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Southern Section Open Division playoffs pits best versus best

Southern Section Open Division playoffs pits best versus best
Sierra Canyon guard Scotty Pippen Jr. grabs the ball between the legs of Centennial's Allan McBride. Both will be playing in Open Division playoffs. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

It’s the sixth season of the Open Division basketball playoffs in the Southern Section, and with it comes another attempt to figure out a way to keep fans, players and coaches happy.

The first two years, it was a 16-team bracket with a consolation bracket that produced complaints about teams waiting as much as two weeks to begin the state playoffs. “We were having fist fights almost every day in practice because they were tired of facing each other,” Corona Centennial coach Josh Giles recalled.

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The consolation bracket was eventually revised to create more playing opportunities but a team would lose and have to play games that were judged to be meaningless. It was boring for the consolation teams. Last year, it was an eight-team bracket.

Now comes the first eight-team pool play tournament, beginning Friday. The games should be intense. It’s best versus best over an eight-day period that will produce two finalists. The question is: Will the last team standing be in any kind of shape to compete for a state title?

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Giles said the tournament could be a “bloodbath” over 2 1/2 weeks.

The opening games include No. 2-seeded Sierra Canyon taking on Santa Ana Mater Dei in a rematch of last year’s Open Division final, and No. 1 Rancho Christian hosting powerful Bishop Montgomery. Just wait until Game 3 next Friday night. Corona Centennial is at Sierra Canyon, and Mater Dei plays at St. John Bosco in a rematch of Trinity League teams. By then, exhaustion will have set in but the adrenaline will be flowing.

“It’s not the easiest thing I’ve ever heard of,” Giles said. “I think the main point by doing this is you eliminate those meaningless games. Now every game matters.”

It should be fun if teams don’t get beat up. If they do, Fairfax and Westchester from the City Section will be looking forward to take advantage during the state Open Division playoffs.

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And coaches might want to save some of their secret plays for the state playoffs, because six of the eight Open Division teams from the Southern Section will likely be put into the state Open Division playoffs.

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