Ventura and Harvard-Westlake are the top two seeds for the 2015 edition of the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.
The annual holiday hoops extravaganza, which features some of the top girls basketball teams in the state, tips off on Saturday at Santa Barbara High’s J.R. Richards Gym and at the San Marcos Thunderhut. After an off day on Sunday, the action runs Monday through Wednesday. The championship games are Wednesday at 6 p.m. for the Green Division and 7:30 p.m. for the Gold Division at Santa Barbara.
Undefeated Santa Barbara opens the 16-team Gold Division bracket against Edison of Huntington Beach at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Ventura was the Gold runner-up last year, losing to eventual state champion Sierra Canyon in the final. The Cougars (2-3), ranked 9th in CIF Division 1AA, return their two standout inside players in 6-1 Barbara Rangel and 6-0 Aubrey Knight. The team is battled-tested coming into the ToC, having played three No. 1-ranked teams in the Southern Section: Chaminade (1AA), Oaks Christian (3A) and Harvard Westlake (4AA).
Harvard-Westlake is led by strong group of underclassmen. Jayla Rufus-Miller, a 5-11 sophomore is the leading scorer, averaging 13.5 points. The Wolverines face a tough opener, taking on Clovis North, the No. 6 team in Division 1 of the Central Section.
The tournament has a strong contingent from the Central Section. Fresno-Edison is No. 2 in Division 1 and led by 6-1 Rodjanae Wade, a UNLV signee. Edison went 26-5 last season and was the D1 section runner-up.
Hanford is third-ranked team in Division 1 of the Central Section and Independence of Bakersfield, which went 27-3 last year, is No. 4 in Division 2.
From the Southern Section, Redondo Union returns to Santa Barbara after beating the Dons at home in the Division 2AA semifinals and winning the title last season.
Perennial power Bishop Montgomery of Torrance also is entered. The rest of the Gold Division field includes Lompoc, Rio Mesa, San Clemente, St. Joseph, Arroyo Grande, Garces of Bakersfield
The 10-team Green Division includes local teams San Marcos, Bishop Diego and the Santa Barbara JVs. The division will be broken into two pools and the teams with the best records play for the championship. The first pool includes San Marcos, San Luis Obispo, Oak Park, Santa Monica and Santa Ynez. The second pool has Pioneer Valley, Nipomo, Bishop Diego, Channel Islands, Channel Islands and the Santa Barbara JV.