By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
When the CIF-Southern Section boys basketball playoffs begin next month, La Verne Lutheran (12-7) figures to be the area team with the best chance of winning a division title, its second in three years. The Trojans are on top of the Division 5-AA poll with Windward and Flintridge Prep the only legitimate contenders. The rest of the Valley, however, may find it difficult in the new playoff divisions, except for the area’s other private schools. (To continue reading, click thread)
Bonita (18-3) is having a sensational year and cruising toward a Miramonte League title, but the Bearcats only are No. 8 in Division 3-A, with powers Serra, Compton Centennial, Harvard-Westlake and Campbell Hall, all private schools except for Centennial, dominating the poll’s top four spots.
Bearcats coach Greg Eckler thought it was tough last year when Harvard-Westlake cruised to the division title, but adding Centennial, Serra and Campbell Hall to the division along with the existing parity is disheartening.
“It is,” Eckler said. “I went through a period where I was excited because we’re playing well, I like what we had coming back, then when the first polls came out early in the season we were number 12 and that was probably a fair ranking at the time.
“It’s just a brutal division. I love the challenge of taking on these great teams, but at the same time you just scratch your head. Why are you competing against all these powerful private schools? It just doesn’t make sense.”
Teams in the same league also don’t necessarily compete in the same playoff divisions, which bodes well for a school like Bishop Amat (16-5).
Bishop Amat is No. 3 in Division 4-AA behind Price and Orange Lutheran, with Northview ranked No. 10 and San Dimas No. 12.
Bishop Amat competes against Serra in the Del Rey League, and the Lancers were crushed by the Cavaliers, 73-54, a couple weeks ago. But the Lancers won’t have to face the Cavaliers in the playoffs.
Serra could face Bonita as early as the second round.
“It’s hard to make sense of it all,” Eckler said. “I thought competitive equity would be more of a factor, but when you look at all the divisions the one we’re in is one of the best in the (Southland).
“Figure that out.”
Because of enrollment, private schools like Bishop Amat and Damien have a clear advantage. Damien (14-6) finished fifth in the Sierra League last year but still advanced to the semifinals of Division 2A before losing to eventual champion, Eisenhower, 48-45.
Damien is ranked No. 6 in 2-A this year, but with Pasadena and Keppel at nos. 2 and 3, respectively, the Spartans have a good shot of advancing deep into the playoffs again.
Bonita might be the top-ranked team in the Valley, but the only schools with legitimate chances of deep playoff runs seem to be the area private schools.
Baldwin Park (18-2) is having its best season in school history, but the Braves are only No. 9 in Division 2A, a few spots behind Damien.
“We keep talking about putting private and public schools in different divisions,” Eckler said. “At some point it needs to happen.”