Esperanza's Anthony Koclanakis, left, and teammates are seeded No. 4 in the CIF-SS Division 3AA playoffs. In the photo, Esperanza is shown playing against Villa Park and Evan Battey this season,

Crestview, Sunset and Trinity leagues well-represented in playoffs


LOS ALAMITOS – Esperanza boys basketball coach Mark Hill and his wife made a three-day weekend getaway to Calabasas during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday last month.

It turned out to be something of a working, and potentially valuable, trip.

One of the many single-day showcase/shootouts that occur on MLK Day was at Calabasas.

“So I was able to tape Oak Park, Calabasas and Moorpark who were playing in it,” Hill said.

When the CIF-Southern Section boys basketball playoff brackets were released Sunday, Esperanza was seeded No. 4 in Division 3AA. The No. 1 seeded team is Oak Park. Calabasas is seeded at No. 2 … and Moorpark plays Calabasas in the first round.

Esperanza (19-8) won the Crestview League championship. Two Crestview teams, Canyon and Foothill, won CIF-SS titles last season.

Hill said he feels Esperanza can continue that trend.

“We can beat any team in this division,” Hill said.

Much of his optimism comes from playing in the Crestview League. No Crestview team finished lower than .500 overall. Three of the league’s four teams have been in the Orange County top 10, and there are those two CIF championships of a year ago to raise the league’s profile.

“We’ve played some grind-it-out games over the past month,” Hill said. “A lot of the other teams in our division have played practically nobody for about a month.”

The day when CIF-SS brackets are released begins with the announcement about which teams got into the playoffs as at-large teams. Teams that don’t finish high enough in their leagues’ standings can petition for at-large berth consideration. The CIF-SS will place at-large teams in divisions that don’t have enough automatic qualifiers to fill the 32-team bracket.

Fourteen Orange County teams received at-large berths. Among them were the Crestview League’s Canyon and Villa Park, which means all four Crestview League teams are in the playoffs.

The only other leagues with O.C. teams in it that have all of their teams in the playoffs are the Sunset and Trinity leagues.

When the 16-team Open Division bracket was released Sunday, Santa Margarita was seeded No. 16. That means Santa Margarita plays at national No. 1, and Open Division No. 1 seed, Chino Hills in the first round Friday.

“I was a little bit surprised we got the 16th seed because of the strength of our schedule,” said Santa Margarita coach Jeff Reinert, noting that the Eagles played state-ranked teams Mater Dei, Bishop Montgomery of Torrance and Redondo Union of Redondo Beach.

“But the Open Division has three Trinity League teams and you can’t have them playing against each other,” Reinert said. “One of us had to play Chino Hills.”

And with Santa Margarita being the Trinity League’s No. 3 team, that team is Santa Margarita.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” Reinert said. “You don’t get many opportunities to play the No. 1 team in the country.”

Orange Lutheran did not get much of a break. The Lancers are seeded No. 15 in the Open Division in which they play at No. 2 seed Bishop Montgomery on Friday. Bishop Montgomery is No. 2 in the state rankings compiled by

Los Alamitos is in the Open Division. The Griffins, champions of the Sunset League, play at fourth-seeded Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth. Sierra Canyon is No. 4 in California.

The Open Division is like many regular-season tournaments in that it has a consolation bracket. First-round losers will be sent to the consolation bracket of the Open Division. The other 11 divisions are single-elimination divisions.

All Open Division teams are invited to the CIF Southern California Regionals, the qualifying tournament for the CIF State Championships.

The playoffs begin Wednesday with first-round games in divisions 1AA through 6. Open Division first-round games are Friday.

After the first round, CIF-SS playoff dates for divisions 1AA through 6 are Friday, Feb. 23, Feb. 26 and March 2. The Open Division continues play on Feb. 23 and 26, with consolation-bracket semifinals on March 1 or 2 and the consolation final on March 3 or 4.

CIF-SS boys basketball championship games are March 4 and 5 at Honda Center, Azusa Pacific University and Godinez High.

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