Prep sports seasons have three parts: preseason, league season and postseason.
“Right now, everybody in the playoffs is zero and zero,” said Hart boys basketball coach Tom Kelly, whose team will compete on Feb. 14 in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2AA playoffs.
The postseason brings a host of emotions to teams, including each Foothill League champion. Hart boys basketball, Canyon girls basketball, Hart boys soccer and Hart girls soccer will each be playing at home in the first round of their respective playoffs, relieving some of the pressure.
“Honestly we’re just so comfortable in our home gym,” said Rachel Bowers, who will be representing Canyon girls basketball against St. Anthony on Feb. 15. “And that’s the biggest advantage. The amount of how used to the gym we are.
“The comfortability of being in our home gym and it’s our home crowd is there, that makes it 10 times better.”
Kelly added that although home court advantage is nice, the ability to win at home and on the road is a difference-maker in the long run.
He also noted that travel fatigue has little impact on his team. Conversely, Bowers and Hart girls soccer coach Guilherme Mitrovitch said that travel has the potential to affect athletes and coaches mentally.
“It’s not as easy to travel as sometimes people think,” said Mitrovitch. “People get up early, get out of class early, get on the bus, sometimes there’s traffic and we’ve got to make sure everyone is properly fed…
“So I think any advantage possible can makes things a little bit easier. Just a little bit easier to get everybody’s mindset ready to go.”
Scouting opposing teams also gets a little more complicated as playoffs approach. As soon as brackets are announced, coaches scramble to look for video online of opponents and call other coaches who might have played the team they’ll be facing.
Any detail helps. And sometimes, it’s the players who are providing those details. Social media and YouTube make it easier to seek out game film and team information.
Some, like Mitrovitch, go the extra mile when it comes to scouting.
“I think I’m a little over the top with that,” he said. “I drive during league to see teams that I think I possibly could play in playoffs.
“…I really think when I know information about a team, I’m way more prepared to (play the) team and I think my players are more prepared.”
Mitrovitch and the Indians will play Westlake in the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs on Feb. 15. The Hart boys will also have home-field advantage on Feb. 16 when they take on the winner of the wildcard game between Righetti and Cabrillo.
“The thing that’s hard about playoffs – it’s hard and fun at the same time – all your momentum in league comes to a stop,” said Kelly. “Whatever you did in league doesn’t really matter because now you’re playing for a new prize.”
Below is a complete list of first-round playoff games for boys and girls basketball as well as boys and girls soccer:
Division 2A (First round Feb. 14 at 7 p.m.)
Valencia at Oxnard
West Ranch at San Marcos
Saugus at Muir
Division 2AA (First round Feb. 14 at 7 p.m.)
Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks at Hart
Division 4A (First round Feb. 14 at 7 p.m.)
Trinity Classical Academy at Pasadena Poly
SCCS – first-round bye
Division 1 (First round Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.)
St. Anthony at Canyon
Valencia at Orangewood Academy
Division 2A (First round Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.)
Hart at Duarte
Division 3A (First round Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.)
Saugus at Rialto
Golden Valley at Beverly Hills
Division 5AAA (First round Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.)
Trinity Classical Academy at Workman
Winner of Righetti/Cabrillo game at Hart, Feb. 16 at 5 p.m.
Canyon at Fillmore in wildcard game, Feb. 14 at 3 p.m.
West Ranch at Dunn, Feb. 16 at 5 p.m.
Westlake at Hart, Feb. 15 at 3 p.m.
Valencia at Flintridge at Sacred Heart, Feb. 15 at TBA
Canyon at Sierra Canyon, Feb. 15 at 5 p.m.
Mojave at Santa Clarita Christian at COC, Feb. 15 at 3 p.m.