The good news for East Union High’s girls basketball team is that its loss to rival Manteca in the regular-season finale last Thursday didn’t bump it low enough in the Division III seedings for a possible second-round matchup with the nation’s top-ranked team in St. Mary’s.
The bad news? St. Mary’s is still in the bracket, as are a host of others that make up a brutally tough D-III field in the Sc-Joaquin Section.
The six highest seeded teams in Division III are all in the top 15 of MaxPreps’ overall section rankings — St. Mary’s at No. 1, Sacramento at No.3, Vanden at No. 5, Del Oro at No. 8, El Dorado at No. 12 and El Camino at No. 15.
El Dorado holds the sixth seed despite an impressive 23-1 finish to the regular season. St. Mary’s of Stockton is led by Manteca resident and McDonald’s All-American Chelsea Gray, a Duke signee.
The section released its brackets Sunday afternoon. East Union fell one spot to No. 7 after it was sixth in the playoff power ratings.
The Lancers (22-5) will host 10th-seeded Rio Americano (18-8) of Sacramento tonight. Manteca (17-10), meanwhile, will be heavy underdogs against No. 4 Vanden (23-4) in Fairfield.
East Union had its 32-game home winning streak ended by Manteca, which qualified by winning 41-38, but three streaks remain: Four straight Valley Oak League championships, 10 straight postseason appearances and three straight postseason victories at Dalben Center.
The four semifinalists advance to the California Interscholastic Federation Regional Championships (NorCals). A win by EU tonight would likely set up a tough road game against No. 2 Del Oro.
But the Lancers are in no position to look past the Raiders of Rio Americano. Rio Americano finished third in the top-heavy Capital Athletic League won by Bella Vista, the second-seeded school in Division II. The CAL also features Division III’s fifth seed in El Camino, which Rio upset 63-60 on Jan. 26.
Rio Americano senior Hilary Stewart (18.8 ppg) is adept at scoring from inside and out, and she is flanked by sharpshooting guards Shannon Louther (9 ppg) and Ashley Taylor (7.2 ppg). A pair of juniors — 5-foot-11 Mariah Maxwell (8.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and 5-10 Alex Denne (9.4 rpg) — anchors the Raiders in the post.
Manteca won four of its last five VOL contests, but its first-round opponent is riding behind a red-hot 14-game winning streak.
Manteca does share a common opponent with Vanden in VOL foe Weston Ranch. Manteca beat Weston Ranch in both of their meetings, but not in the same fashion that Vanden did.
The Vikings blew out Weston Ranch 76-27 during the West Coast Jamboree. They also crushed the Cougars 72-36 last year in Weston Ranch’s first-ever girls basketball postseason appearance in school history.
Manteca will have its hands full in 6-1 junior wing Erimma Amarikwa, who averages 17 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Ripon will have a rematch of its 2006-07 Division-IV championship-round showdown with Bear River, which won handily, 57-27, for a section title.
Making the trip to Grass Valley is never easy, especially to face a consistent playoff qualifier in Bear River. But of the lower-seeded teams, the No. 12 Indians (16-10) probably have the best chance at making a run to the semifinals and a NorCal berth.
Ripon won six of its last seven games and its only two Trans Valley League losses were blowouts against Division IV playoff favorite Modesto Christian. Undefeated Argonaut, seeded second, is on the other end of the bracket.
If the Indians can get by Bear River, they’ll face the winner of No. 4 and No. 13 Hughson, which they swept in league play.
Both Ripon and Bear River are led by their top post players — 6-footer Lauren Feddersen (13.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg) for Ripon, and 5-10 Riley Pearson (10 ppg, 8 rpg). But Bear River has three others who average at least eight points per game in guard Whitney Smith, guard Kelsey Uno and forward Lindsey Harter.
Ripon Christian is no stranger to winning first-round “upsets” in Division V.
Last year as the 12th seed, the Knights knocked off No. 5 Mountain Oaks 47-30 in the opening round.
Tonight in Napa they square off with No. 6 Trinity Prep (17-6), the Northern Pacific Athletic Conference champion. Trinity Prep was defeated, 38-17, by No. 10 Foresthill in the first round last season.
Ripon Christian (10-14) is in its final year in the competitive TVL, which consists of three Division IV playoff qualifiers, and the Knights hope that their rigid league schedule has them prepared for their third consecutive postseason appearance.