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Realignment Pays Off for Southern Section : New Playoff System Increases Number of Teams Advancing to Regionals

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

A realignment in the Southern Section boys’ and girls’ basketball playoffs for 1988-89 appears to have paid off with 37 member schools gaining entry in the Southern California regionals of the state tournament.

Every Southern Section boys’ champion and runner-up with the exception of Irvine in the 5-A division and Newport Christian in the Small Schools division advanced to the regionals, which begin Tuesday night.

The Division I boys’ pairings features defending state champion Manual Arts and top-seeded Crenshaw along with Orange County powers Saddleback and Capistrano Valley.

Capistrano Valley, the Southern Section 5-A champion, will play host to Manual Arts at Saddleback College. Manual Arts had been ranked as the state’s No. 1 team all season before losing to Crenshaw, 85-72, in the City’s 4-A title game.

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Saddleback’s 62-59 overtime loss to Millikan in the 5-AA title game was costly. The Roadrunners must travel to Fresno to meet Edison in the first round.

Trabuco Hills and Corona del Mar were awarded home games for the first round in Division III play. Corona del Mar will play host to Tulare Western (9-16) of the Central Section.

Trabuco Hills, the 3-A champion, will play host to Clairemont of the San Diego Section at El Toro High.

Orange Lutheran and Whittier Christian gained Division IV berths. Whittier Christian will play host to Coronado of San Diego at La Habra High. Orange Lutheran travels to El Cajon Christian.

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Newport Christian was expected to be among the schools considered for an at-large entry in Division V play, but Coach John DiBold failed to submit his entry forms, according to Dean Crowley, Southern Section associate commissioner.

Two schools eliminated in the Southern Section’s 3-A division semifinals--Morningside and San Luis Obispo--were given new life and granted berths to the Division III playoffs.

“The other sections (Central, Los Angeles and San Diego City) lacked quality teams in this division, so we were able to get some additional teams in the eight-team bracket rather than awarding any byes,” Crowley said.

Under the old system, three boys’ teams were granted byes in the first round last year while quality teams in the Southern Section such as Rolling Hills failed to gain entry because the section was only allowed to advance its champions.

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The Southern Section playoffs were expanded from six to nine divisions for this year’s championships with schools grouped according to enrollment figures. Previously, schools were grouped according to league strength and geographic proximity.

“The new format has met its objective of getting more schools into the state playoff system,” Crowley said.

“Last year, we had 10 boys’ teams and 10 girls’ teams enter the regionals. This year, we have 18 boys’ teams and 19 girls’ teams. I was hoping we would get about 25 teams, so I’m more than happy.”

Regional play continues with the semifinals Thursday night and the finals Saturday at the Los Angeles Sports Arena and Cerritos College. The state finals are scheduled for March 18 in Oakland.

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Complete Pairings: Page21


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