Bring it on!
Weston Ranch is ready for the big time.
The Cougars boys’ basketball team is one of just six Northern California squads to get an invitation to the CIF Open Division Championships — the state’s premier postseason tournament reserved for the best of the best.
They’re also one of four area boys’ teams hitting the road to start NorCals. Manteca is back in the Division III bracket where it claimed its state title in 2016, while Ripon and Ripon Christian are placed in Divisions IV and V and bound for the North State. The Open Division tips off on Wednesday, and the rest begin tonight.
In soccer, the SJS champion Sierra and Ripon girls clubs are hosting NorCal openers today, as are the section runner-up East Union boys.
Weston Ranch (31-1) holds the distinction as the first boys basketball team from San Joaquin County to compete in the Open Division for boys basketball and the first public school from the southern half of the SJS. The Open Division was added to the CIF playoffs in 2013.
The Cougars routed Valley Oak League rival Central Catholic 67-42 Saturday at Golden 1 Center for their 30th straight win of the season and second SJS Division III title. Seeded No. 6 out of the six teams in the NorCal Open bracket, they square off with No. 3 De La Salle (28-3) of Concord. Second-seeded Sheldon of Sacramento, the reigning NorCal champ, awaits the winner.
Weston Ranch coach Chris Teevan has no issue with his team’s position, despite his Cougars being ranked higher than three others — De La Salle, No. 4 Modesto Christian and No. 5 Archbishop Mitty — in the bracket, according to MaxPreps computer ratings. Mitty does, however, have the head-to-head advantage, handing them their only defeat of the season, 58-45 on Nov. 29.
“Just wanted a seat at the table,” Teevan said. “Our kids have done everything to earn the opportunity to play in this division. We’re focused and excited for Wednesday.”
Manteca (21-10) lost to Weston Ranch 67-53 in the SJS Division III semifinals. The Buffaloes are looking to bounce back tonight as the NorCal Division III No. 9 seed. They’re traveling to No. 8 Monterey (22-4), the Central Coast Section Division III champion. The winner plays top-seeded Redwood (23-8).
Trans-Valley League titlist Ripon (19-12) is seeded 14th in Division IV and takes on University Prep (25-6) of Redding. Rival Ripon Christian (20-10) also gets a tough draw but in Division V. The Knights are slotted at No. 16 and ventures to No. 1 Mt. Shasta (29-1). Both University Prep and Mt. Shasta are reigning Northern Section champions.
The NorCal and SoCal champs of each division — except Division VI — will meet for state titles on March 8-9 at Golden 1 Center.
Fresh off claiming its fifth overall SJS girls soccer banner, Sierra (27-2-2) was awarded the No. 2 seed in the NorCal Division III tournament and plays host to No. 7 Chico (20-2-1), the NS Division I titleholder. The Timberwolves have an opportunity to host two NorCal games at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium. Marin Academy is seeded No. 1.
East Union’s boys squad seeks redemption after its heartbreaking 2-1 loss in the SJS Division III final. The third-seeded Lancers (20-7-2) are in Division IV for NorCals and welcomes Chico-based No. 6 seed Pleasant Valley (16-9-2) to Dino Cunial Field tonight.
While East Union’s boys and Sierra’s girls are making their first NorCal apperances, the Ripon girls return after reaching the Division IV final last year. This is only the second year that the CIF has put on a regional tournament for Northern California. The goal is to eventually have regional champs meet for state titles like in football and basketball.
The No. 4 Indians (18-3-1) are matched with No. 5 Summerville (14-3-3) in a showdown pitting SJS champions in the NorCal Division V opening round. Ripon seize its second straight SJS Division V banner, while the Bears of Tuolumne won the Division VI bracket. Ripon is set up for a possible rematch with top-seeded Lowell, which beat the Indians in the NorCal championship a year ago.
First-round soccer games are scheduled to start 4 p.m., while basketball contests tip off at 7.