When the Central Coast Section added an Open Division for its boys and girls basketball playoffs a decade ago, a decision that theoretically put the top eight teams in one bracket, it came with an added bonus for the participants.
The section guaranteed that all eight teams would receive an invitation to the Northern California regionals.
The first-round CCS Open games were played on a Friday, with the final a week later.
Naturally, it was great for teams that won.
But for teams that lost, the section created a consolation bracket so they would not collect rust while waiting up to two weeks for a NorCal game.
On the eve of the Archbishop Mitty-Serra boys championship game in 2013, Soquel beat Piedmont Hills in the fifth-place game and Sacred Heart Cathedral defeated Archbishop Riordan for third place.
In 2018, the section amended the consolation side of the bracket to a single game for teams that lost in the first round.
The semifinal losers would no longer play for third place, nor would there be a game for fifth place.
Now, the CCS has gotten rid of traditional Open brackets entirely.
Following a model that the Southern Section adopted for its Open Division in 2019, the CCS will now have pool play for the eight teams that make the boys and girls Open Division this month.
Seeds 1, 4, 5, 8 will be in Pool A.
Seeds 2, 3, 6, 7 will be in Pool B.
CATCH UP ON HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
Each team will play three games within its pool. The winner of each pool will play for the Open Division championship on Feb. 25 at Kaiser Arena in Santa Cruz.
The higher seeds will host in pool play.
According to the CCS proposal, which was adopted by the section’s Board of Managers last week, there were a few factors behind the format change.
- Concern about some teams’ dominance in the Open.
- Concern about some teams being idle for a week or more.
- Concern about “meaningless” consolation games.
Round 1 of pool play will look no different from a traditional bracket – 1 vs. 8, 4 vs. 5, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6.
In Round 2, it’ll be 1 vs. 5, 4 vs. 8, 2 vs. 6, 3 vs. 7.
In Round 3, it’ll be 1 vs. 4, 5 vs. 8, 2 vs. 3 and 6 vs. 7.
Two-way ties will be broken by the head-to-head result.
Three-way ties will be broken by the lowest combined points in games won. Example: If the fourth seed beats No. 1 and No. 8 but loses to No. 5, its seed total would be 9.
Is this format a good idea?
We get the concerns about “meaningless” consolation games.
But the chances are still really high that there will be opening-round blowouts, particularly on the girls’ side.
Mitty has been the top seed in each of the last six Open Division girls playoffs. Its average margin of victory in first-round games over that span is 46.7 points.
Don’t think pool play is going to change that.
On the boys’ side, the early-round games have been more competitive in some instances. In 2019, for example, eighth-seeded Sacred Heart Cathedral beat top seed Mitty in the first round by four points on its Cinderella run to the championship. In 2020, No. 7 seed St. Francis upset second-seeded Riordan by six.
A better proposal than pool play would have been to condense the Open Division to six teams, following the path paved by the North Coast Section when it added an Open Division to its basketball playoffs in 2020.
Let’s see how that worked out.
On the girls’ side, top seed St. Joseph Notre Dame and No. 2 seed Salesian had opening-round byes.
In the semifinals, SJND beat No. 5 seed Bishop O’Dowd 54-48 and No. 3 seed Cardinal Newman edged Salesian 64-59.
The biggest blowout in the bracket was Cardinal Newman’s 54-31 opening-round win over No. 6 seed Heritage.
The NCS did not have playoffs in 2021.
On the bright side, if this pool play format doesn’t work out, the CCS has shown it won’t hesitate to make adjustments.
The King Show
Archbishop Riordan’s King-Njhsanni Wilhite, a candidate for Bay Area News Group athlete of the week after he scored 35 points on Saturday against St. Ignatius, was even better Monday against Sacred Heart Cathedral.
In the ninth-ranked Crusaders’ 80-64 victory at home, Wilhite scored 41 points to lead the way.
According to Riordan statistician Patrick Segurson, that is the most points by a Riordan player in a West Catholic Athletic League game.
Jerry Mixon had 33 points for SHC.
Riordan improved to 12-6 overall and 6-2 in the league.
SHC is 4-11, 2-7.
No. 6 Sacred Heart Prep 100, Pinewood 30
Sacred Heart Prep, playing on the road in Los Altos Hills, scored 89 points through three quarters on its way to a dominating victory in West Bay Athletic League play.
Emmer Nichols (21 points), Aidan Braccia (19 points), Sam Norris (13 points) and Sachit Sinha (10 points) scored in double figures for SHP.
The Gators, who play host to rival Menlo School tonight, improved to 15-3, 8-0.
Pinewood is 8-8, 3-6.
No. 18 Clayton Valley Charter 54, No. 7 Northgate 49
Clayton Valley avenged a loss at Northgate last month, winning at home behind 21 points from Jeremiah Dargan, 13 from Jake King and 10 from James Moore.
The Ugly Eagles improved to 14-7 overall and 4-3 in the Diablo Athletic League’s Foothill Division.
For Northgate (17-4, 6-2), the loss damaged its hopes of catching Campolindo for the league title. The second-place Broncos are two games behind in the standings.
Fourth-ranked Miramonte rolled over College Park 69-37 in DAL Foothill play to run its record to 18-3, 5-2. College Park is 6-14, 1-7. … In a non-league matchup, Piedmont won on the road over No. 16 San Ramon Valley 61-56 to improve to 10-9. SRV is 11-6.
No. 1 Carondelet 62, Foothill 17
Carondelet, playing on the road in Pleasanton, bounced back from its loss Saturday to San Ramon Valley with a decisive victory in East Bay Athletic League play.
The Cougars are 18-2, 5-1. Foothill fell to 4-15, 1-7.