Fresh off their thrilling comeback win against St. Mary’s for the
the first North Coast Section-Division 4 boys crown in school history, the Highlanders were seeded #13 in Division 2 of the California Interscholastic Federation tournament. They open against #4 seed Weston Ranch-Stockton on March 3 at 7 p.m.
Unlike NCS, the CIF tournament does not use enrollment-based divisions to seed teams. Instead, the committee ranks all the qualifying teams in Northern and Southern California, and then puts the best teams into the regional Open brackets, the next best into Division 1, etc. Under the committee’s logic, the Highlanders were judged the 34th-best team in Northern California, which is quite an accomplishment.
However, because the difference between being one of the lower seeds in a higher division and one of the higher seeds in a lower division plays a massive role in whether a team can make it through the bracket to a state championship game, the system can feel more than a little arbitrary.
“It almost seems it would have been better if we lost yesterday (against St. Mary’s in the NCS title game),” Piedmont coach Ben Spencer said. “It penalizes teams that do pretty amazing things.
“I think we were a little disappointed. We thought we would be a top seed in Division 3.”
St. Mary’s ended up receiving the fourth seed in Division 3, and will host a first round game against Half Moon Bay.
Seeding questions aside, the Highlanders will prepare for a Cougars team that went 20-12 on the season and lost in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 semifinals to Capital Christian-Sacramento. With just two days to get ready (and only one day of practice), the scouting will be done quickly.
“I think we’re going to try to make their point guard shoot the ball,” Spencer said. “We’re going to try to take away driving lanes. I think we’ll be OK stopping people from getting to the basket. We know they’re pretty athletic so we’re going to emphasize crashing the boards.”
The winner of the game will face the winner of #12 seed Menlo School vs. #5 seed Oakland Tech. That game will take place on March 5.
This is the second consecutive year that Piedmont’s boys team has made the tournament. A year ago, the Highlanders won two games before falling to Wood-Vacaville in the Northern Regional Division 4 semifinals.
Granada earned the No. 1 seed in Division 2. St. Patrick-St. Vincent-Vallejo is No. 2, followed by Sacred Heart Prep and Weston Ranch. Oakland Tech is fifth and Branson is sixth. The Northern Regional final is scheduled for March 10, and the CIF championships will be held at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento the weekend of March 13-14.
Photos by Devon O’Shaughnessy