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Pairings Rival the Playoffs in Intensity

The midnight oil will be burning at the Southern Section office this weekend, the busiest of the year for Commissioner Dean Crowley and his staff.

The regular season for boys’ and girls’ basketball concludes Saturday afternoon, and the task of establishing playoff brackets begins shortly thereafter.

The Southern Section will draw 20 brackets, 10 each for the boys and girls. Most divisions will have 32-team fields. Between 500 and 600 teams will make the playoffs, which begin Wednesday.

Crowley figures the final bracket will be set at about 2 a.m. Sunday. Later that morning, coaches will begin showing up at the Cerritos office to pick up their draw.

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“The logistics are incredible, and you always worry that you seeded these things right,” he said. “I know the first year I did this I didn’t sleep for a week worrying if I put the teams in the right places.”

For years, Crowley set all of the brackets himself. But because of a new seeding process this year, an 11-member committee will help.

Each division will be divided into four regions. The committee will decide the top four seeded teams in each division, then arrange the remaining teams in the division by region. Schools in the same geographic area will be put in the same region. The plan was adopted last year to cut travel costs.

Committee members will represent all regions of the Southern Section and will have a rundown on each of the teams from their area.

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“Every school has an information card, so going through several hundred takes time,” Crowley said. “You look at strength of schedule and how they did against tough opponents.”

The tournament concludes March 7-8.

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The City Section has a much easier task setting its basketball playoff brackets. There are two 16-team divisions each for the boys and girls.

The boys and girls each have 15-member committees that will meet Saturday morning to determine the brackets.

The playoffs begin Feb. 21 and conclude March 7-8.

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The boys’ and girls’ soccer playoffs also begin next week. The Southern Section will announce playoff pairings Monday and the City Section Tuesday.

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The Brea Olinda girls’ basketball team tied a state record by clinching its 15th consecutive league title last week. Healdsburg won 15 in a row from 1981 through ’95. Brea’s streak began in 1983.

The Lynwood girls’ basketball team failed to tie the same record after losing to Cerritos Gahr last week. Lynwood had also won 14 consecutive league titles.

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Football season has been over for two months, but there has been plenty of activity off the field involving coaching changes.

The most notable is at Los Altos in Hacienda Heights, where Dwayne DeSpain is stepping down after 30 years. His record of 244-94-9 makes him the seventh-winningest coach in state history and includes 11 league championships and seven section titles.

The Conquerors finished 9-4-1 last season, losing to cross-town rival Hacienda Heights Wilson in the Southern Section Division VI final.

“I think a coach knows when to step down,” said DeSpain, 57, who will continue to work as the school’s athletic director.

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Although the job has been posted for a couple of months, DeSpain said the school hasn’t received many applicants and has yet to name a replacement.

Other notable coaches who quit since the season ended include Jack Bowman at Saugus, Pat Degnan at Mission Hills Alemany and Bill Maloney at San Marino.

At Wilmington Banning, Coach Ken Stumpf was fired after one season. The Pilots were 0-10 under Stumpf, the worst record in school history. He was replaced by lower-level coach Chris Gutierrez.

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Calabasas has been ordered to make improvements in its girls’ athletic program after a federal investigation found the school was not in compliance with Title IX gender equity requirements.

The investigation, conducted by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, determined that the school offers fewer opportunities in athletics for girls than boys, particularly at the lower levels, and that the school’s efforts to add new teams were insufficient.

Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in education institutions that receive federal funds.


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