CIF Picks: Head Scratcher Of The Year

Colin Slater is a leading candidate to be the Fresno Bee Player of the Year, but he and team at Immanuel of Reedley are making probably the biggest step up in competition in the history of the Open Division (any sport) on Friday at Chino Hills. Photo:

Colin Slater is a leading candidate to be the Fresno Bee Player of the Year, but he and team at Immanuel of Reedley are making probably the biggest step up in competition in the history of the Open Division (any sport) on Friday at Chino Hills. Photo:

Most of the boys and girls Open Division basketball pairings for Northern California and Southern California released on Sunday by the CIF made sense, but as usual there was one choice that stood out the most for its absurdity.

For the eight Open Division boys teams in the north and south and how we would have seeded them, CLICK HERE.

For the eight Open Division girls teams in the north and south and how we would have seeded them, CLICK HERE.

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One year after a CIF selection committee dropped the ball on CIF San Diego Section Division I girls basketball champion Horizon Christian by not including the team in the field at all, this year’s top candidate for a seeding that makes little sense is the Immanuel of Reedley boys.

All of the CIF’s basketball seedings (boys & girls, NorCal & SoCal) were released late Sunday afternoon after a meeting of CIF section commissioners. Most of the media attention centered on the Open Divisions and for good reason.

Immanuel’s position as being considered the No. 1 overall team from the CIF Central Section despite being a Division IV school was not surprising. The Eagles did post a head-to-head win over Division I section champion Central of Fresno.

Mi'Cole Cayton and team from state and national girls No. 1 Stockton St. Mary's probably should be playing a different opponent in NorCal playoff opener as well. Photo: Harold Abend.

Mi’Cole Cayton and team from state girls No. 1 Stockton St. Mary’s probably should be playing a different opponent in NorCal playoff opener as well. Photo: Harold Abend.

What was shocking was Immanuel (25-5) being lifted completely out of Division IV into the Southern California Open Division and being given the eighth seed. Instead of being in the Division I or Division II bracket for this week’s regional playoff opener, the Eagles will travel to Chino Hills and will play the nation’s No. 1-ranked team that just won games 102-54 and 103-84 in the CIF Southern Section Open Division.

There’s nothing in Immanuel’s resume for the season that suggests the team should be considered even close to the eighth best overall team among all teams from the Southern, L.A. City, San Diego and Central sections. The team does have a couple of standout players in senior Colin Slater and junior Darrin Person Jr. who at least will get to perhaps showcase what they can do in a tough atmosphere, but sending this team on a long road trip hundreds of miles to probably get in a running clock game against the consensus No. 1 team in the nation has a rotten smell to it.

Four years ago, it was common knowledge in CIF circles that the Brookside Christian of Stockton girls were “punished” by the CIF for running up the score and running up stats for one player when they were moved up to the NorCal Open Division. Did somebody at Immanuel do something that ticked off the wrong person on the CIF committee?

This being the first time in Southern California (not in the north) in which “competitive equity” is being used as the primary criteria for seeding teams into divisions may have something to do with the confusion surrounding Immanuel’s placement. The Central Section, unlike San Diego, Southern and L.A. City, does not have its own Open Division but this year was able to present and seed its SoCal playoff qualifiers in any order it wished.

That’s not the issue with Immanuel, however. There were other teams eligible for the SoCal Open Division that could have been chosen, such as L.A. City runner-up Narbonne, and it was written in its own bylaws that the selection committee under certain circumstances could select a fifth CIFSS team for the Open Division. With Immanuel’s selection, it’s now known that there will never, ever be a first-round bye and it’s now known that there’s very little chance that a fifth CIFSS team will ever be added.

Many will see the irony of a small, private school that has dominated its section in Division IV against mostly small public school opponents having to face a public school powerhouse. That’s true, but Immanuel being D4 in its section is a section issue. This is a state issue and in that context it’s clearly a major mistake.

CIF executive director Roger Blake loves to say how shocked he is that some coaches don’t want to be in the Open Division, comparing it to students who should want to be challenged by the best teachers and toughest courses. Taking Immanuel from a 60-44 win over Taft in the Central Section Division IV final (in which the Eagles “struggled” at times) and then to play Chino Hills, however, is like asking a high school algebra student to take an AP Calculus exam.
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NorCal Boys: Modesto Christian just proved that its seeding in the Sac-Joaquin Section behind Folsom was wrong and that our state rankings were correct. The Crusaders will just have to do that again, now that they were placed second behind De La Salle of Concord. All eight teams that we thought were going to be chosen were, in fact, chosen with the CIF commissioners giving the Open Division eighth slot to Salesian of Richmond.

SoCal Boys: Immanuel’s inclusion in the eighth position overshadows everything else. The top five seeds went as expected with Chino Hills being followed by Sierra Canyon, Bishop Montgomery, Mater Dei and Foothills Christian. The only difference in what we picked was that last position, but it was a huge one.

NorCal Girls: Brookside Christian not only was seeded into the Open Division instead of Vanden (Fairfield), but instead of the eighth spot was given the seventh. All eight teams we would have picked were picked with the exception of Brookside at No. 7 and Carondelet of Concord at No. 8. Guess it’s a tossup to compare resumes, but there’s a bigger desire obviously for the CIF to have different teams from different sections play each other, regardless of travel.

SoCal Girls: Just like in the north, all eight teams that we recommended to be picked were indeed picked. The big news was Clovis West of Fresno nabbing the No. 2 seed instead of CIFSS Open Division runner-up Long Beach Poly. Although the Jackrabbits also have a win over the Chaminade team they lost to in the final, the CIF commissioners seem to have been more impressed with Clovis West having two of its three losses to state and national No. 1 St. Mary’s. We’re still going to rank Poly higher and we know it’s going to be tough for head coach Carl Buggs’ squad to perhaps have to win on the road in the semifinals, but there have been many years in which Clovis West has been on the short end of the stick in SoCal seedings.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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  1. Bearcats97
    Posted March 7, 2016 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    The cif committee have done a lot of stupid things but this Immanuel pick has got to be the dumbest ever I saw them play bishop Montgomery and they lost by 30 or 40 pts dont get me wrong there a good team for there division but have no business playing chino hills and have to drive almost 300 miles for this game is sad. It was t like Immanuel has been dominating div 4 they didn’t even win state last year. It sucks for there kids on there team who I’m sure had dreams of winning a state title this year and now have no chance. I really like to watch high school sports but this makes me not even want to go to a state game so cif doesn’t get any of my money want a joke wish there was some way to change there committee.

  2. phil60
    Posted March 7, 2016 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Bearcats 97, couldn’t say it better myself. This is ludicrous. Immanuel belongs in a lower division. And while we’re at it, go figure a Southern Section champion Santa Monica being a No. 13 seed and playing a Washington team who is unaccountably given a No. 4 in D2. Washington who? And in D4, it looks pretty ridiculous to see a team like Chaminade given a No. 2 seeding when Harvard-Westlake and Notre Dame both finished ahead of them in their league. I would have put Serra, Viewpoint, Notre Dame, and Harvard all ahead of Chaminade and Diamond Ranch. I’m guessing that will bear out.

    Most of the seedings seem reasonable, however. Chino Hills, Crespi, Ayala, St. Joseph all make sense as No. 1’s. Not so sure about Taft in D2. We will see if they play North in round two.

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted March 7, 2016 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      They just seeded the teams in divisions the way they finished in the CIFSS playoffs and I don’t think even bothered to check scores. Viewpoint, for example, has an easy win over Chaminade (head-to-head) but is seeded lower.

  3. Deborah Norgaard
    Posted March 7, 2016 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Moving the best Nor Cal Lower Division Teams like D2 Sacramento, D3 Moreau and
    D4 Salesian to the Open Division is an honor for those programs… BUT….. It makes
    the Nor Cal Reps for the State Finals in those Divisions much weaker. Out best might be able to compete this year….Our second or third best ?……… OUCH !
    The No 5 seed in So Cal Division 1 has a win over the No. 1 Seed in Nor Cal Open.

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted March 7, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Which is main reason why we have Modesto Christian higher than De La Salle. That one, however, will play itself out.

  4. pete pappas
    Posted March 7, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Immanuel was punished because almost the entire team was from Clovis North H.S district and they all transferred to Immanuel about 3 years ago. Colin Slater had to sit out his Soph. year. No one else was penalized. Slater played at CN as a freshman and I saw him drop 36 on Clovis West. Considering what SoCal does as far as transfers, the Central Valley isn’t know for this and the hypocrites from down south as punishing the Eagles for sure. This whole system is screwed. Only 3 of 30 teams that won at the valley championships has a home game. Always in the past, at least since the early 80″s, all winners received a home game _ no matter their rank. I saw Long Beach Poly girls play Clovis West 2 or 3 times in the past, after losing to Mater Dei in the socal final. Same thing with Clovis West boys. This never settled well with Socal and these highly rated schools.

  5. CentralSectionfan
    Posted March 7, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    The central section has some great athletes, but it is hard to field a team with depth (for any major sport) when the talent pool is so small. A team like Immanuel has had a great 2 year run, but chances are their margins against even regional competition will slim up considerably when Slater graduates. He is arguably the best basketball player to ever come through that program, and the farm towns around the school are not known for basketball prowess.

    If nothing else they might have had a slightly better run if the central section was part of Northern CA division.

  6. TinyTim
    Posted March 8, 2016 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Mark (or anybody);

    Why are there so many 1st round empty brackets throughout the NorCal CIF divisions?
    I thought the section division semi finalists from at least 4 round playoffs could move on to the regionals.

    • Posted March 9, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Some of the sections do not have a process of back-filling from their quarterfinal round. In the Sac-Joaquin section for example there were three teams taken from its division one bracket to the open division leaving them with just one team for division one. They don’t have a process in place to take a quarterfinal team into division one. This year, Woodcreek would have been an obvious team to move up.

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