As expected, the Ripon Christian boys basketball team has been slotted as the top seed for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI playoffs.
Brackets were released by the section Saturday afternoon with its annual selection show on NFHS Network. The postseason tips off today with Divisions I-IV girls out-bracket games and Tuesday for boys out-bracket games.
Some notable developments for area schools include a Division I out-bracket game for Weston Ranch's reigning Division III champion boys team, play-in games for both of Lathrop's boys and girls squads and a first-round road game for the Trans-Valley League co-titlist Ripon boys. More on that later.
Ripon Christian (20-7) had a chance to wrap up sole possession of the TVL boys crown on Friday but lost to rival Ripon (15-13) 70-64, forcing the title share between the rival programs.
As outright league champ, the Knights would have been placed in the more competitive Division V where they'd stand as the most legitimate challenger for 2019 D5 king Brookside Christian. Brookside eliminated RC in the SJS Division V quarterfinals last season, 72-60.
“We wanted to get some payback against Brookside from last year, but we won't be able to do that,” RC guard Will Gilbert said after scoring 18 points in the loss to Ripon on Friday.
“We got a taste of what D6 has to offer us. I'm not saying it's going to be an easy road, but we have a good idea of what it looks like from here.”
Ripon Christian waxed last year's NorCal Division VI champion Cornerstone Christian 83-61 in a non-league game three weeks ago. The Knights were ranked as the top Division VI team in Northern California, according to MaxPreps computer ratings, until their second loss to Ripon and have slid to No. 2 behind Weed.
Heavy favorites at the section level, Ripon Christian won't play until Friday as it awaits the winner of No. 8 Big Valley Christian (14-12) and Lodi Academy (13-7).
Meanwhile, Ripon gets a tougher road as the No. 10 seed in Division IV. The Indians at least won't travel far with No. 7 Venture Academy (22-4) hosting them on Wednesday.
No team from the area has as arduous a task ahead as Valley Oak League boys runner-up Weston Ranch (17-11), which will compete in Division I after it was invited to the CIF State Open Division tournament last season. Section rules force SJS Open Division teams to play in the section's Division I bracket the following year.
The No. 14 Cougars get started a day earlier on Tuesday with a play-in game against Stockton rival Chavez (9-20), the 19th seed. A win gives Weston Ranch an opportunity to avenge one of its losses from earlier in the season, as No. 3 Folsom (22-6) plays host to the victor on Wednesday. The Bulldogs won handily 77-54 in their previous meeting, but Weston Ranch has been playing its best ball of late having won 11 of its last 12.
Lathrop (19-7) gets a familiar foe in a Division III out-bracket game Tuesday when No. 17 Kimball (12-16) visits. The Spartans squeaked out a 77-75 win over the Jaguars from Tracy during the 30th annual Tracy Winter Holiday Classic.
Also in Division III, No. 11 Manteca (14-14) and No. 12 Sierra (14-12) are both hitting the road for the opening round Wednesday. Manteca drew sixth-seeded Greater Sacramento League champion Florin (23-5), while the Timberwolves head to Merced to face No. 5 Central California Conference co-champion Golden Valley (22-6), which looks to avenge a 58-48 non-league defeat back on Nov. 30.
In the top-heavy Division III girls bracket, VOL champion East Union (24-4) was awarded the No. 4 seed and welcomes No. 13 El Capitan (15-13) of Merced. The Lancers are set up for a possible third showdown with No. 5 Merced, which they have already beaten twice this season.
No. 7 Manteca (19-7) is also hosting as it was paired with No. 10 Nevada Union (15-13) from Grass Valley. At-large qualifier Sierra (15-12) travels to Sacramento to face two-time state champion West Campus (20-5) in the 8-9 match-up.
Lathrop's No. 15-seeded girls (13-14) join Ripon in Division IV and will begin play tonight against No. 18 Central Catholic (7-13). The winner heads to No. 2 El Dorado (20-7) on Tuesday.
Ripon (19-8) slipped to the No. 6 seed after getting upset by Ripon Christian (15-10) 55-49 in its regular-season finale. The loss forced a TVL co-championship with Livingston (20-6), which is seeded fourth. Ripon was matched with No. 11 Union Mine (13-11) of El Dorado.
Ripon Christian landed the fourth seed in Division VI following its big win. The Knights square off with No. 5 Faith Christian (13-8) of Yuba City on Thursday, and the winner likely gets top-seeded Valley Christian (21-1).
Final-round contests take place Feb. 27-28 at Golden 1 Center. All semifinalists advance to the CIF State Northern California Regional Championships.