Technically, we’re into the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section basketball playoffs, with a handful of games having been contested last week.
But in reality, we’re only now approaching the postseason’s premiere, with 19 Stanislaus District girls teams tipping off tonight and 17 boys teams in action Wednesday.
And it’s more than just basketball on the marquee this week. The section Masters wrestling meet will be held Friday and Saturday at Stockton Arena. In addition to Masters titles, berths to the CIF State Championships are on the line.
But the red carpet that will be unfurled tonight is for the girls. All games tip off at 7 p.m.
Three teams from the Modesto Metro Conference – one that should win by about 40 points and two that hit the road to face formidable foes – still have dreams of cutting down the nets at Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena.
Modesto Christian, the reigning state and section champion in Division III and the top seed in the D-II bracket this year, shouldn’t break a sweat against No. 16 McNair of Stockton, the runner-up in the San Joaquin Athletic Association.
“The playoffs came quickly this year,” said Modesto Christian coach Robb Spencer, whose team has reached the semifinal round every season since 2005. “This year flew by.”
Maybe that’s because as state champs, everybody lined up to give the Crusaders their best shot.
“This year’s team has the advantage of having gone through that state run last year,” Spencer said. “They know what it takes to get there.”
Meanwhile, No. 14 Enochs, which exited in the second round of the Division I playoffs last year to eventual runner-up Oak Ridge, probably would be ecstatic to duplicate last year’s feat. The Eagles will head up Highway 99 to take on No. 3 McClatchy in Sacramento.
“We loaded up our schedule with some good games and, unfortunately, didn’t get over the hump against those tough competitors,” Enochs coach Curtis Reynolds said. “But what would you rather have: Teams you know you can beat, and not be ready for playoffs, or roll the dice against tougher opponents?”
The Eagles will need a big performance from junior Katie Dillon, a junior guard who has had to step up her game in the absence of 2014 MMC Most Valuable Player Akaysha Simpkins.
Beyer, the third-place team from the MMC, tied Downey and Gregori for third but was awarded the league’s last playoff seed by virtue of giving up fewer points to Modesto Christian and Enochs. The Patriots, seeded 15th in D-II, get No. 2 Antelope in their opener.
“We’re a very young team so this will be a learning experience for us,” said first-year Beyer coach San Kao, who starts two freshmen, a sophomore and two juniors. “But they’re not scared of anything. We know they’re a beatable team if they’re off their game.”
In addition to the MMC, the Central California Conference (Golden Valley, Buhach Colony, Merced), Trans-Valley League (Riverbank, Hughson, Ripon), Western Athletic Conference (Patterson, Livingston, Central Valley) and Southern League (Gustine, Mariposa, Orestimba) also have three teams still dreamin’.
Girls basketball: Tonight, Thursday at home sites
Boys basketball: Wednesday, Friday at home sites
Wrestling: Friday, Saturday at Stockton Arena
▪ For today’s full girls basketball schedule, see Page C2