Few surprises in boys Sac-Joaquin Section pairings, but MMC relegated to outbracket

bvanderbeek@modbee.comFebruary 19, 2014 

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    ONLINE

    To see a video of Bee staff writer Joe Cortez and Brian VanderBeek discussing the Sac-Joaquin Section high school basketball playoff brackets, as well as a transcript of their online chat with local basketball fans, please visit www.modbee.com/sports.

    INSIDE

    Cal-Hi rankings, stars of the week, Page C3

    Complete boys and girls Sac-Joaquin Section basketball tournament pairings, Page C4

You might think the members of the Modesto Metro Conference would feel slighted about where their boys’ teams were seeded in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

And at first glance, such a reaction might seem logical. After all, 20 teams were placed into the Division 2 bracket that was released Wednesday afternoon, and MMC schools grabbed seeds No. 16, 18 and 19, which means all three were relegated to Friday’s outbracket action.

No, it’s not much love. But league champion Davis High got exactly what it wanted – a home game.

As the No. 16 seed, the Spartans will be hosting No. 17 Vallejo at 7 p.m. Friday. Had Davis been granted a seed in the 9 to 12 range, it would be opening playoff action Wednesday on the road.

“Our gym is a good one for us to play in,” said Spartans’ coach Dan Pacheco, who on Tuesday claimed his fourth MMC crown in the last five seasons. “It’s also a difficult place for teams to come in to play us. So we’re going to bring our fans and our spirit and our hard work and see where all of that gets us.”

Does that sound like complaining to you?

With the section adopting the automatic qualifying system for high school basketball playoffs, ditching its often-controversial power rankings, there were 23 boys’ basketball teams in the Stanislaus District that knew they were in the postseason prior to Wednesday’s announcement.

And once the brackets were released by the section office, the only moans coming from coaches had to do with the chore of finding scouting reports on schools they never considered they’d be playing. Beyer will be visiting Bear Creek of Stockton, and Gregori will have to travel to play Vacaville.

The three teams qualifying from the Central California Conference all were granted home games. Turlock, as the No. 16 seed, hosts Stagg in an outbracket game on Friday, while No. 6 Merced hosts Pleasant Grove and No. 7 Golden Valley gets a home game against Oak Ridge on Wednesday.

Modesto Christian – in Division 3 – was the lone Stanislaus District team to earn a No. 1 seed, and while that’s a nod to the extremely tough schedule played by the 19-8 Crusaders, it also means a long wait.

Modesto Christian closed its regular season Tuesday with an 81-41 victory againast Escalon, and now must wait until Feb. 28 to play its first playoff game. The bye was forced when only 15 teams qualified for the Division 3 bracket.

“I don’t like sitting out,” said coach Gary Porter. “We’re healthy right now, so let’s play. The good thing is that we’ll be home that first night.”

The Crusaders will be hosting the winner of the Rio Americano-Center game, and there’s a chance that it could be the last home court appearance for MC this season. The final two rounds in Division 3 are on neutral sites, and should the Crusaders claim the section crown they’re likely to be placed in the open division for the regional tournament, where they would be unlikely to gain a seed high enough to host a game.

“At this point in time you have to do what you do,” said Porter, who is two wins shy of 500 for his coaching career. “If they play zone we have to run our zone offense and have enough of it to win. We prepare for everything during the year and that’s why we play fast teams, slow teams and a lot of good teams.”

Nine of the 16 teams in Division 4 hail from the Stanislaus District, with 22-3 Riverbank grabbing the top local seed at No. 3 – right where coach Jeff Jennings thought the Bruins would land.

“We were looking at the draw and thinking a 3 or a 4, but that we’d earned a 3 seed,” Jennings said. “It means we get two home games, and that’s what we’ve worked all year to get. After that you can throw everything out the window because it all moves to neutral sites.”

The big question for the Bruins heading into the postseason is the health of star player Rolaun Dunham, who sprained his ankle in last week’s loss to Modesto Christian. But in Dunham’s absence on Tuesday, Reilly Nabors and Curtis Porter III both stepped up to carry the scoring load in a 78-43 victory over Hughson.

“We have developed depth, and sometimes adversity is a blessing in disguise,” Jennings said. “Reilly had a concussion and missed games, so in our last six games we’ve missed guys and other guys stepped up each time.”

Central Catholic, which ran its way to a perfect record in its final Western Athletic Conference season, probably was in line for a No. 2 seed in Division 5. But when the bracket was unveiled, Sacramento-area power Capital Christian grabbed the top seed and Stockton’s Brookside Christian was slotted at No. 2.

Even then, Central Catholic coach Mike Wilson is seeing the No. 3 seed as a blessing. While Capital Christian and Brookside Christian both earned first-round byes and must wait until Feb. 28 to play, Central Catholic jumps into action on Wednesday with a home game against Western Sierra of Rocklin.

“At first you’re kind of offended about not getting the No. 2 seed, but Brookside had a better record and I’d prefer playing the first game on Wednesday instead of sitting for 10 days between games,” Wilson said.

“If you sit too long and haven’t played in a competitive game for a while you might be flat or lose some of your edge. I’d rather play early. At the end of the line, if we end up playing Brookside on a neutral court the only difference between No. 2 and No. 3 is the jersey color.”

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or (209) 578-2150. His blog is at www.modbee.com/brianvanderbeek.

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