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NICK AGRO, , NICK AGRO, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Orange Lutheran guard Taelor Griffin and the Lancers will look for a second consecutive CIF-SS title, this season in Division 3AA. They won the Division 3A championship in 2014-15.

Orange Lutheran top seed in Div. 3AA

STAFF WRITER

Orange Lutheran was one of the final 19 teams on the Open Division watch list, but when the CIF announced the 16 teams selected to compete in the Southern Section’s elite bracket on Friday afternoon, the Lancers were one of three teams that was not included.

The exclusion in the Open Division opened the door for fifth-ranked Orange Lutheran to receive the No. 1 overall seed in Division 3AA when the CIF released the remaining girls basketball playoff pairings on Sunday.

The Lancers were the only county program awarded with a top seed in their respective division, marking the second year in a row they saw their name listed atop a bracket.

Last season, Orange Lutheran marched through Division 3A and captured the championship.

With fellow 2015 CIF titlists Fairmont Prep and Orangewood Academy facing uphill roads in the Open Division and Division 1AA, the Lancers appear to be the area’s best chance as a repeat champ.

“I think the girls know now that they can do it,” Coach Tom Howard said. “There’s a belief in them this year that wasn’t there last year. They really have an idea of what they can achieve, and by no stretch believe they can just show up and win.”

The Lancers finished the regular season with a 20-6 record and were second in the Trinity League behind Mater Dei.

But despite being one of the final 19 teams in the running for the Open Division, Orange Lutheran was the lone squad of that bunch that had failed to notch a win over a fellow watch list opponent.

While an Open Division invite will have to wait until at least next season, Howard and company now shift their focus to the survive-and-advance mentality that the postseason is known for.

“You’re living every day in that one-and-done scenario, where any one night, everything can go wrong,” Howard said. “In the Open Division, you know the next three weeks you’re involved in basketball, and that it will take you into March.

“There’s really pros and cons either way. It seems like we have a better chance of winning some games, making a run where we’re at.”

Orange Lutheran hosts Santa Ana Valley on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the first round.

Difficult road ahead for Oilers

Outside of Orange Lutheran earning the top seed in 3AA, Huntington Beach was awarded the second overall seed in Division 1A, Rosary earned the No. 2 spot in 4AA, and Oxford Academy garnered the same position in 5AA.

The Royals open against 15-13 San Dimas on Thursday, while the Patriots received a bye.

The Oilers, on the other hand, should have their hands full with a Walnut team that Coach Russ McClurg said he feels is much better than its 15-9 record indicates.

“I’d say there’s not really an advantage with that No. 2 seed and I’m confused by the draw,” he added. “Walnut is a very good team from a tough league. I’m glad we get them at home.”

Five of the the Mustangs nine losses this season came by seven points or less.

Winless and in

Fountain Valley failed to win a game in the regular season, turning in an 0-26 record. Despite having no wins, the Barons were still awarded with an at-large bid on Sunday in Division 1AA and will open against Redondo Union.

Because so many teams in 1AA were chosen for the Open Division, there were 13 additional slots the division needed to fill, and Fountain Valley submitted the paperwork to claim one of the at-large bids.

Contact the writer: kconnolly@ocregister.com


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