Union Democrat reports

The preps basketball preseason is in the past, just like 2016.

The Mother Lode League season starts tonight and the Sonora Wildcat girls and Summerville Bear boys will begin defense of their crowns.

The top three teams from the MLL for each the boys and girls qualify for postseason. And right now, Calaveras, Sonora and Argonaut have the best records — boys and girls — heading into tonight’s action.

The Wildcat girls (9-2) will try for their third straight crown since joining the MLL. They host the Amador Buffaloes (7-7) tonight at Bud Castle Gym.

The Wildcats went undefeated (12-0) in league last year, but played two tight games against second place Calaveras (43-41, 40-32) and beat third place Argonaut by four (50-46) in Jackson before winning by 20 in Sonora.

Those three again look to be the favorites to reach postseason, but a surprise may be waiting in Tuolumne.

The Summerville Bear girls are 8-2, one win away from tying the most wins the school has had in any season since 2009-10 and 2004-05.

Over the last 12 seasons, the Bear girls have 70 victories, just under six wins per year. They will get Linden (2-10) tonight in their league opener on the road before facing Sonora Friday night in Tuolumne.

Bret Harte ended preseason at 6-7. The Bullfrogs have finished out of the playoffs the last two years after winning the league title in 2013-14.

Senior Cali Anderson, who’s averaging a double-double, 11.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, will lead the Bullfrogs into battle tonight against Argonaut (13-1) in Angels Camp.

Calaveras (10-2) opens league play Friday vs. Linden in San Andreas.

The Summerville boys dominated the MLL last year. The Bears outscored their league opponents by over 18 points per game on the way to winning 11 of 12 games and reaching the final four in division IV.

This season, the Bears have won just two games in 11 tries while Calaveras, Argonaut and Sonora have just seven losses between them and are red hot entering MLL play.

The Wildcats (9-3) have won six straight and are fresh off winning the Columbia College High School Basketball Classic for the first time.

Sonora will play at winless Amador (0-8) right out of the gate. The Wildcats lost both games to the Buffaloes last year but still reached postseason. Nobody scored more points than Sonora in league last season (828) but no team surrendered more points than the Wildcats (814).

Calaveras has won 10 of 11 and are 12-2 overall. The Cardinal and gold have won two preseason tournaments and are looking to recapture the league crown they won in 2014-15 and 2013-14.

Calaveras has a bye tonight and won’t open league play until Friday against Linden (7-6) at home.

The Bullfrogs (6-6) will visit the Argonaut Mustangs who have won 10 of 11 and are 11-2 overall. Bret Harte last won the league title in 2011, with an undefeated 15-0 campaign.

All games tip-off at 7:30 p.m.