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Halfway mark of league seasons mean playoff races start

By: Mike Ray
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Respective prep hoop leagues for boys and girls basketball teams reach the halfway mark of their seasons this week and with a plethora of area squads vying to qualify for the playoffs. Several races are on for teams to nail down both league championships and postseason berths.

 

Now, the question is who will rise up down the stretch?

 

“I think our league is still really wide open,” said Lincoln boys coach Robert Ash about the Foothill Valley League chase that sees four of the FVL’s teams still within striking distance of each other. “It will probably go right down to the final game.”

 

In the new world of CIF Sac-Joaquin Section postseason play, old school purists probably have a hard time believing that the section’s hoop playoffs (Feb. 11) actually start before Valentine’s Day.

 

“It really sneaks up on you fast,” said Colfax girls coach Rich Simpton. “Basically in two and a half weeks, you have playoffs starting.”

 

There are two ways for teams to reach the postseason this year: Finish in the top 3 (top 4 in the Sierra Foothill League) of their respective league standings or in the top 15 of their division (I-IV) in MaxPreps’ rankings. In D-V and D-VI, at-large teams can gain berths by finishing in the top 10 of Maxpreps final ratings.

 

Here’s a look at area teams and where they stand coming into this week.

 

BOYS

 

Foothill Valley League

This week’s Placer-at-Lincoln game to close the FVL first half will say a lot in whether the Zebras (16-6, 4-0) run off and hide from the FVL field or if the Hillmen (13-9, 3-1) bring the leaders back to the pack. Regardless, both the Zebras (No. 12 in D-II) and Hillmen (No. 13 in D-III) need to keep winning to strengthen their respective postseason seeding. Going into this week, Ponderosa (No. 16 in D-II) and Nevada Union (No. 18 in D-III) also need strong finishes to earn playoff nods.

 

Pioneer Valley League

Another final first half game – Wednesday’s Center-at-Marysville contest – will have the Cougars (15-6, 4-0) trying to separate themselves from the rest of the PVL field. Bear River (11-9, 2-2) showed some spunk in the first half of league play and is sitting comfortable in a playoff berth bid currently with a No. 11 berth in D-IV. Meanwhile, Colfax (6-12, 0-4), which recently lost 6-foot-8 center Max Wolff for the season, is in danger of missing the playoffs after being one game away from playing in a CIF state championship game last March.

 

Sierra Foothill League

Folsom (18-5, 5-0) and Rocklin (20-2, 4-1) have turned the SFL into a two-team race as the remainder of the league’s four teams all have three or more losses. Despite sitting at 1-4 and tied for last place in the SFL with Granite Bay, Del Oro (8-13, 1-4) and first-year coach Luke Vaughn still have plenty to play for as the league’s No. 3 and 4 playoff berths currently are being contested by four teams separated by one game.     

 

Central Valley California League

Friday’s Foresthill-at-Sacramento Waldorf winner should have the inside track to the CVCL crown, but there could be plenty of speed bumps along the way with five other league teams bunched up and separated by one game. Foresthill (12-8, 7-1) is currently No. 10 in D-V while Forest Lake Christian (9-10, 3-4) sits at No. 7 in D-VI.

 

 

GIRLS

 

Foothill Valley League

Placer (4-0, 14-7) took a one-game lead in the FVL race into this week as the Hillmen girls prepared for key back-to-back road games against their two closest pursuers, Lincoln (3-1) and Nevada Union (3-1). Placer also finds itself sitting pretty in the section’s D-III rankings. Coming into the week, the squad trailed just Vanden and Christian Brothers.

 

Pioneer Valley League

Colfax coach Rich Simpton is concerned that the more his Lady Falcons win, the more they could drop in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section’s D-IV ratings. Colfax (18-3, 4-0) is currently the No. 1 ranked D-IV girls team in the section, but because the bottom three PVL teams are a combined 5-47 overall, Colfax actually can slip percentage points-wise as they win. Bear River (11-10, 2-2) is 15th in the D-IV rating but looks solid in being able to secure one of the PVL’s top three berths.  

 

Sierra Foothill League

Talk about a tough league. Run these numbers together. Del Oro’s Lady Eagles are currently sitting in fifth place in a six-team league with a SFL mark of 1-4. But would you believe that despite their lowly league performance, the Lady Eagles (18-5 overall) are the No. 3-rated girls team in D-II? Folsom looks like the team to beat at 5-0 with Whitney (4-1) and Oak Ridge (3-2) chasing.

 

Central Valley California League

Forest Lake Christian’s girls are the surprise of this season’s CVCL race as the Falcons have stepped off eight straight wins and are 14-5 overall. Monday, in a Martin Luther King Day matchup, the Falcons handled CIF North Coast Section No. 12-ranked D-IV team Ygnacio Valley of Concord, 56-45. Forest Lake is currently fourth in D-VI. Foresthill (7-12, 4-4) sits in the No. 13 spot in D-V.