After more than two months of preparation, high school basketball enters its win-or-go-home phase on Wednesday with the start of playoff action, and no division will be tougher than Southern Section Division 1AA for boys and girls.
The pairings were released Sunday, and Long Beach Poly (24-1) was awarded the No. 1 seeding in the boys' bracket, with Brea (25-0) receiving No. 1 in the girls' draw. Both face strong tests along the way.
For Poly to win it all, it could face challenges from No. 2 Santa Ana Mater Dei (24-2), No. 3 Corona Centennial (23-3) or No. 4 Etiwanda (25-2). And there are more good teams lurking within the bracket, such as Murrieta Valley, Pasadena and Upland.
But Poly Coach Sharrief Metoyer said, "We're ready to go after it."
Poly suffered its only defeat two weeks ago against Las Vegas Bishop Gorman in the Nike Extravaganza, and Metoyer said, "I think we learned a tremendous lesson in terms of what it takes be winners. You get that taste of defeat and you don't want to experience it again."
The 1AA draw in girls' basketball will be equally challenging for Brea, with Long Beach Poly (23-2) seeded No. 2, Mater Dei (24-1) at No. 3 and Moreno Valley Canyon Springs (24-2) at No. 4.
The Mission League had two schools earn No. 1 seedings, with Los Angeles Loyola in 1A and North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake in 3A.
One controversy involved Gardena Serra, which forfeited 13 victories after discovering an ineligible player and was not included in the 3AA boys' draw. The Del Rey League must decide before the start of the tournament on Wednesday whether to give Serra one of its guaranteed playoff spots, which currently belong to Torrance Bishop Montgomery, La Puente Bishop Amat and Pasadena La Salle.
In another controversy, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, ranked No. 7 in Division 4AA, was left out of the playoffs because the Southern Section never received its at-large petition.
Notre Dame Coach Bill Bedgood said he saw his athletic secretary fax the form on Thursday but no one followed up to confirm it had been received.
He said the fax was part of several other sports seeking playoff berths and they were processed. He said he will meet with Southern Section officials on Monday.
The championships will be held March 2-5 at the Anaheim Convention Center.