With barely enough time to wipe away the sweat and grins from winning Sac-Joaquin Section basketball championships over the weekend, area teams now gear up for the next exhaustive round.
The Northern California Regional tournament starts Wednesday, adding the element of the unknown with matchups against teams from other sections. In other words, it gets really fun now.
Folsom, winner of 19 consecutive games, earned the No. 1 seed in the NorCal Division II field after emerging as the champion in the ultra-competitive D-II section field. The Bulldogs (29-2) have an opening-night bye. Cosumnes Oaks (14-17) is the No. 3 seed and has an opening bye and a favorable draw considering it lost to Folsom 79-62 in the D-II final Saturday, snapping a 28-game on-court winning streak.
Jesuit, the runaway winner in the section D-I section tournament, is the No. 2 seed in the NorCal D-I bracket behind once-beaten Monte Vista of Danville. The Marauders (28-3) have an opening bye and like their chances of a return trip to Sleep Train Arena, site of the section, NorCal and CIF State Championships.
“That’s the goal, to get back here,” Jesuit coach Greg Harcos said. “We’re playing really well. I’m excited for these guys.”
Bee No. 1-ranked Capital Christian (27-3), led by 6-foot-8 forward D.J. Wilson, is the No. 2 seed in the elite Open Division behind NorCal No. 1-ranked Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland. The Dragons are unbeaten in NorCal play, including a crushing 86-60 victory over Capital Christian in January.
“We’re hoping for a rematch, to show what we can do,” Capital Christian coach Devon Jones said Saturday after his Cougars three-peated as D-V section champions.
The Open Division was created last season to lump the best of the best – teams with ambitious schedules and sustained section championship and NorCal success over recent seasons – in the same division regardless of enrollment.
To fill out the NorCal brackets, all section semifinalists advanced.
Folsom coach Mike Wall said he wouldn’t be surprised if the four Sac-Joaquin Section D-II semifinalists emerge as the four NorCal D-II semifinalists.
“These teams are that good,” Wall said.
Grant (25-6), led by one of the state’s best players in high-flying 6-8 Cameron Oliver, is the No. 7 D-II seed and opens at No. 10 Chico on Wednesday. Del Oro is the No. 12 seed, looming dangerously at 28-2 after its 24-game winning streak was snapped by Cosumnes Oaks in a section semifinal thriller. Del Oro opens at No. 5 Montgomery of Santa Rosa.
A year after winning five games, Natomas (20-8) is the No. 6 seed in the D-IV field after racing past Encina in the section final. Encina (27-4) is No. 8 seed and opens at No. 9 Corning because Corning is the Northern Section champion.
In NorCal girls play, Sacramento, winner of four successive section titles, is seeded eighth in the Open Division, which shows how deep the field is. The Dragons (23-8), led by defensive standouts Najah Queenland and Ayanna Edwards, open at No. 1 St. Mary’s of Berkeley on Friday.
In D-I, Oak Ridge (26-5) is the No. 2 seed and has a bye, a nice draw considering it lost to NorCal No. 1-ranked St. Mary’s of Stockton in the D-I section final. But with St. Mary’s and six other private school powers in the Open, public schools have a fighting chance in other divisions. That includes Oak Ridge, which lost in the section semifinals a year ago and stormed to the NorCal D-I final.
McClatchy (25-4), which lost to St. Mary’s in a section semifinal, is the No. 5 seed and will host No. 12 Gunn of Palo Alto on Wednesday.
Florin (21-10), runner-up in the D-III section, is the No. 4 seed and opens at home Saturday against Valley Christian of San Jose.
In D-IV, Bradshaw Christian (20-6) is a No. 3 seed and opens with a bye. West Campus (20-7), which lost to Bradshaw Christian in the section final, is the No. 4 seed and opens Wednesday at home against No. 13 Corning.