Wildcats notch No. 1 seed

On three occasions, the Renaissance Academy boys’ basketball program has vied for a CIF Southern Section Division championship only to come up short.

But many believe this season may very well be the best chance of them all.

Renaissance, as expected, was bestowed the No. 1 seed in the Division 6 tournament on Sunday and will begin its championship quest on Wednesday when it hosts St. Monica Academy.

“I think our schedule was tougher than a lot of teams in higher divisions,” said Wildcats Coach Sid Cooke. “I kind of expected [to be the No. 1 seed] considering the strength of schedule. … We feel we’re pretty
much as prepared for playoffs as we can be.”

The Wildcats are one of five local boys’ basketball teams who will hit the playoff hardwood, with Renaissance looking for its first CIF championship plaque, while Flintridge Prep is trying to repeat and Crescenta Valley, Glendale and St. Francis round out the quintet that has all earned top-16 seedings.

Cooke said it’s uncertain as to what venue will host the Wednesday game yet.

St. Monica is the International League’s third-place team. Renaissance also took third in the Harbor League, but has been ranked atop the division for most of the season. Still, Cooke isn’t taking anything for granted.

“I don’t look past anyone,” he said. “Anything can happen in the playoffs.”

In Division 1A, Crescenta Valley, after finishing second in the Pacific League thanks to Muir having to forfeit 20 victories and its league crown due to an ineligible player, earned the fourth seed and will open up Friday against Colton, a San Andreas at-large entry.

Falcons Coach Shawn Zargarian admitted he didn’t know too much about Colton, but was doing plenty of homework to find out on Sunday afternoon.

“This is the fun of the CIF draws,” he said.

Zargarian’s team has won seven of its last eight with its only loss coming against Muir, which has been overturned into a forfeit win. The streak also included a win over Pasadena.

“We’re actually in a good place right now,” said Zargarian, whose team, should it advance would play either La Quinta or Warren on Feb. 21 in the second round. “I think our guys are moving in the right direction.”

Elsewhere in the Division IA bracket, Glendale, which took third in the Pacific, earned a home game and the 16th seed.  It will face Diamond Bar, the Hacienda League’s third-place finisher.

“Just happy to be there. We get a third-place team and we’re a third-place team, so, hey, we’ll see what happens,” Glendale Coach Steve Snodgress said. “Having a home game will be a lot of fun.”

The winner will face La Sierra or top-seeded Mission Viejo on Feb. 21.

On Wednesday, St. Francis will open up the Division 3A playoffs on the road against Mountain View, the Mission Valley League’s third-place team. The Golden Knights, a Mission League at-large entrant, are seeded 10th and will play either Covina or Pioneer in Friday’s second round should they advance.

St. Francis co-Coach Jeff Stephens said he hasn’t been able to piece together much information about Mountain View (14-12).

“We don’t know much about them,” said Stephens, who, along with co-Coach Ray O’Brien, has guided the Golden Knights to the playoffs for the fourth straight season. “I wish I knew more about them, so that our guys can be more prepared.

“We have six seniors and we are pretty well prepared coming out of the Mission League. I think they are that much more mentally tougher.”

Flintridge Prep will begin its quest to repeat as a CIF champion when it hosts familiar first-round foe Santa Clara on Wednesday in the opening round of the Division 5AA tournament. Should the Rebels move on, they’ll take to the second round on Friday to face Bloomington Christian or Arrowhead Christian.

Flintridge Prep Coach Garrett Ohara said Santa Clara (7-19) will be a formidable first-round matchup. The teams will meet in the first round for the second time in three seasons. In 2010, visiting Santa Clara knocked off fourth-seeded Flintridge Prep, 46-44.

“We have some guys still on our team who were a part of that game,” Ohara said. “We know we will be in for a battle because Santa Clara is a very tough team.

“Repeating [as division champions] is going to be tough. We will be ready. If we can get to the quarterfinals or semifinals, then that would be amazing.”

All games are set to tip off at 7 p.m. unless a change is agreed upon.

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