Boys Basketball: Was Blair robbed of CIF playoff berth?

There was a little bit of everything to go around, including both pleasant and unpleasant surprises when the CIF-Southern Section boys basketball playoff pairings were released Sunday.

The season continues for 18 area teams, including Keppel which was hoping to receive an at-large berth in Division II-A after a fourth-place finish in the Almont League, and it did.

First round actions begins Wednesday with all games slated for 7:30 p.m.

The Aztecs (16-10, 4-6) will visit Summitt, the Sunkist League champion.

“We’re trying to get as much experience as we can,” Keppel coach Hung Duong said, “and a chance to get to the playoffs will be a great experience for our young players.”

There was no surprise in that Pasadena, the area’s top-ranked team, earned the highest seeding of the 18 teams heading to the playoffs.

The Bulldogs (21-5, 14-0) earned a No. 6 seed in the rigorous Division I-AA, which includes the nation’s No. 1 team in the country, Mater Dei.

Alhambra’s gutsy performance, led by Aeric Allen’s 30 points, in the regular-season finale victory last week over Keppel propelled the Moors league champions and an opportunity to host a first round game against Roosevelt, the Big VIII League’s fourth-place team.

Despite finishing third in the Rio Hondo League and having its seven-year lock on the league title snapped, La Caada will host Santa Maria instead of making the trek.

Along with Keppel, Gabrielino (Division III-A), Don Bosco Tech (Division IV-AA), South Pasadena (Division IV-AA), Maranatha (Division IV-A) and Rio Hondo Prep (Division VI-AA) all earned at-large berths as well as St. Francis (Division IV-AA) who finished 10-15 overall and 3-11 in Mission League play.

But one team who missed out on an at-large berth was Blair (13-10, 4-6).

Of the 12 teams that earned at-large berths in Division IV-A, 11 teams finished with sub. 500 records.

The Vikings split with second-place Monrovia (Division III-A) and fifth-place South Pasadena (8-19, 3-6), which earned an at-large berth in Division IV-AA, a higher division that Blair which is based on school enrollment, a process that started this year.

Blair coach Gamall Smalley went to Rainer Wulf for answers. Wulf is an assistant commissioner in charge of basketball.

“I explained to him our situation and he said himself that it doesn’t sound right,” Smalley said, “but that they had a committee that made the decision and (Wulf) couldn’t really answer anything.

“He did try to go find answers, talked to some of the members of the committee, and they said we had lost to Banning. But we never played Banning. That goes to show whatever they’re using is wrong.”

Smalley wasn’t angry but was disappointed with how things came about.

“They can’t rectify it,” he said. “The only thing they can do is make sure the committee double checks next time. Obviously they missed the boat on this and it makes you wonder who sits on the committee.

“They said we lost to Banning and that really brought my curiosity up. I think they really made a mistake on this one.”