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Prep Wrapup : Better Teams in Smaller Brackets Decide on Move

To move up or not to move up?

That was the question facing CIF Southern Section basketball coaches this week as many pondered whether it would be advantagious to request a change in enrollment classification for the playoffs.

School administrators had until Friday to submit a written form to the Southern Section office indicating that they would prefer to move up in the new playoff grouping based on enrollment. Teams could not move down.

In the South Bay, coaches of boys’ teams in the highly competitive 3-A Division (for schools with enrollments of 1,000-1,499) were faced with an intriguing dilemma: Stay in the section’s largest division or move up to the smaller and, some say, less competitive 4-A Division.

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After giving it much thought, Rolling Hills Coach Cliff Warren decided Friday to remain in the 3-A Division. The Titans are 11-3, 2-0 in the Bay League, and ranked third in the 3-A poll.

“The 4-A is easier, there’s no doubt about it,” Warren said. “But we decided to stay in the 3-A. I don’t know if that was right or wrong. If we’re fortunate enough to get to the playoffs, we’ll take it from there.”

Ocean League favorite Morningside (8-4, 2-0 in league play) also decided to stay in the 3-A, where berths in the 32-team playoff bracket figure to come at a premium.

The 3-A has 65 boys’ teams, the most of any of the nine divisions, and 33 teams with records of .500 or better as of last week. The 4-A has 46 teams, 22 with records of .500 or better.

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Dean Crowley, associate commissioner of the Southern Section, told The Times that there will probably be problems advancing qualified teams into the 3-A playoffs.

“It looks like we may have to make some changes in the 3-A Division (next year),” he said. “Our original figures based on last year were off.”

Until this season, leagues were classified in one postseason division based on strength of teams, previous success in the playoffs and enrollment. This season, each school is grouped solely on its enrollment, irrespective of the placement of the other schools in its league.

For instance, the eight Bay League teams are in five different divisions. Hawthorne, Santa Monica and Leuzinger are in 5-AA (enrollments of 2,400-over), Beverly Hills and Inglewood are in 5-A (2,000-2,399), Torrance is in 4-AA (1,750-1,999), Palos Verdes is in 4-A (1,500-1,749) and Rolling Hills, the two-time defending Bay League champion, is in 3-A.

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Each league is guaranteed to advance its top three finishers in the 32-team playoff brackets of each division. Teams finishing lower than third but with a .500 record will be considered for wild-card entries.

While some divisions will have a fair share of wild-card entries, others, like the 3-A, could be tough to crack after a league’s top three finishers have been placed.

This is one of the possibilities that worries Warren. Even though Rolling Hills is one of the top 3-A teams, if the Titans should finish fourth in the Bay League there might not be a wild-card spot available in the crammed 3-A.

“There could be a lot of problems in the 3-A,” Warren said. “We’ll just play and see what happens.”

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St. Bernard basketball Coach Jim McClune could not be reached for comment, but it was rumored that the Vikings had voted to move up from the 3-A Division to either the 5-A or 5-AA, the highest levels of competition under the new system.

Southern Section administrators originally thought that parochial schools that had enjoyed past success in upper divisions but were now grouped in lower divisions because of enrollment would decide to move up. However, some schools indicated this week that they would stay where they were reclassified.

Bishop Amat Coach Alex Acosta, whose team was runner-up for the 5-A title last year, said his team will remain at the 4-A level.

Nowhere is the presence of high-powered parochial teams playing on a lower level more prevalent than in the 2-A Division (enrollments of 400-749). Serra, Verbum Dei, St. Monica and St. Anthony--all competitive in the 5-A playoffs in recent years--are grouped with small public and Christian schools.

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It was not known if any of those teams decided to move up.

As expected, Morningside girls’ basketball Coach Frank Scott announced that his team has requested to be moved up from the 3-A Division to the 5-AA.

This will enable Morningside, the state’s top-ranked team, to compete in the State Division I playoffs. The Lady Monarchs were runner-ups for the State Division I title last year.

Scott said he discussed the move with Palos Verdes Coach Wendell Yoshida, whose team is also classified in the 3-A Division based on enrollment. Palos Verdes was runner-up for the State Division II title last season and should be a contender again, either in Division II or III, depending where it decides to play.

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“We both want to bring back (state) championships to the area,” Scott said.

Morningside’s girls won their 60th consecutive league game Friday with a 77-11 Ocean League trouncing of visiting Redondo.

The win was made easier after Redondo Coach Tim Ammentorp benched his star player, 6-2 center Vanessa Vogelsang, early in the first quarter. Ammentorp said he benched Vogelsang “because she wouldn’t compete.”

After giving up three straight baskets to Morningside’s 6-5 center, Lisa Leslie, in the opening minutes, Vogelsang reportedlycame to the bench following a time-out and told her coach, “I can’t play against her.” Ammentorp, unhappy with her attitude, told her to sit in the stands.

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Without Vogelsang, who entered the game averaging 25 points and 13 rebounds, Redondo was no match for the mighty Lady Monarchs. Morningside opened a 43-5 half-time lead and extended it to 58-5 by holding the Sea Hawks scoreless in the third quarter.

“When you have one player on your team that you’re counting on to make you competitive, then she tells me after two minutes of the game, ‘Hey, I can’t play against her,’ I’m going to let the girls play who want to play,” said Ammentorp. "(Vogelsang) is having a very good year. She’s played very hard most of the time in most of the games. I hoped she learned something about competing today. If she doesn’t, I can’t do anything about that.”

Guard Jo Jo Witherspoon had a game-high 25 points for Morningside, which improved to 12-1 and 2-0 in league play. Redondo fell to 4-6 and 1-1.

Two of the South Bay’s top basketball players will meet for the first time in a regular-season game Wednesday night when Rolling Hills plays Inglewood in a key Bay League match-up at Rolling Hills.

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Inglewood (7-4, 2-0 in league play) is led by 6-5 forward Harold Miner, who scored 25 of his game-high 37 points in the second half Friday to spark the Sentinels to a come-from-behind 76-71 win over Beverly Hills. The USC recruit was the South Bay player of the year last season.

Rolling Hills (11-3, 2-0) will counter with 6-4 John Hardy, who scored 28 points in Wednesday’s 78-75 win over Beverly Hills and came back Friday with 29 in a 73-58 victory over Leuzinger.

Warren, Rolling Hills’ coach, says his team faces a challenge in trying to defend Miner.

“I’ve enjoyed watching him play, but that was when he was playing against other teams,” he said. “He’s a great talent. We’ve been looking forward to playing them for a long time. We’ll have to move our game up a notch.”

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Morningside (8-4, 2-0) maintained its hold on first place in the Ocean League, a position it may have the rest of the season, with a convincing 69-61 win over host Redondo, considered the Monarchs’ chief rival in the league.

“It’s good for our confidence to know we can beat (Redondo) on their own court,” Morningside Co-Coach Carl Franklin said.

As usual, the Monarchs thrived on pressure defense and balanced offense. They had 11 players score against Redondo, led by forward Chris Vance with 14 points, after 13 players scored in Wednesday’s 80-43 win over North Torrance.

Asked if Morningside can be beaten by an Ocean League team, Redondo Coach Steve Shaw replied: “They’re a fine ball club. Whether somebody can beat them or not, I don’t know.”

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It was only the second loss in the last six games for Sea Hawks, who fell to 8-5 and 1-1.

Palos Verdes’ soccer team ran its record to 17-0 and 2-0 in the Bay League on Friday with a 3-0 win over Santa Monica, the 14th shutout of the season for the Sea Kings and their 34th consecutive regular-season victory.

The game matched last year’s unbeaten champions from the Bay (Palos Verdes) and Ocean (Santa Monica) leagues. Doug Kay, Peter Malishka and Lance Haworth scored the goals and Greg Swartz played superlative defense for Palos Verdes.


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