The Southern Section boys’ basketball playoff format might have changed this year, but some things will never change when the pairings are announced--like oral jabs from unhappy coaches.
The controversy Sunday occurred in Division I-A, where Santa Ana Mater Dei High earned the No. 1 seeding in Region I.
In past years, the Monarchs, ranked No. 2 by The Times after finishing the regular season with a 25-2 record, would have drawn the lowest-seeded team in the bracket. But a new geographic format matched Mater Dei with Lake Forest El Toro, an at-large team with an 18-8 record.
The new seeding process divided each division into four regions. Schools in the same geographic area were put in the same region. The plan was adopted to cut travel costs.
But saving money seemed to be the last thing on the mind of El Toro Coach Todd Dixon, whose team must face perennial powerhouse Mater Dei after finishing fourth in the Sea View League.
“We’ve beaten four of the teams [in Region I]. I don’t understand the thought process,” Dixon said. “Teams like [Huntington Beach] Edison and Huntington Beach should be playing Mater Dei. Why should we get penalized?
“It looks more like Huntington Beach and Edison got rewarded.”
Edison (12-12) will play unseeded Cerritos (16-9) in Region III when the first round begins Friday. Huntington Beach (11-14) will play Glendora, top-seeded in Region III.
“We had to keep the geography intact, so we had to pull a couple of teams out of that region,” said Southern Section Commissioner Dean Crowley, who received help from an 11-member committee that represented all regions of the Southern Section. “There were 10 schools in that region, but there is only room for eight.
“When you come in as an at-large team, you have no status. El Toro was at the mercy of filling holes in the regions. Their record is not a consideration.”
Long Beach Poly (22-4) is seeded first in Division I-AA. The Jackrabbits will play host to Arroyo Grande (10-13).
Irvine Woodbridge (22-3) is top-seeded in the II-AA field. Compton (20-5) is seeded second.
No. 5 Artesia (25-2) is seeded first in II-A, while No. 3 Dominguez (20-5) is seeded second.
Wild-card games will be played Wednesday. All first-round games are Friday.