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SBLive's L.A. City Section girls basketball rankings (11/27/2023): Reigning champion Westchester starts at No. 1

Westchester was No. 1 from start to finish last season, but it'll face stiff competition to repeat

L.A. City Section girls basketball had a major "stock up" year in 2022-23 thanks in large part to an increase of new talent coming up the underclassmen ranks.

And although a few twists shook up the landscape over the offseason, LACS girls hoops is poised for another exciting season.

Here are SBLive's preseason L.A. City Section girls basketball rankings. Games that have been played this season were not included in this week's rankings – although if they were, the order wouldn't have changed much yet. Starting next week, updated weekly power rankings will be released every Monday throughout the season.

(Team names are followed by 2022-23 record and final ranking.)

1. Westchester (29-2 – 1st)

Westchester Comets 2023 girls basketball

Last season, Westchester started at No. 1, ended at No. 1, and was No. 1 every step of the way as it broke through for an Open Division title. Despite playing a tough non-league schedule and then the Western League, Westchester went undefeated against LACS competition for the season. Its incumbency after last year's dominance was the deciding factor as it narrowly edged out the No. 2 team in the rankings for the preseason top spot.

With the Lady Comets graduating section Player of the Year Rylei Waugh, Ron'yae Jackson (CSU-LA), and 6-foot-1 center Anyse Grimble, this team is quite different than last year's title squad. But it still features leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker Mariah Blake, the section's MVP runner-up, who scored 19 points in the semifinals and 20 in the championship. And junior combo guard Reigne Waugh, who was consistent and clutch as a sophomore starter, had a strong summer/preseason and looks like another potential MVP candidate in a bigger role.

Additionally, lead guard Maya Kama is expected to become a major factor as a senior, and one of the City's most highly-touted freshman, Savannah Myles, adds yet more backcourt depth. 5-11 wing/forward Monroe Anderson is another breakout candidate who could help replace the length Westchester graduated. Finally, Serenity Johnson, talented senior guard/wing previously at Windward and Corona Centennial, is listed as a Westchester Comet and could be an enormous X-factor.

2. Birmingham (17-13 – 6th)

Birmingham girls basketball championship36

There's a strong case to be made that Birmingham is the top candidate to go all the way. The Patriots were a buzzer beater away from the Open Division semifinals last season without any seniors in their rotation, and they got a serious transfer haul. To top it off, Birmingham won it all the year before that, and most of their top returners now were crucial players on their championship squad. Put it all together, and this is an upperclassmen-heavy team that has as much continuity and experience as any team in the section.

Not only is Birmingham deep, but it's well-rounded too, with a nice blend of skill sets among its lengthy core rotation. Its backcourt features three returning all-section seniors – six-foot wing DeeDee Berry (13.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.7 steals), point guard Natalie Lopez (9.1 points, 5.2 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 steals), combo guard Sammy Velasquez (11.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.8 steals). Athletic wing Sriaya Peters is currently out of action, but she might be back after Christmas, which would return a nightly 7.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and defensive boost. Furthermore, junior wing Annette Jones averaged 4.5 PPG last season, and might be the top breakout candidate among Birmingham's returners as a promising shooter.

This team has one of the top frontcourts in the section as well. Junior post Lili Martinez has been a fixture her whole career, forward Andrea Arosemena is one of the City's top freshmen, and there are two six-foot sophomore transfers who'll also make immediate impacts – Aniya Johnson (Chaminade) and Zoee Mitchell (Heritage Christian), the latter of whom averaged nearly a double-double as a freshman. Senior Ayja Washington is yet another solid option off the bench at either frontcourt spot.

3. Granada Hills Charter (26-6 – 2nd)

Granada Hills Charter King:Drew girls basketball 56

Some of the most unfortunate news of the offseason was a season-ending injury to Marianne Boco in late July. If that hadn't happened to the reigning SBLive LACS Player of the Year and two-time reigning LACS John Wooden Award winner, Granada Hills Charter would be ranked not only atop the section but in fact within the statewide top 25. Maybe even top 20.

That's how promising the reigning Open Division finalists looked returning all but one member of their rotation, and adding 6-foot-3 all-section center Brigita Bulotaite (10.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, 2.2 assists) from Taft. Bulotaite joins two other standout seniors, wing/forward Karma Paez (9.7 PPG, 50 three-pointers) and power forward/center Emma Perez (8.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.4 steals, 1.2 blocks), to form what may prove to be the section's best frontcourt – especially on the defensive end. The Highlanders also return all-section guard Natalie Maow Melendez and sophomore guard Alyssa Badua. Without Boco, Granada Hills Charter still has the size, defense, and infrastructure to contend for a title. In order to make that a realistic possibility, it's going to take the emergence of new stars on offense and improved three-point shooting across the board.

Also of note is that former head coach Jared Honig, who led the Highlanders to an Open Division title in 2018-19, is now at Valencia (Valencia). He has been replaced by Rai Colston, who guided El Camino Real to a Division 1 title in 2021-22 after a slew of Open Division appearances.

4. King/Drew (16-15 – 4th)

Granada Hills Charter King:Drew girls basketball 67

The dark horse pick to go on a championship run. After playing a grueling non-league slate, King/Drew split a Coliseum League title with Crenshaw, earned the fourth seed in the Open Division, and beat Birmingham on a Kaitlin Johnson buzzer beater to advance to the semifinals. There, they nearly overcame an ice-cold start to push top-seeded Granada Hills Charter until the very end. 

Now King/Drew brings back the majority of its top players as an experienced, cohesive unit, and they could be a legit threat to the throne. It starts with the underrated backcourt of Alexis Wallace and Anayla Anderson, which has a chance to emerge as the City Section's best this season. Rounding out the core are versatile wing/forward Christiauna Taylor, forward Jaylah White, and Johnson, who's a sophomore wing. And freshman small forward Edareeah Combs is also in the mix. Last year was King/Drew's best season in recent history, and this year's group likely has a higher ceiling. The Golden Eagles are again playing one of the section's toughest non-league schedules, but don't expect them to be worse for wear come January.

5. Sun Valley Poly (25-6 – 9th)

As long as the reigning Division 1 champions have the electrifying backcourt of senior twins Hannah and Heart Lising, they have a shot against almost anybody. The star duo combined for 34 points, 15.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 6.8 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game last year, and both players hit 34 threes as well. Sun Valley Poly will miss All-City wing/forward Sofia Cruz and a couple other seniors, but return two other key players, Jhada Cordon and Audrey Flores.

6. Hamilton (21-10 – 11th)

While it fell off towards the end, Hamilton played a significant chunk of last season at an Open Division level led by then-sophomore guards Kinidi Curl and Jade Fort. The Lady Yankees' keys to success: consistently play the level of smothering defense they showed in flashes last season, and find other scoring contributions outside of their two stars. If they can do that, they can build on last season's successes.

7. Crenshaw (20-8 – 3rd)

Crenshaw Palisades girls basketball24

Last year saw one of Crenshaw's strongest teams in recent history, the consensus No. 3 team in the City, which gave eventual champion Westchester a run for its money in the Open Division semifinals. And per Coach Thomas, this team could be even better. Crenshaw lost its top three statistical producers, but it has some up-and-coming cornerstones with the potential to rise quickly.

The Cougars will once again be guard-centric with size and physicality in the backcourt. Junior Destiny Floyd-Hurt could become a Player of the Year candidate in a starring role, senior Naomi Whitfield is another one of the top returning players in the Coliseum League, and sophomore Jaida Floyd could also take a leap after getting some important minutes as a freshman last season. Crenshaw also introduces point guard Mia Payne, one of the section's top incoming freshmen. Finally, a major dimension that this team might have that last year's didn't is an interior anchor, as imposing 6-3 center Jada Kindle is poised for a breakout junior year campaign after a strong offseason.

8. Palisades (14-16 – 5th)

Crenshaw Palisades girls basketball10

Like the previous three teams in the countdown, Palisades has roster turnover in the frontcourt but returns one of the top backcourts in the City, comprised of Elly Tierney and Alyssa Ramirez. The Dolphins have now graduated all the key members of their 2018-2021 dynasty, but they'll likely be one of the best three-point shooting teams in the section with those two leading the way. And versatile senior Aniah Bradley is another breakout candidate to watch this season.

While Palisades will be among the youngest teams in contention for an Open Division spot, it reportedly has some other promising up-and-comers ready to make names for themselves. The biggest question is whether or not the Dolphins put it all together this season, or wait until next season to return to contention for the top spot.

9. San Pedro (24-9 – 12th)

San Pedro Carson girls basketball15

Few teams are sitting as pretty as San Pedro right now. The Pirates broke through for a Division 2 title last year, their first section championship since 1986, followed it up by making the regional finals, and now return their three top players as seniors. Those are Noelani Raigans, who's the reigning Player of the Year in both Division 2 and the Marine League, wing Shalia Coleman, and forward Maia Woolridge. All three averaged double-digit scoring last season, and Raigans, one of the top point guards in the section, averaged 18.6 PPG while diming up teammates and wreaking havoc on defense as well.

While the Pirates will only go as far as their big three can take them, they return quite a few other players who consistently shined in small roles, such as Natalia Garcia and Jaliyah Robertson. San Pedro is presumably moving up to Division 1, and it could have the upside of a Division 1 title team if some of its returners take leaps.

10. Cleveland (16-16 – 14th)

Cleveland made an underdog run to the Division 1 semifinals last season, and is in good position to pick up where it left off – if it doesn't join the Open Division club. After going 1-9 in the dogfight known as the West Valley League, Cleveland earned the 10th seed, and upset No. 7 Verdugo Hills 65-54 and No. 2 Eagle Rock 48-42.

That makes the Cavaliers one of the top under-the-radar threats in the City this season. They return their top players Gabriella Calderon and Valerie Anzora as seniors, and they are quite battle-tested as a squad. Reportedly they have some underclassmen ready to emerge too.


Los Angeles CES, Chatsworth, Eagle Rock, Taft, El Camino Real

– Lance Smith | | @sbliveca