Pairings for every girls basketball division plus the announcement of teams for the second-ever Open Division in Southern California were released on Sunday by the CIF state office. Here are some burning questions and choice for best team no longer playing.
Open Division No. 1 Seed: Windward of Los Angeles (24-2).
Other Open Division Teams: Mater Dei of Santa Ana, Long Beach Poly, Etiwanda, Bishop’s of La Jolla, Clovis West of Fresno.
1. Was there really no other teams besides those six that the CIF could have chosen for the Open Division? After Bishop’s, which won the first-ever San Diego Section Open Division title, runner-up Mater Dei Catholic wasn’t eligible. Hanford, the Central Section runner-up was eligible and had a win earlier this season over Clovis West, but lost to the Golden Eagles by 15 so there wouldn’t have been much of a point to have Hanford play Mater Dei in the first-round (a long road trip to boot). As for L.A. City Section winner Fairfax, the Lions were eligible but have been blown out the last two years in Division I first-round games. Bringing that team in would have been insane. Then of course, the real reason for just six is the limit of four from Southern Section.
2. What was the biggest surprise in any of the divisions? We’ll go with La Jolla Country Day being a No. 3 seed in Division V. This is a team that has 11 losses, but beat Mark Keppel (a CIFSS Open Division team) and lost by just five to CIFSS D1-AA winner Ventura. Was there some rule about a non-San Diego Section winner being able to be a No. 1 seed? It’s a mystery. The results certainly show no way for top seed Ribet Academy to be ranked even on the same page as the Torreys. At least the committee split LJCD and Horizon so they’d perhaps meet in the final. Ribet actually may not win a game. No offense, but DiJonai Carrington (last year’s State Freshman of the Year) is now back playing for Horizon and that’s the team Ribet may have to play in the regional semifinal. LJCD, meanwhile, will probably have to hit the road to play View Park (a very capable team in this division) for its regional semifinal.
3. What was the impact of the new CIFSS Open Division? Because there were four teams in that bracket that had first-round byes, the 12-team field did not cause as many CIFSS semifinalists to get knocked out of the regional playoffs. On the boys side, it was a 16-team bracket. Like the boys, all CIFSS Open Division teams (even those that went 0-2) moved on into this week’s regionals. That makes sense, too, because those Open Division teams essentially were already chosen ahead of all of the others previously. In Division I, however, the impact was huge. Five of the CIFSS Open Division girls teams going back down to regional divisions were in Division I, which essentially meant that one CIFSS section finalist was not going to be playing this week. It was a choice between Camarillo (lost to Ventura in DIAA final) and Bonita of La Verne (lost to Millikan in D1A final). Camarillo got the nod. Bonita is out.
4. What are the odds of every single regional final for the girls involving all Southern Section teams? Other than the San Diego Section for D5 (where La Jolla Country Day and Horizon are), it will be a big surprise if any non-CIFSS teams get that far. Mount Miguel of Spring Valley (a San Diego Open Division team) could be one breakthrough team in the D3 bracket.
5. What division has the biggest discrepancy in top teams compared to Northern California? With powerhouse teams like Berkeley St. Mary’s and Richmond Salesian in the Open Division, the SoCal bracket in D4 is far, far superior to D4 in the North. Defending D4 state champ Serra will get to defend its title. It’s also hard to see any NorCal teams coming close to either Sierra Canyon, Bishop Montgomery or JSerra in potential CIF state finals.
Best Team Not In The Field: Bonita (La Verne) 29-3. After the Bearcats got squeezed out of the D1 SoCal bracket because of the high number of CIFSS Open Division teams bouncing back, it’s quite a shame. They only lost in their section final to Millikan by three points, too. For a program with win totals of 30, 25, 27 and 29 over the last four years and not be playing in the regionals shows how complicated playoff systems and CIF reclassifications can be more damaging to a team than on-court performance. Nikki Wheatley, the all-state candidate guard at Bonita and a four-year standout, should not have had her career end with a three-point section title game loss. In fact, it looks like the Bonita girls are the only section finalist in the entire state (boys or girls) that are not in the regional playoffs (not counting anyone in Division VI brackets).