Something old, something new.
Hey, we know it’s a cliche, but placing teams in regional brackets for easier travel has added a new dimension to the CIF Southern Section basketball playoffs.
Now, just about every first-round game pits one Orange County team against another. The region I bracket in Division I-A, for example, looks like a replay of the South Coast League season, with top-seeded Mater Dei (25-2), Dana Hills (15-12), San Clemente (17-8) and Mission Viejo (16-10) taking part. But some things never change. Mater Dei will be seeking its sixth consecutive section title.
The county has produced several other highly seeded teams. Sonora (23-3) is seeded No. 3 in Division II-A, the top team in its Region III bracket, which counts all eight teams from Orange County. But in a departure from total regionalism, Brea Olinda (23-3) is seeded fourth atop a Division II-A bracket that includes seven teams from the Inland Empire.
Southern Section officials say that as many as 75% of the teams were bracketed based on their localities.
Brethren Christian opens the playoffs Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. by hosting Burbank Providence (13-9) in a Division IV-A wild card game.
All other first-round games will be Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
Here’s a division-by-division look at the playoffs:
Defending champion: Compton Dominguez.
Top teams: Lakewood Artesia (26-2); Compton Dominguez (20-5); Sonora (23-3); Brea Olinda (23-3).
Dark horse: La Puente Bishop Amat (22-6). The Lancers have played a difficult schedule against large-school teams and have won four in a row.
Top players: Kenny Brunner (Dominguez); Brian Hills (Artesia); Ben Jones (Sonora); Josh Lien (Sonora); Chris Mattice (Bishop Amat); Chris McMillian (Brea); Sean Wink (Brea).
Notes: This is a difficult division for Orange County teams because Dominguez and Artesia, each nationally ranked, are loaded with talent. Dominguez has scored 80 or more points 14 times this season and has defeated defending Division I state champion Crenshaw, 101-90. Artesia’s only losses were to Harvard Westlake, Division IV-A’s top-seeded team, and Long Beach Poly, Division I-AA’s top-seeded team. Hills averaged 20.3 points a game for Artesia. The Pioneers have nine players who averaged in double figures. Joe Hall leads the team with 8.3 rebounds per game. . . . About the only surprise was the move of Brea Olinda, the fourth-seeded team, into a bracket that is made up of, more or less, teams from the Inland Empire. The Wildcats, who have not ventured past the second round of the playoffs in this decade, open by hosting Palm Desert (11-13). A second-round matchup with Bonita (20-6), looks more interesting. . . . The Orange County side of the division is much more balanced with third-seeded Sonora topping the bracket. “These are solid teams,” Raider Coach Mike Murphy said. “You have to be ready to play every night or you’ll be in trouble.” . . . Golden West League rivals Tustin and Servite could meet in the second round. Servite won both meetings this season. But first the Friars will have to get by Garden Grove League runner-up Pacifica, while Tustin will be at Valencia. Valencia, led by center Robert Smith, finished two games behind Brea in the Orange League and should not be overlooked.