Although it didn’t fit the specific criteria as we comprehended it, we had an inkling St. John Bosco was a strong possibility for the open division and Braves are selected. Read on for instant reaction in all six divisions.
By Ronnie Flores
Contributing: Mark Tennis
There was bound to be grumblings to the pairings in the first year of the CIF’s new open division playoffs for boys basketball. After all, the same thing happened when the CIF instituted CIF State Championship Bowl Games in football at the conclusion of the 2006 season.
The process for deciding which divisions teams fell under became more clear in subsequent years and for the sake of fans and the media covering the events, let’s hope the same thing happens in basketball.
St. John Bosco of Bellower, the CIF Southern Section Division III-A champions, didn’t meet the original, established criteria for the new open division. There’s no question St. John Bosco was the best team available as the fourth team from the Southern Section (a maximum of four teams per section could be selected for a potential eight-team bracket) but the team and the media wasn’t formally informed the Braves could potentially be placed in the SoCal Open Division playoffs.
After his team won its section title, St. John Bosco coach Derrick Taylor told Cal-Hi Sports his team was “on the board” for potential selection in the new SoCal Open Division Bracket. Taylor and his staff just waited for the bracket to be released — it did not petition, request or do anything formal to be included.
“We did not do anything to be included or excluded,” Taylor said. “My position is we’ll play wherever they place us. My kids said they wanted to play in the open division and I told my athletic director on Sunday morning. I don’t know what he did with that information.
“My only issue is there was a certain criteria and we did not fall under the established guidelines just so people know what’s going on and what to expect. I will say this. Our ceiling is higher than any team in the state of California. We haven’t always played our best this season, but we can beat anyone when we are on our game.”
St. John Bosco’s players got its wish and the No. 6 seed Braves will host No. 3 seed Long Beach Poly in a rematch of a game the Jackrabbits won 60-54 at the Nike Extravaganza. Hosting priority begins in the regional semifinals.
In the future, we hope there is a specific petition process (such as a formal email from the school’s athletic director or deadline during the week of section title games to declare intent) to avoid this much confusion. Automatic bids also would help, such as L.A. City Division I and CIFSS Division IAA in the south and North Coast Division I and Central Coast Section open in the north.
One thing the CIF got right with the loaded SoCal Open Division on the boys side was not adding a second team from the CIF Central Section or a team from the San Diego Section as an eighth team. That potential team would likely have been completely overwhelmed by top seed Etiwanda, the champions of the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA bracket.
Read on for our quick analysis and reaction to all six divisions:
It was borderline criminal to seed Sheldon of Sacramento (four-time San Joaquin Section Division I champ) No. 4 in the NorCal bracket. We knew there was a good possibility Sheldon was going to be seeded behind CCS Open Division champion Mitty of San Jose because of a head-to-head loss to the Monarchs when Sheldon wasn’t at full strength. The Huskies, however, shouldn’t have been seeded behind CIF North Coast Section Division III champ Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland. Now Sheldon, which could be the state’s most talented team, has to face top-ranked and top seeded Salesian in a monster regional semifinal matchup and as the visiting team.
As expected, state-ranked Deer Valley of Antioch did not request to be pulled up and is the No. 1 seed in NorCal. As we stated when the open division concept was introduced, here is where we begin to see evidence of NorCal simply not having the depth of its SoCal counterparts when it comes to quality teams. In SoCal, evidence is present future decisions have to be made to consider quality of overall resume and not just what round of the playoffs a team loses in. To include CIF L.A. City Section quarterfinalist Narbonne of Harbor City and not CIFSS second round loser Corona Centennial is just plain bad. Check of the Huskies’ resume: victory over No. 1 seed Santa Monica, two victories over No. 5 seed Inglewood, a win over Open Division No. 4 seed Bullard and a split with Open Division top seed Etiwanda.
With Mitty of San Jose being pulled up to the Open Division and no team from the SoCal ranks being pulled up, the pool of teams from NorCal is clearly not as strong as those from SoCal. The seedings in this division fall in line in both regions for the most part. A potential J.W. North-Redondo Union SoCal regional final could be a doozy and whoever survives the SoCal bracket will be prohibitive favorites in the state final.
The CIF took NorCal’s two best teams in this division for the open — Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland and Modesto Christian. Those are two teams St. John Bosco’s Derrick Taylor mentioned as potential quality opponents had his team remained in Division III. Instead Bosco is in the open and it’s probably a good thing. If the Braves played like they did in their section title game win in this division’s state final, any of NorCal’s top seeds (Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco, El Cerrito or Enterprise of Redding) would have lost by a large margin. As it is, whoever emerges from SoCal will be the favorite. Just not by as much. One seed we would have liked to have seen reserved was one-loss Independence of Bakersfield as the No. 2 and Chaminade of West Hills, which lost to St. John Bosco handily in its section title game, at No. 3. We’re glad Independence wasn’t pulled up for the Open Division, but now its reward is playing a Compton team as talented as any in the state not in the open division.
With two-time CIFSS divisional champs Pacific Hills and Serra of Gardena not being moved up to the SoCal Open Division, this SoCal bracket is loaded. Even if Salesian of Richmond, the top-ranked team in the state and the defending champ in this division, had not been moved up to the NorCal Open Division bracket, there is no guarantee it would have repeated. Now as far as the seeds in the SoCal bracket, they make no sense. Again, overall resumes and not just which round a team lost in has to be a stronger factor in the seedings. L.A.C.E.S of the L.A. City Section as the No. 7 seed with its sparkling 16-18 record seeded ahead of state-ranked Brentwood of Los Angeles is laughably bad. And what is Bishop Montgomery’s reward for losing one game all season at a time when it was clearly one of the state’s five best teams? Try a No. 6 seed in this bracket.
This division could actually produce a competitive state final, but there are some head-scratching seeds, especially in SoCal. San Diego Section champ Horizon Christian should have been seeded behind Buckley of Sherman Oaks, the team that knocked off defending state champ Village Christian in the CIFSS Division V-AA semifinals. Village Christian was the only team in either region all season long to receive serious consideration for the state overall top 20. If Village Christian plays up to par, Horizon Christian could potentially face that team in the regional semifinals, so maybe being the No. 1 seed wasn’t much of a reward after all. A Buckley-Village Christian rematch would only take place in the regional final.
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