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Southern California City Section will have to rethink playoff format

Eric Sondheimer
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Failure to put teams in appropriate divisions created mismatches in Southern California basketball regionals

Statistics don't lie, and the fact that 14 of 15 City Section boys' basketball teams lost their first-round games in the state playoffs last week, including every defeat in double digits, should be a warning to coaches and administrators that something went wrong in their new six-division playoff format.

"We are going to have to reevaluate our divisions to determine if they are done the way they should be," said Huntington Park Coach Joe Reed, who spearheaded the effort to expand to six playoff divisions this season.

Reed said he wanted to create more balance in the divisions before the season but was turned down. The failure to put teams in their appropriate divisions helped create mismatches in the Southern California regionals, but the representatives from the City Section have to decide what's more important, the playoffs in their own section or state competition?

By creating a new Open Division this season and putting its top eight teams together, it gave new opportunities for teams to win section titles, such as Sylmar in Division I and Hamilton in Division II. But better teams got left out come state playoff time after being eliminated in the Open Division playoffs.

With every team losing in the state playoffs except for Fairfax, the new alignment didn't exactly earn a ringing endorsement.

"I didn't think having the Open Division was a great idea to begin with," said Fairfax Coach Harvey Kitani. "You have teams like El Camino Real and Narbonne who didn't get to go to state. It's not right. We're not getting our best teams when your record is 1-14."

Granada Hills Coach Don Loperena placed some of the blame on the advantages private schools have over their public-school counterparts.

"Recruiting is legal," Loperena said. "We're talking major leagues vs. minor leagues. They have totally different ground rules."

City Section schools continue to see a talent drain to Southern Section, but Fairfax still has a chance to win a state title in the toughest division. The Lions host Etiwanda in a semifinal game of the regional playoffs Tuesday.

Once the Lions either win it all or are eliminated, it will be interesting to see how the internal debate unfolds on ways to fix the City Section's woes in state basketball competition.

Club vs. high school

The championship games of the Southern California regionals in soccer Saturday produced a dilemma for several players.

They had to choose whether to stick with their high school teams or leave for a club tournament in Las Vegas.

Anaheim Servite lost four starters to club ball. L.A. Cathedral was minus one starter, although Danny Huizar decided to stay.

Everyone has to make a decision what's best for them, but the conflicts between club and high school teams is a disturbing trend.

Home run queen

Alyssa Palomino, a senior softball standout at Mission Viejo who signed with Arizona, set an Orange County record for career home runs over the weekend.

She has hit 48 home runs, breaking the old record of 46 held by Lauren Chamberlain of El Toro. Mission Viejo won the prestigious Tournament of Champions in Arizona, beating Yucaipa, 1-0.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATSondheimer

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