By Fred J. Robledo
Bonita High School’s girls basketball team is wondering how it’s the only CIF-Southern Section finalist in all the boys and girls divisions not to get invited to the CIF-State basketball playoffs that start on Wednesday.
You can blame the newly formed CIF-SS Open Division.
The state selection committee, which gets recommendations from the Southern Section for the state selection process, made sure all 12 girls basketball teams that were invited to the Open Division made the state playoffs, regardless of how they fared in the Open Division playoffs.
How did that affect Bonita?
Bonita, because of enrollment, was in the Division I state playoff pool of which 16 teams were selected for the Southern California Regionals, of which eight are automatic qualifiers from the Southern Section.
Of the eight girls teams selected to the Division I state playoffs from the Southern Section — six came from the Open Division, including Troy, Lynwood, Alemany, Sierra Canyon, Canyon Springs and Keppel. When CIF selected the Open Division it made it clear that being selected wouldn’t automatically lead to a state playoff berth, but that’s what apparently happened.
Sierra Canyon and Canyon Springs were the only two to reach the Open Division quarterfinals. Troy, Lynwood and Alemany all lost first-round games and Keppel went 0-2.
With those six selected given Division I state playoffs berths, that left two spots from the Southern Section to fill. Long Beach Millikan, which beat Bonita 56-53 for the Division 1AA title on Saturday, took the seventh spot, leaving one spot left. That went went to Camarillo (27-4) instead of Bonita. Camarillo lost to Ventura, 59-51, in the Division 1A final.
Did Bonita, which finished 29-3, get robbed? In any other year making the divisional finals would have earned a playoff berth.
“It’s frustrating,” Bonita coach Darren Baumunk said. “To be the only finalist that doesn’t get it, that’s tough, especially after the season we had. I don’t know when we’ll ever go 29-3 again.”
You can look at it two ways. Bonita was on the bubble to make the Open Division most of the season. When the CIF-SS pairings were announced a few weeks back, six teams from Division 1AA made the Open Division. That watered-down Div. 1AA, which allowed Bonita to get the No. 1 seed and make a run to the final.
If Bonita had been selected to the Open Division like Keppel, it would have been invited to the state playoffs, but the Bearcats might have gone 0-2 in the Open Division like Keppel instead of making a championship appearance in Div. 1AA
But this is the mess the Open Division has created. State playoffs use to be about earning your berth through sectional playoffs. But it appears now a selection committee can decide berths before any playoff games are played simply by choosing teams to compete in a manufactured division it creates — in this case the Open Division.
“Any way you look at it, it’s frustrating,” Baumunk said. “How does Camarillo get in over us? We play in a higher division and we were both finalists. It’s hard to understand.”