The Knights were awarded the #7 seed in the Division 1 Central Section playoffs and had to travel to Bakersfield to face #2 Centennial Golden Hawks. In one of the best games of the Sectional playoffs, the Knights upset the Golden Hawks, 75-71, as Tyric Herod hit a huge mid-range jumper to seal the win. The Knights would then face Central of Fresno in the semifinals, which was a rematch from the previous season’s Division 1 Championship game that Bullard won. Despite a hard fought game, the Knights fell short to the Grizzlies, 65-61, and would await their seeding and divisional placement for the State playoffs. Bullard was given the #11 seed in the NorCal Division 3 State Regional playoffs and would have to travel on the road for all their games if they wanted to make a run at state. The Knights defeated #6 Everett Alvarez, #3 Whitney, and #2 Oakland to advance to the Norcal State Finals, where they fell short to the eventual Division 3 State Champs in Pleasant Valley, 56-37. The Knights will graduate their top two scorers and major impact players, but have a depth of young talent that is coming up. Regardless of how the season goes, as the Knights have shown, once they get into the playoffs they hit another gear. I have Bullard at the #7 spot in these rankings because of the run they had in the State playoffs, as well as making it to the final four of the Division 1 Sectional playoffs. 

8. (5) Mt. Whitney Pioneers/Visalia (30-3):

The Pioneers were the talk of the Section all season long and before the CIF revised the new playoff format, Mt. Whitney was in discussion as being the top seed in Division 1, if not cracking the top 4 for the Open Division. The Pioneers were undefeated, at a record of 26-0, before stumbling twice in the final week of league play, losing to Leemore and Redwood. The Pioneers collected a big win over Bakersfield Christian, but due to the playoff reformat, they were placed in their base division and were awarded the #1 seed for the Division 2 Sectional playoffs. The Pioneers lived up to the hype of the season, as they toppled #16 seed Righetti, #9 seed Edison of Fresno, #13 seed Mission Prep of San Luis Obispo, before they captured the Section Championship with a win over #14 seed Frontier of Bakersfield, 54-51. The Pioneers received the #4 seed in the SoCal Division 2 State playoffs and it looked like Central Cali basketball fans would get a rematch game between Bakersfield Christian and Mt. Whitney, but the Pioneers fell to #13 seed Rancho Cucamonga. The Pioneers had one of the most successful seasons in the Central Section and made for some interesting hypothetical scenarios, as the team full of seniors and juniors displayed great team basketball throughout. I have the Pioneers as the #8 seed to finish out the season given their win-loss record, and their Division 2 Section Championship. Although they defeated Bakersfield Christian heads up, the Division 1 Sectional Championship for the Eagles and strength of schedule gave them a boost over the Pioneers for the final rankings.  

9. (6) Clovis East Timberwolves/Fresno (18-14):

The Timberwolves may have been the team that overachieved the most this season, as they earned big wins over Central of Fresno in TRAC league play, and over Bakersfield Christian at the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic to name just a few. They also played Clovis West and Clovis North tough in league play, as Coach Wiggins continues to get the most out of his players. The Timberwolves entered the postseason as the #4 seed in Division 1 Sectional playoffs where they would host #5 seed Independence of Bakersfield. Despite standout senior Camden Thompson injuring his shooting hand right before playoffs, the gritty Thompson would play and Clovis East would prove too much for the Falcons, as they won in dominant fashion, 74-53. That would set up a match between Bakersfield Christian, the #1 seed and the Timberwolves in a rematch game, but this time the Eagles would get the better of Clovis East and eliminated them from the Sectional playoffs, by a score of 77 to 68. Clovis East was awarded the #16 seed for the NorCal Division 2 State playoffs and their season would come to an end at the hands of the eventual Division 2 State Champs in Elk Grove, 57-50. When the season started, I will be honest I personally had the Timberwolves at the bottom of the TRAC league. However, it goes to show that when you have quality coaching, a few solid players, and guys that buy into the “team” concept, you can have success in basketball.  

10. (9) Centennial Golden Hawks/Bakersfield (20-8):

The Golden Hawks of Centennial round out the top 10, as they were dominant throughout Southwest Yosemite League play, going 10-0, and had multiple 8 or more game-winning streaks throughout the season. The Golden Hawks were awarded the #2 seed in the Division 1 Central Section playoffs, and would host defending Division 1 champs in the Bullard Knights. Centennial was given the #1 seed in the Division 2 Sectional Playoffs last season, but lost in the opening round as they had played minimal games due to Covid Protocols. After a successful regular season, and a great seeding for this season’s playoffs, expectations were high for the Golden Hawks, as many hoop fans in Bakersfield were eyeing a much-desired match-up between the perceived top 2 teams in the city for the Sectional Championship game. Unfortunately, that game would never happen, as the Golden Hawks were upset in the opening round by Bullard, 75-71. The Golden Hawks were led by senior Blake Dibble, sophomore Rippen Gill, junior Elijah West, and a solid supporting cast with talent and size. The upside for Centennial is they will be returning the core of their roster back next season, except for senior Blake Dibble, and will have a great chance at winning league again and getting another shot to make some noise in the postseason. Given the current projection of what rosters will look like in the South Valley, the Golden Hawks will be the preseason #1 team in Bakersfield. 

11. (NR) Golden Valley Bulldogs/Bakersfield (23-9):

The Bulldogs had an entertaining season to say the least, that finalized in making school history. The Bulldogs started the season off as many basketball enthusiasts in the South Valley had predicted, winning their opening tournament by defeating the Paraclete Spirits of Lancaster in the championship game of the 58 Freeway Tournament. On paper, the Bulldogs had the best roster in the South Valley and could contend for a top 8 spot in the Section. Soon after the successes of the first 5 games, the Bulldogs suffered some bad losses to South Bakersfield, West High of Bakersfield, as well as losses Centennial of Bakersfield and Frontier. As league play got underway, Golden Valley gave Bakersfield Christian all they could handle in the 1st half of their first meeting, but fell apart in the 2nd half and lost by 20 points. However, things began to take a turn for the better when the Bulldogs got a win over Independence of Bakersfield, who at the time was tied for 1st place in SYL standings. The Bulldogs would finish 3rd in league play and would earn the #1 seed in the Division 3 Central Section Playoffs. The Bulldogs defeated #16 seed Washington Union, #8 seed Selma, #13 seed El Diamante, and capped it off with a win over #7 seed Atascadero, 87-73, to earn the school’s first ever boys basketball Section Championship. After winning the Division 3 Section Title, the Bulldogs would be given the #3 seed in the SoCal Division 4 State Regional playoffs, where they would make it to the SoCal Regional Semifinals before falling to the eventual Division 4 State Champs in Scripps Ranch, 70-57. The magical season for the Bulldogs was led by seniors Markell Brooks, Jermaine Dabbs, Jlen Slaughter, and Kemonte Jackson, who weathered the tough losses and doubters to achieve something no other player in those jerseys has accomplished, a Section Championship. Given the senior heavy roster and lack of depth on the team, there is a lot of uncertainty going into next season. But for the time being, the coaching staff will enjoy this year’s successes.  

12. (NR) Frontier Titans/Bakersfield (15-14):

The Titans had a hot start out the gate and carried that through preseason, as I had Frontier ranked #15 in our early season Section Rankings. Frontier had some solid wins over Sanger, Golden Valley, and Hanford West, before a rough going at the Clovis Elks Tournament. The struggles continued throughout league play, as the Titans finished SWYL play with a record of 4-6. However, similar to the Bullard Knights, the playoffs gave the Titans new life and they made the most of it. Frontier would receive the #14 seed in the Division 2 Central Section playoffs, and opened up with #3 seed Lemoore and edged out a two-point win, 57-55. The Titans would then defeat #11 seed Hoover of Fresno 73 to 68, and #7 seed Sanger, in a rematch, 49 to 46, which would send them to the Division 2 Championship game against #1 seed Mt. Whitney. The Titans magical run would come to an end with a three-point loss, 54 to 51, to the Pioneers to finish Sectional play as runners-up. Frontier earned the #12 seed in the SoCal Division 3 State Regionals and their season would come to an end with a loss to #5 seed Venice, 64 to 60. The Titans were led by senior Tyler Silva and standout sophomore Zykiar Henderson, who both stepped up big time throughout the postseason. The Titans are graduating 9 seniors but do have some young talent coming up in the program. Henderson will be one of the top prospects in the South Valley next season and should help fuel the Titans as they make a run at a Section Championship.  

13. (12) Sanger Apaches/Fresno (17-13):

The Apaches were solid throughout the season, as they finished tied with Bullard for 2nd place in the County Metro League at 7-3, and really upped their level of play once senior Jonathon Dillion returned to the line-up from injury. The Apaches were given the #7 seed for the Division 2 Central Section playoffs and opened up with win over #10 seed Sunnyside of Fresno, 76-57. Sanger continued its dominant play with a 30 point win over the #2 seed Dinuba, 75-45, before losing to Frontier in the Sectional Semifinals, 49-46. The Apaches were led by senior Jonathon Dillon and junior Kaleb Cole, but with Dillon graduating a lot will fall on the shoulders of Cole next season as the presence in the interior.   

14. (NR) Mission College Prep Royals/San Luis Obispo (15-14): 

The Royals were in these rankings earlier in the season, but after some tough losses in preseason and league play, I dropped them out of the last updated Section Rankings. However, due to the stellar play of standout junior Jamar Howard and the postseason push by the Royals, I added them back in for the final team rankings of the season. The Royals finished 3rd in Central Coast Mountain League at 7-5, which gave them a low seed at #13 for the Central Section Division 2 playoffs. Behind Howard’s 30 point performance, the Royals toppled #4 Liberty of Bakersfield by a score of 59-44. Howard had another 30 ball as the Royals beat #12 Hanford (who upset #5 seed Stockdale), which would send them to the semifinals against #1 seed Mt. Whitney. Despite an early lead, the Pioneers would prove too much and send the Royals back to the Central Coast with a 55-47 loss. The Royals were led by Howard this season and he will be one of the top prospects in the Section next season, as the Royals will look to add some pieces around him. 

T-15. (NR) Atascadero Greyhounds (17-12):

The Greyhounds crack these rankings for the first time this season after their solid postseason run to the Division 3 Central Section Championship game. Atascadero entered the playoffs as the #7 seed, and began the postseason with a win over #10 seed Coalinga, by a score of 69-50. The Greyhounds would then get wins over #15 Clovis High and #14 Roosevelt of Fresno, which would earn them a spot in the Section Championship game. Despite a valiant effort, the Greyhounds would fall short to the Bulldogs, 87-73, and finish 2nd place in Division 3 Sectionals. Atascadero would receive the #6 seed for the SoCal Division 4 State Regional playoffs, where they would get past #11 Artesia before being matched up against Golden Valley for the 2nd time in less than a week. Similar to the Section Title game, the Greyhounds fell to the Bulldogs, 84 to 75, but had a great run this season to crack the Top 15. The Greyhounds were led by seniors Stevie Waiters and Logan Reyes, and junior CJ Bell. 

T-15. (10) Independence Falcons/Bakersfield (15-11):

The Falcons played a rigorous schedule this season and won some impressive games, biggest of which was beating SYL rival Bakersfield Christian and temporarily capturing a tie for 1st place in league. However, with the ups came the downs, as was evident when the Falcons lost that 1st place tie in a loss to Golden Valley. The Falcons finished league play in 2nd place with a record of 8-2, which earned them the #5 seed in the Central Section Division 1 playoff. The Falcons playoff run was short-lived, as they lost their opening game on the road to #4 seed Clovis East by 20 points. Despite the disappointing end to the season, there were some bright moments for the Falcons with the stellar play of senior Cameron Brown, and the trio of freshman guards that all showed promise for Independence’s future. The loss of big man Kyriaun Davis to a knee injury during the preseason really hurt the Falcons’ chances of a run at a Section Title, as they lacked the size in the interior to compete with bigger teams. The Falcons round out the Top 15 teams for the final team rankings, as they would have likely made a deeper run if placed in Division 2, their base division. 

Dropped Out:

Liberty Patriots/Bakersfield 

Dinuba Emperors

Sunnyside Wildcats/Fresno

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