BURBANK — The Bellarmine-Jefferson High boys’ basketball team had no problem qualifying for the CIF Southern Section playoffs this season.
In fact, the Guards guaranteed their berth by winning their first Santa Fe League championship in 13 years.
For the other teams in this year’s postseason — Burbank and Providence — making the postseason wasn’t as easy. The Bulldogs finished tied for fourth in the Pacific League and were granted an at-large entry into the playoffs. The Pioneers placed fourth in the Liberty League, grabbing the final guaranteed postseason spot.
Burroughs wasn’t able to qualify for the playoffs.
With first-round games being played at 7 p.m. tonight, the three teams are hoping to advance to Friday’s second round.
Chadwick at Bell-Jeff: The Guards (12-12) garnered the No. 14 seed in Division V-A. They will be taking on a Dolphins (10-9) team that finished third in the Prep League.
“It’s really great that we get a home game to open the playoffs,” Bell-Jeff first-year Coach Julian Andrade said. “It means a lot when you can play in front of your home fans.
“We are just excited about seeing what the playoffs will bring. We have some guys that have worked very hard all year.”
The Guards have been paced on offense by senior Micah Shirley. However, the team also plays stingy defense and can pose problems for opposing teams.
“We allowed just 46 points a game in league,” Andrade said. “We have some guys who can really shut down a team’s ball-handlers.”
Andrade said those defensive stalwarts include Brandon White, Mario Marquez and Elijah Reed.
If Bell-Jeff wins its opener, it could face No. 3-seeded Montclair Prep in the next round.
Burbank at Mission Viejo: The Bulldogs (16-11) were rewarded with a Division II-AA playoff berth against a tough team.
Mission Viejo (25-1) is one of the best squads in Southern California. Along with garnering the division’s the No. 2 seed, the Diablos also won the South Coast League championship.
Mission Viejo’s lone loss on the season — and that was by just two points — came Feb. 4 against Tesoro, 51-49. In addition, the Diablos average 62.8 points a game and have topped 80 points or more three times.
The Bulldogs will counter with a team that can play tough inside with Chris White and Adam Colman, or hit from the outside with players like Austin Pope and Andre Spight.
Providence at Saddleback Valley Christian: The Pioneers (13-11) will likely have their hands full with the No. 13-seeded Warriors in the Division V-A game.
Saddleback Valley Christian is 20-6 and finished second in the San Joaquin League behind Fairmont Prep.
Providence has one of the most exciting players in Southern California in junior Patrick Gonzalez. Gonzalez has put up big numbers this year and has set multiple Pioneers records.
Behind Gonzalez and teammate Tyler Kidd, Providence is averaging 81.2 points a game. Gonzalez has a 37.8 scoring average and has made 137 three-pointers.