With the CIF Southern Section playoffs having concluded over the weekend, boys basketball teams have a short time to prepare for the next and final challenge of the season: The 2019 CIF State Championships, which begins Tuesday.
Two Santa Clarita Valley teams, Valencia and Santa Clarita Christian School, reached the semifinals of the CIF-SS playoffs, with SCCS making the finals, qualifying both squads for the state tournament.
The Vikings and the Cardinals are in the same quadrant of the Division II bracket, with Valencia slotted as the No. 4 seed and SCCS as the No. 9 seed.
Valencia (24-7) will host Gardena (24-3), the No. 13 seed, who finished first in the Marine League and lost to Birmingham in the opening round of the Los Angeles City Section Open Division playoffs. Gardena then lost in the consolation bracket to El Camino Real.
Before the back-to-back losses, the Panthers had only lost once on the season, back on Nov. 21 to Downey, before stringing together 22 straight wins.
The Vikings lost to Rancho Cucamonga in a tight game on the road in the CIF-SS Division 2AA semifinals, and Valencia head coach Bill Bedgood said after the contest that his team would need some time to recover from the loss before preparing for the state tournament.
“We just have to get over the emotion of this, kind of knowing we let it slip through our hands,” Bedgood said. “We are going to get some practices in later in the week and start to prepare for state. State is an honor. It’s exciting to play in it.”
Valencia and Gardena shared one mutual opponent this season, Kennedy, which both teams beat handily.
The Vikings also reached the state tournament last year, losing to Cajon in the first round, while the Panthers did not qualify last season.
Additionally, the home contest marks the first time in school history that the Vikings will host a state tournament game.
If Valencia wins its first two games in the tournament, it could lead to a potential rematch with No. 1 seed Rancho Cucamonga in the regional semifinals.
Three days after falling in the CIF-SS Division 3AA title game to Rolling Hills Prep, SCCS (10-22) finds itself back in action, and will travel nearly 150 miles south to Poway High School to take on the eighth-seeded Titans on Tuesday.
The Cardinals won the CIF-SS Division 5AAA championship last season ahead of their state tournament run, which also ended in a title for SCCS.
While the Cardinals weren’t able to accomplish the repeat in the CIF-SS playoffs, they have a chance to make another run in the state tournament.
“Back when we played the tougher competition we just learned from that, so we need to do the same thing here,” SCCS senior Kevin Stone said. “It’s not over, we made it here. God has a plan for all of us and it’s on the road to state now. It’s going to be tough competition, but we are ready.”
Poway (22-7) finished first in the Palomar League of the CIF San Diego Section, but lost in the opening round of the CIF San Diego Section Open Division playoffs to Torrey Pines, who ended up winning the tournament.
The Cardinals and Titans had one common opponent this season in Temecula Valley. SCCS won that game back on Dec. 1, but the win, along with 11 others, were later vacated due to the use of an ineligible player. Poway lost to Temecula Valley when the two teams met in early January.
SCCS head coach James Mosley said that at this point of the season there isn’t much to work on in terms of major changes, but just tweaking things here and there as they prepare for the state tournament.
He also reminded his team that it’s only a game, so he wants them to have fun out on the hardwood.
“We’re just going to get in there, work on a few detailing things. These guys are in shape, we have an identity. So I think for us it’s just about working on some execution and keeping things fun,” Mosley said. “There’s not many teams playing right now, there’s a lot of good teams who are home, so we just want to enjoy it and go in having a solid game plan with the freedom to go play and try to impose the game plan.”
If the Cardinals win their opening game they would face Rancho Cucamonga, who were awarded a first-round bye, in the next round.
Both games are scheduled to tip-off at 7 p.m.