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Five area teams to host playoff openers; RC girls get bye

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Boys basketball coaches Dave Asuncion, left, and Scott Thomason of rival schools Manteca and Sierra feel the Valley Oak League was slighted based on their seeds in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division ...

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/

POSTED February 20, 2014 12:15 a.m.

Reactions were mixed among area coaches Wednesday when the Sac-Joaquin Section unveiled its postseason basketball brackets.

Sierra High’s Valley Oak League champion boys team may have been knocked out of a desired top-four seed in Division III after losing two of its last three regular-season contests — both to other playoff-bound squads.

The Timberwolves (20-6) are attempting to reach the section finals a third straight year, but it will be tougher with no guarantee of a second-round home game. They are seeded sixth and play host to former VOL foe Central Valley (21-6) of Ceres next Wednesday, Feb. 26. The first round for girls is on Tuesday; although the postseason officially tips off Friday with out-bracket games.

“I thought we’d be higher than we are, to be honest with you,” Sierra coach Scott Thomason said. “The losses hurt us I’m sure, so we may have put ourselves in that position. For some reason though our league is not getting the respect it deserves.”

City rival Manteca (19-8) may also have a gripe as the No. 13 seed. No area boys team is rolling like the Buffaloes heading into the playoffs having won seven in a row, including last week’s 47-45 triumph over Sierra.

They finished second in the VOL and were rewarded with a first-round game at No. 4 Christian Brothers (18-9), the state’s 18th-ranked Division III team by MaxPreps. Meanwhile, No. 10 Foothill (13-14) and No. 12 El Dorado (13-13) were both third-place teams out of their conferences with worse overall records but get more favorable opening-round matchups.

Not surprisingly, powerhouse Modesto Christian (19-8) is top-seeded team in Division III, with rivals Vanden (17-10) and Fairfield (22-5) at 2 and 3, respectively. Vanden earned its first conference title since 1995 after twice upsetting Fairfield to claim the Solano County Athletic League outright. Pioneer Valley League champion Lincoln (21-6) of Placer County rounds out the top five.

Not all are upset about their placement.

Lathrop (16-10) is in a good spot in the Division IV bracket. Fresh off their thrilling overtime win over Sierra in the regular-season finale, the No. 6 Spartans were elated to find out that they will host a first-round contest against Southern League champion and 11th-seeded Mariposa (22-3).  No. 3 Riverbank (21-3) likely awaits the winner.

It’s a wide-open field in Division IV, which has no overwhelming favorite and lacks the overall depth of Division III. At the top is Encina (24-3). Natomas (15-8) is No. 2 and takes on No. 15 Ripon (8-19).

The East Union girls (18-8) aren’t complaining either after securing the third and final berth available to the VOL. It will be their 14th playoff appearance in the last 15 years, and it will take place at Dalben Center. They are seeded eighth and are paired with No. 9 Placer (14-12).

Also staying home to open Division III play is VOL runner-up Weston Ranch (18-8) is seeded sixth and faces No. 11 El Camino (13-13).

“I feel like I gotta take the committee out for dinner,” East Union coach Jim Agostini joked. “A No. 8 seed with a home game is a long way from a 1-4 start to league. We’re excited about it.”

The East Union-Placer winner takes on top-seeded Vanden (21-5), a big favorite in this bracket. Modesto Christian (19-8), Patterson (23-4) and Florin (18-9) are Nos. 2-4 in that order.

Ripon Christian’s girls team (21-3) won’t get a chance to tack onto its 18-game winning streak until Thursday, Feb. 27. That’s because the Knights have a first-round bye in the 11-team Division V bracket. They’ll await No. 6 Sacramento Waldorf (12-12) or No. 11 Western Sierra Academy (7-11). Small-school juggernaut and No. 1 seed Brookside Christian (23-4) is probably the section’s surest bet to capture a blue banner, which would be its third in a row.

In Division V boys, Ripon Christian (21-5) drew the fifth seed and welcomes No. 12 Buckingham Charter (12-9) next Wednesday. State power Capital Christian (24-3) is the defending champ here.

It is the first time in 25 years that the old power ratings system was not used to help the section’s playoff committee determine qualifiers and seeds. Now, the top three teams in every league are guaranteed spots, and each of the nine conferences with the highest postseason winning percentages from the previous three years is awarded a fourth.

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