GLENDALE — In all his seasons of constructing a successful boys’ basketball program at Flintridge Prep, Rebels Coach Garrett O’Hara has never had a team bestowed the No. 1 seed entering the CIF playoffs.
That changed on Sunday when Ohara’s Rebels were unveiled as the top seed in the CIF Southern Section Division 5-AA playoffs as one of a handful of locals to receive favorable first-round draws.
Crescenta Valley will host Quartz Hill as the seventh seed in the Division 1-A tournament, Renaissance Academy welcomes Calvary Chapel as the No. 5 seed in Division 5-A, while Glendale takes to the road to face No. 12 Simi Valley in Division 2-AA, No. 10 St. Francis faces host Sierra Vista in Division 4-AA and Prep prepares for St. Paul. All first-round games are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
“It’s nice to have,” said Ohara of his Rebels, who are 19-5 and shared the Prep League title, garnering the division’s top seed. “We’re embracing it, it’s nice to be the No. 1, but it doesn’t win any games.”
With his Rebels on the heels of a disappointing loss in last season’s CIF first round to Santa Clara despite owning the No. 4 seed and further reminded of first-round woes with an opponent in St. Paul that defeated them in the opening round of the 2008 tournament, Ohara has already stressed to his Rebels not looking past the 6-20 Swordsmen.
“That’s exactly what I told them,” said Ohara, who, despite his team having lost two of its last four is confident of where it’s headed. “I’m very happy with where we are. Even though we lost those games, it doesn’t mean we’re not playing well. … We’re healthy, we’re playing well, we’re mentally ready.”
Should the Rebels advance, they would face either Whitney or Linfield Christian on Friday at a site to be determined.
Like Ohara, Crescenta Valley Coach Shawn Zargarian and his Falcons are reminded of past playoff losses and taking the “one-game-at-a-time” approach as they enter the playoffs.
The Falcons (20-7) will host Quartz Hill (11-15), a Golden League at-large entrant. The winner will face either Walnut or 10th-seeded Tesoro, the latter having eliminated the Falcons in last year’s playoffs.
“Our motto all season, even league, has been one game at a time,” Zargarian said. “That’s the mentality we’ll go into this game with.”
Zargarian said he doesn’t know too much about his team’s opponents other than that they come from a formidable league and are very athletic. As for his squad, he’s quite pleased with the situation it finds itself in, owning the seventh seed with a first-round home game after having won nine of its last 10 games —including a buzzer-beater over rival Arcadia to end the regular season.
“You can’t ask for anything else. I think all the hard work in the preseason and in league paid off,” said Zargarian, adding that the win over Arcadia certainly has the Falcons headed in the right direction. “It really lifted our guys’ spirits and confidence. Hopefully it’ll carry over.”
Renaissance (20-6) is fresh off an undefeated run as Harbor League champion in its inaugural season in the league and will play host to a 12-14 Calvary Chapel squad that is the No. 3 team from the Delphic League.
“They’ve got some size and they’re very strong down low,” said Wildcats Coach Sid Cooke, whose team advanced to the semifinals last season. “This is a first-round game we have to take very seriously.”
Should fifth-seeded Renaissance advance, it would face either Granada Hills Hillcrest Christian or Mary Star of the Sea.
St. Francis (10-16) was granted an at-large bid out of the arduous Mission League and is the 10th seed in Division 4-AA. The Golden Knights will take to the road to face Sierra Vista (18-10), the Montview League’s No. 2 team. The winner will face either eighth-seeded Northview or Northwood.
“In the last two years, we’ve had a first-round game where we’ve been able to get by,” St. Francis co-Coach Ray O’Brien said. “That’s come from being so well prepared from playing in the Mission League.
“It should be a competitive game.”
Glendale, the Pacific League’s No. 4 team, will also take to the road, bringing its 12-14 record on the road to face 12th-seeded Simi Valley (19-7), which shared the Marmonte League title. The winner will take on either fifth-seeded Edison or Sunny Hills.
Glendale Coach Steve Snodgress said he’s a bit familiar with the Pioneers, who he saw play in the Falcon Classic at Crescenta Valley High in early December.
“I saw them lose a close game against St. Francis,” said Snodgress, whose team beat St. Francis. “They are efficient offensively and aggressive defensively.
“To me, Simi Valley year in and year out always fields a good team. It will be a good test for us and we are proud to be playing. You need to play hard and enjoy the moment.”