Division 3A may be the toughest division in this year's Southern Section playoffs, comparable even to Division 1AA. The bracket has talent at the top in the form of top seed Gardena Serra and No. 2 seed Harvard-Westlake.
Cavaliers Lead the Way
Serra enters the postseason as the Del Rey League champions with a record of 25-2; they had a 19-game winning streak earlier in the season. Shooting guard Keith Shamburger has led the Cavaliers for much of the season and is one of the area's top unsigned seniors. Teammates Jordan Mitchell[db] and [db]Vaughn Autry have signed with Cal State Northridge and Montana, respectively. The Cavaliers are bolstered by a group of eager, physical players from the school's Division III state champion football team. Serra should have no problem getting past Servite in the first round. The Friars finished last-place in the Trinity League and lost to Mater Dei by 75 points a couple weeks ago.
Wolverines on a Roll
Harvard-Westlake was hampered by injuries early in the season and limped out to a 2-4 start. They've won 20 consecutive games since then, capturing the Mission League title and finishing the regular season 22-4. Forward Erik Swoope leads four Wolverines averaging in double-figures. The 6-foot-5 senior has committed to Miami scores 20.7 points per game. Junior Damiene Cain is a force inside and leads the squad in rebounding and blocked shots.
"Harvard-Westlake and Serra are the teams you have to beat," said Compton Centennial head coach Vadim Malikin.
Apaches have a shot
Malikin's squad hasn't received the same attention from the media or college scouts that the top two seeds have, but the Apaches did go 21-5 in the regular season to earn the third seed. Senior guard Deonte Burton is averaging over 20 points per game and has an offer from Long Beach State but the rest of the team has flown below the radar.
Centennial played a challenging non-league schedule, including games against the division's top two seeds. They defeated Harvard-Westlake and played Serra tight for three quarters in December, but that was before either team was at full-strength. The Apaches have also taken a one-point loss to City Section favorite Westchester and defeated 1AA contender Long Beach Poly. "I feel we're very well-prepared," Malikin said. "We've played as tough of a schedule as anybody around here."
Gahr earned the fourth seed after capturing the San Gabriel Valley League title. The Gladiators won their first 14 games of the season but then lost four of their next seven. Bob Becker's squad appears to be back in peak form and has won five in a row entering the playoffs. Guards Davon Potts and Ervin Ware drive the Gladiator's frenetic style of play
Sleeper: Campbell Hall
Longtime power Campbell Hall finds itself in the unfamiliar position of underdog as the division's sixth seed, but the Vikings may be the bracket's sleeper team. Point guard Austin McBroom has led the Vikings to a 19-7 record and 6-foot-7 forward James Johnson is a tough matchup for many teams in the division.