High School Sports

Basketball Player of the Year races too close to call at midway point

Atwater senior Reggie Ricks (4) attempts a layup over Merced junior Davion Jackson (1) during a game at Merced High School in Merced, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. The Bears beat the Falcons 52-49.
Atwater senior Reggie Ricks (4) attempts a layup over Merced junior Davion Jackson (1) during a game at Merced High School in Merced, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. The Bears beat the Falcons 52-49. akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

We’re at the halfway point in most high school basketball leagues. Conference races are shaping up.

In the Central California Conference boys race, Merced (16-5 overall, 6-0 CCC) is unbeaten through the first round. El Capitan (11-8, 4-1) sits in second with its only loss at home against the Bears.

Mariposa is undefeated in the Southern League again and looking to defend its title. Hilmar (12-7, 4-1 Trans-Valley League) sits one game behind Ripon in the TVL.

On the girls’ side, Atwater is in front in the CCC at 5-1 as it tries to win its first league championship since 1988. Turlock and Pitman are one game back at 4-2.

The Mariposa girls are tied with Orestimba at 5-0 in the SL heading into their clash Wednesday in Newman.

It seems like a good time to take a look at our Player of the Year candidates.

Let’s start with the boys, where three main contenders have emerged, all from the CCC. Here they are, in no particular order:

Reggie Ricks, Atwater – The point guard has put on a show. At times, he’s carried the Falcons and when he gets hot from outside, he’s fun to watch.

Ricks is averaging 24.5 points per game in CCC play with a 34-point effort against El Capitan and a 31-point outburst in his last game against Buhach Colony.

Atwater’s coaching staff has challenged him to come up bigger in the fourth quarter. In the loss to the Gauchos, Ricks scored 30 points in the first three quarters but only four in the fourth.

Ricks answered with 11 points in the fourth quarter of Friday’s 72-53 win over Buhach Colony.

Jared Pazin, Merced With the Bears out front in the CCC, Pazin is the likely frontrunner to be the conference MVP. He’s come up big for Merced with his ability to shoot from outside and attack the paint.

He scored 23 points despite playing through foul trouble for most of the second half in the the Bears’ 59-40 win over El Capitan. He had 22 points in Merced’s win over Golden Valley.

If Merced goes on to win the CCC title, Pazin is going to be tough to overlook if he continues producing at his current pace.

Cyrus Allen, Golden Valley Allen has been a double-double waiting to happen. He’s turned in some monster games, including a 24-point, 30-rebound effort against Atwater.

Allen is averaging 21 points in CCC play and has the Cougars competing for a playoff spot.

Allen’s biggest challenge is staying on the floor because he’s prone to foul trouble, but he’s doing a much better job this season compared to last season.

Most teams have the scouting report on Allen. You can’t let him go left, but his unorthodox style gives teams fits. He also seems to find his way to the rim and gobbles up every rebound within reach.

The girls’ race is much more wide open.

Merced has two candidates in Raelynn Blackwell and Amaya Ervin. At this point, they would both be considered dark horses because the Bears would have to play their way into playoff contention. Both can score, attack the basket and be difference makers on defense.

The same could be said for Golden Valley’s Abbee Croninger if the Cougars can put together a big second-half run.

Other candidates include:

Jasmine Xiong, Atwater Xiong is one of the most improved players from last season. She’s become a threat from outside, and her speed makes her tough to stop in the open court. The senior point guard is averaging 13.1 points, 4.4 assists and 3.3 steals.

Like Allen, she’s had trouble staying out of foul trouble.

Kirsten Dubberke, Mariposa – Dubberke fills out the stat sheet in most games, averaging 20.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.8 steals and 3.1 assists. She’s helped the Grizzlies to a 17-2 record.

Dubberke has shown she’s not just a small-school wonder. She had 27 points and 14 rebounds in a 52-50 loss to Atwater. She also scored 24 and 22 points in two wins over Los Banos.

Alondra Ponce, Atwater – With a guard-heavy team, Ponce has been invaluable inside for the Falcons. She’s often matched up against bigger players and uses her quickness against them.

Ponce is averaging 12.2 points and 6.6 rebounds. She came up big with 24 points and 11 rebounds in the Falcons’ 60-54 win over Turlock. She also had 15 points and 16 rebounds in a 54-44 win over Pitman.

As the season enters the stretch run, it will be fun to track the conference races, and these players likely will make our Player of the Year choices difficult ones.

Shawn Jansen: 209-385-2462, @MSSsports