Girls Basketball: Muir, Monrovia earn first-round byes

Take on a tough schedule and you can run the risk of getting drubbed, or, at season’s end, get rewarded.

The latter happened to the Muir High School girls basketball team when the CIF-Southern Section playoff pairings were released Sunday.

The Mustangs (20-3, 14-0) are the area’s highest-seeded team at No. 3 in Division III-A and earned a first-round bye. They will host the winner of Thursday’s Palm Desert-Irvine game. Saturday’s second round game is slated for 7:30 p.m.

Muir is hoping to make a long run in the playoffs after adding junior Taylor Gomez to the roster this season. She averages 11 points per game, and her deft touch complements the area’s best tandem in Eliza Pierre and Brittany Henderson.

The Mustangs, however, were not the only team to earn a first-round bye. Monrovia (17-6, 9-1) is the No. 5 seed in Division III-A. They will host the Bonita-Beckman winner Saturday.

Five area teams earned at-large berths: Flintridge Sacred Heart (Division IV-A); Maranatha (IV-A); San Marino (IV-A); Blair (IV-A); and Rio Hondo Prep (VI-AA).

Five other area teams will play home games Thursday: Alhambra (I-A); Rosemead (III-A); La Caada (IV-AA); La Salle (V-AA); and Pasadena Poly (VI-AA).

South Pasadena will visit Citrus Hill in Division IV-AA. Flintridge Sacred Heart (at 29 Palms) and Duarte (at Harvard Westlake) are on the road in Division IV-A. Flintridge Prep (at Woodcrest Christian), Westridge (at Fairmont Prep) and Marshall (at Calvary Murrieta) also hit the road in Division V-AA, respectively.

Keppel (17-10, 10-0) won its 14th straight Almont League championship and puts its 14-game winning streak on the line when they host Westlake.

The Aztecs started the season 3-10 but did not panic. They showed steady progress as the season went on and Aztecs coach Ib Belou took notice after each game.

“They didn’t give up,” he said. “Progress was being made each and every time we were on the court and to me that was the most important thing, whether we won or lost, because we knew that at some point we would get it together.”

Despite the resurgence and yet another dominating league season, Belou said Keppel, who lost in the second round last season, has yet to peak.

“Our goal was to play a perfect game,” he said. “We haven’t gotten there yet and we’re hoping it comes in our fifth game.”