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Playoffs coming into focus for area hoops

By: Mike Ray
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Can the Placer High boys basketball team have its cake and eat it too?

 

Will the Colfax girls, last season’s Division V Sac-Joaquin Section champions, be unnerved by moving up a division this season?

 

Can the Bear River boys team find postseason success with just seven players?

 

And are the Del Oro girls, despite struggling in the rugged Sierra Foothill League, a sleeper in this year’s D-II tournament?

 

Those are some of the underlying questions and storylines this week as area hoop teams start to line up for the start of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section’s playoffs which begin next week, the earliest playoff start in section history.

 

Section officials will meet Saturday to finalize the brackets that will open play with play-in games Monday, Feb. 11. The girls tournament then starts in full swing with first-round games Tuesday, Feb. 12, while the boys begin play Feb. 13.

 

Second-round games will then proceed Feb. 14–15 followed by semifinals at home sites Feb. 19 for the girls and Feb. 20 for the boys. The section’s championship games then are slated Feb.22–23 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.

 

Here’s a quick look at what playoff scenarios are shaping up for area teams:

 

BOYS

 

Placer (17-9, 7-1) – The Hillmen entered this week on the verge of needing one win in its last two games to grab at least a share of the Foothill Valley League championship. However, with competitive games against both Ponderosa and Lincoln on the docket this week, the Hillmen were still uncertain going into Wednesday’s game at Ponderosa on just where the team will land for its postseason bracketing.

 

This is what was known: A Placer win over Ponderosa, which would give the Hillmen the outright league title, lands the Hillmen in D-III. However, anything less, even a co-championship, would probably slide Placer down into D-IV.  

 

Coming into this week with a 7.8 MaxPreps rating, Placer was ranked 14th in D-III. In D-IV, the Hillmen would most likely jump up into a top-eight seed.

 

Bear River (14-10, 5-3) – The Bruins are on their brink of making their first playoff appearance since 2012. Coming into this week, the Bruins were tied with Foothill for one of the Pioneer Valley League’s three automatic berths and held the tiebreaker over the Mustangs by virtue of their season sweep. However, even if the Bruins can’t land one of the PVL’s automatic berths, Bear River, currently 11th in the MaxPreps D-IV rankings, will qualify by finishing in the division’s top 15.

 

Foresthill (16-8, 11-1) – By virtue of clinching the outright Central Valley California League title, Foresthill has secured a berth in the D-V playoffs. The Wildfires, with two games left this week, were sitting in the MaxPreps D-V No. 7 position with an outside chance of possibly moving up past Bradshaw Christian at No. 6. Brookside Christian and Argonaut hold down the current No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively.

 

Forest Lake Christian (13-11, 7-5) – The Falcons, currently sitting in third place in the CVCL standings, ends the regular season with games this week against Encina and Sacramento Waldorf. Forest Lake is also sitting in the seventh spot in the section’s D-VI ratings, where the top-10 rated teams will advance.

 

GIRLS

 

Placer (18-7, 8-0) – With a chance to wrap up the outright FVL title this week, the Hillmen girls, currently No. 3 in MaxPreps’ D-III rankings, still had a shot at passing No. 2 ranked Christian Brothers. Vanden held the top position with a 20.4 rating while Christian Brothers (18.7) and Placer (18.4) followed.

 

Colfax (22-3, 8-0) – Colfax has a piece of the PVL title in hand and a pair of season-closing wins this week over Lindhurst and Foothill should wrap up the D-IV No. 1 seeding for the Lady Falcons. However, looming in D-IV at the section level is two-time defending CIF state champion West Campus, 14-9 but with several games against top state ranked opposition.

 

Bear River (14-11, 5-3) – The Bruins entered this week sitting precariously in the 15th and final spot in the D-IV MaxPreps rankings. But Bear River needed just one win in its final two games to secure one of the PVL’s top three berths to the playoffs.

 

Del Oro (20-6, 3-5) – Although the Lady Eagles are under .500 in SFL action, Del Oro’s strength of schedule has the Black and Gold sitting pretty at No. 3 in MaxPreps’ current D-II rankings. A year ago, Del Oro reached the second round of the CIF Northern California Regional tournament after going just 6-6 in league.

 

Forest Lake Christian (18-5, 12-0) – Forest Lake has grabbed a piece of the CVCL title with two games to play. The Lady Falcons are also in a virtual dead heat for top ranking in the section’s girls D-VI poll. Coming into this week, the D-VI slate had Valley Christian (-7.1), Vacaville Christian (-7.9) and Forest Lake  (-7.9) all crowded at the top.