Will new format level prep hoops playing field?

Top CIF girls, boys teams regardless of size will form 'Open Division'
By: Mike Ray, Gold Country News Service
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Someone once said that it “must be in the water” when it comes to high school girls basketball success in the foothills. And, considering over the years the accolades that have been posted by girls high school hoop teams from the foothills, that musing may be correct.

Consider this:

In 1983, the Colfax High Lady Falcons became the area’s first school to capture a CIF state basketball title when they won the Div. III crown by defeating Marshall of Pasadena at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. In fact, the Lady Falcons had so much fun that year, they repeated the fete in 1984 going back-to-back by defeating Woodlake at the Oakland Coliseum.

A few years later in 1989, Placer joined the “state champ” club by out-playing perennial state power Brea-Olinda to win the state Div. III crown 

Bear River, then coached by Duwaine Ganskie, now the Bruins’ boys coach, made its run at the top in 1993 and again in 1994, only to be defeated in the CIF state Div. IV finals in both years by St. Bernard of Playa del Rey.

Colfax returned to the CIF state title game in 1998 but also ran into the St. Bernard juggernaut, falling 61-57 at Arco Arena.     

In 2004, Forest Lake Christian hoisted the state crown when the Lake of the Pines girls defeated Mission Prep of San Luis Obispo, 65-47, to take the Div. V title.

Del Oro hasn’t joined the foothills’ state title club yet but the Lady Eagles have come close twice. In 1999 and again in 2011, Del Oro came within one game of reaching the state championship game but each time lost in the Northern California Regional finals, first to Acalanes and two years ago to St. Mary’s of Stockton.

So now, the question is, can a foothills area team ever win a state championship again?

That remains to be seen but with the debut of the CIF’s “Open Division” this year at the Northern California and Southern California Regional level, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“I think it helps but there’s still a lot of good teams going to be out there,” said Del Oro girls coach Mike Takayama. “It could level the field a little.” 

At the end of this week’s section championship tournaments around the state, CIF commissioners will meet and come up with the top sixteen boys and top sixteen girls teams - - regardless of  division – with eight teams in the north – both boys and girls - forming one bracket and eight more on each side in the south forming the other bracket.

After all 10 CIF state champions in basketball in 2012 were from private schools for the second straight year, the CIF came up with the Open Division idea to give public schools a better chance to vie for state crowns.

The open division will be for teams from any division, any section and regardless of how big or small in enrollment. Criteria to be considered include winning two straight section titles, playing in a regional final in three of the previous four years and appearing in the top 10 of the Cal-Hi Sports, MaxPreps or Calpreps rankings for two straight years, including the current one.

For Del Oro’s girls, the new format could benefit the Lady Eagles.

Del Oro is set to play Sacramento High in Thursday’s CIF Sac-Joaquin Div. II semi-finals. While the Lady Eagles are prohibitive underdogs against the powerhouse Dragons, win or lose, by qualifying for the semi-finals, Del Oro will earn a spot in next week’s Northern California Regional.

It is here where the new format comes into play. At the regional level, both Sacramento and Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, state Div. II powers, are expected to be placed in the Open Division. Carondelet of Concord could also factor into the picture. With three powers possibly out of the Div. II bracket, the Div. II regional could be a wide open affair.

“Who knows who will be in the open division,” said Takayama. “There’s still a ways to go. I think this new format is a step though in the right direction.”