East County Sports

San Diego Section in awe as boys state playoff brackets announced 

EastCountySports.com staff report


SAN DIEGO (3-7-16) – The San Diego Section’s boys hoops community was dealt a pretty significant blow Sunday evening (Mar. 7) when the California Interscholastic Federation released the State Playoff brackets for Divisions I-through-V, as well as, the Open Division.


Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 11.57.55 PMFoothills Christian and Cathedral Catholic who competed in the San Diego Section’s Open Division Championship were seeded in the Open Division as expected. Foothills Christian was ranked No. 4 in the state for much of the year before losing to Mater Dei of Santa Ana in February. The teams swapped positions at that point. Unfortunately for the Knights and Monarchs, the three teams ranked ahead of them in the state also all reside in the Southern Section (Chino Hills, Sierra Canyon and Bishop Montgomery).


Cathedral was somewhat of a surprise in the Open Division as the Dons had not cracked the top 15 in state rankings all year and a few Southern Section teams ranked above them were eligible for Open Division consideration. Baffling to most however, was the inclusion of Immanuel of Reedley. The state CIF committee insisted on the inclusion of a Central Section team which thrust the Eagles, who competed in Division IV this season, into an eighth seed and road trip to National No. 1 Chino Hills. Immanuel lost by 29 to No. 3 seeded Bishop Montgomery back in December.


Things were far worse for the San Diego Section in lower divisions. Kearny who handily defeated El Camino in the San Diego Section Division I title game ended up in Division III. That would not have been the worst news for the Komets except that they were seeded No. 15 in a 16-team field. The Komets travel to Edison who lost to a very talented Ayala team in the Southern Section Division IIAA championship game. Edison has eight losses on the season. It would seem that Kearny’s reward for playing from Division III up to Division I over the past few seasons in the new power ranking system, was to be relegated right back to Division III despite winning the Division I championship.


El Camino is another head scratcher. The Wildcats who are one of the largest schools in the San Diego Section dropped all the way to Division IV. The worst of it however, is that the Wildcats are the only team on the boys side to receive a home game in the San Diego Section. The Wildcats are the No. 8 seed in Division IV, meaning that one of the only two at large team in San Diego received the lowest possible seed that could maintain home court advantage, three divisions below where it competed in the regular season. San Marcos, who also competed in Division I also received an at large bid down in Division IV.



Some coaches are upset that the San Diego Section division champions did not get home games, that however is a moot point. Based on the current system, the best teams are not playing in all divisions; they are playing in one division. A Division IV or V title in San Diego is not the same as a Division IV or V title in the Southern Section. By the power ranking standings the Division III-V winners are somewhere around 50th-75th in the Section in terms of power ranking. It can hardly be argued that teams like O’Farrell and Mission Vista would be champions under the old enrollment format. Under that format Foothills Christian and Horizon would reside in Division V. Army-Navy and La Jolla Country Day would reside in Division IV. That system was done away with because the section felt that certain schools were winning too often. So divisions champions have to take with them the knowledge that they are receiving the opportunity to play for championships at the expense of those teams who “won too much” being removed from their divisions.



Yesterday’s result indicates that things still haven’t found their perfect fit in the San Diego Section’s system. Last year Escondido on the boys’ side and Horizon on the girls’ side were left out of the state playoffs to the behest of many who saw those teams play over the course of the season. Under that system Kearny would have likely been left home this year, so there was certainly a broken cog in that mix. However, under that system Saint Augustine and Cathedral would likely be representing the section as two of the highest seeds in Division III. Torrey Pines would still be in Division 1 but El Camino and/or Grossmont or possibly Poway would have had the power ranking determine which of them was a low seed in Division I, the others may have gone home. Army-Navy would have been a high seed in Division IV or V under last year’s system. Instead the Warriors are in Division II and are seeded seven spots below an Orange Lutheran team they lost to by just six-points in January.


If things are to improve for the San Diego Section’s state playoff chances in the future, schools will have to make some concessions. The first, realizing that the San Diego Section is not rich enough to send its best teams to one division. The Southern Section has nearly 600 schools before the Central and Los Angeles City Sections are even considered. That means that when four Southern Section schools are placed in the Open Division for state, there are still a plethora of top level teams to fill all divisions. Teams that win and compete for titles in the Southern Section are winning fields of 85-97 teams, not 24 like the San Diego Section. If the 85-teams in the Southern Section’s Division VI (yes you read that right, division six) were spread across their other two-tier divisions, all five divisions would be just about 20-30 schools shy of the entire San Diego Section.


Secondly, coaches and the section will have to realize that if the best San Diego Section teams have to go to state in the Open Division and Division I, the section is not likely to compete in the lower divisions…. ever. O’Farrel who had an amazing year this year will go into a Division V state field in which the No. 1 seed St. Joseph of Santa Maria only lost to previously mentioned Immanuel by one-point. Some honest discussion has to be had about a system that is sending the Falcons into a game against a team that previous Division V competitor Foothills Christian beat by 38-points with their bench in for the fourth quarter. If O’Farrel gets whacked as a No. 14 seed in a division that San Diego could have sent one of the best teams in the state to, is that really good for the Section? Army Navy could have actually represented the San Diego Section in Division V under last year’s rules as well, again that may have been at the expense of leaving the Falcons home.


The biggest question for the San Diego Section will be whether it wants to compete at the state level in basketball? Under the enrollment system the section would have Saint Augustine, Cathedral Catholic and possibly Mission Bay all representing the Section in Division III. Torrey Pines would have had a tough road as an Open Division team or Division I team competing with Chino Hills or Mater Dei. Under last year’s system, Kearny may or may not have been left home and Foothills Christian would still be in the Open Division, but the Section could have serious contenders in Division V with Army-Navy, Division IV with La Jolla Country Day and Division III with Cathedral and Saint Augustine. Any number of these combinations could mean teams like Bonita Vista and O’Farrell may be left home however.


The power ranking system has worked in terms of allowing a multitude of schools to get first chances at CIF Section titles, now the Section must address whether those teams need to be automatically rewarded with trips to the State tournament when some of them are not among the 50-best teams in the county?


If the Open Division playoffs told us anything this season, it is that the best teams will usually show themselves. It also told us that teams need something clear to play for. Headed into the second game of the consolation brackets, players on a few of the schools were chatting on Twitter with an uncertainty as to whether their next game “counted”. Grossmont will actually enter the state playoffs on a three game losing streak, perhaps unprecedented in all of high school sports.


Questions abounded in the minds (and Twitter feeds) of San Diego hoops fans Sunday as to how the Section received such poor favorability with the playoff seeding committee. In a system that used to favor section champions, San Diego couldn’t sell even its top team, and many of its other divisions had been diminished so much that it probably wasn’t even a discussion. But San Diego hardly sold its largest schools in the state’s smallest divisions. Even Bonita Vista, extremely large in terms of population compared to many of the schools in the state Division V field only mustered a No. 9 seed. The Baron’s field includes at least 5 schools with enrollment numbers under 250.


The power ranking system has made for much better section playoffs across every division. The best teams are competing with each other, a true champion is being crowned, more kids are being allowed the championship experience. The state level on the other hand, saw everything and anything hit the fan Sunday as far as the San Diego Section is concerned and the work in progress will again need a serious reboot in 2016-2017.

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