Valencia isn't taking easy way in playoffs


LOS ALAMITOS – Valencia is a last-place team that has lost seven of its past nine games.

It will play a first-place team in the first round of the basketball playoffs.

Valencia is doing so voluntarily.

Valencia is among 30 Orange County boys basketball teams that qualified for the CIF-Southern Section boys basketball playoffs as an at-large team. Teams that do not finish high enough in their league standings to receive guaranteed playoff berths can petition for at-large berth consideration. Valencia did so, knowing that this sort of thing would happen – the Tigers play a seeded league champion, Villa Park, in the first round of the 2AA playoffs Friday.

Tigers coach Dean Yoshimura, his assistant coaches and the players last week talked about whether they should fill out an at-large berth petition.

"The kids, they always want to keep going," Yoshimura said Sunday at the CIF-Southern Section office where coaches gathered to collect brackets, pick up tickets and swap information on upcoming opponents.

All CIF-SS boys basketball playoff brackets

He looks at the playoffs as part of the learning process for his team that is 9-18 overall and finished in a three-way tie for last in the Empire League, with Kennedy and Yorba Linda.

"We're young this year," Yoshimura said. "We only have four seniors, and we just brought up five junior varsity kids from their league championship team. We'll get in a couple days of practice, hopefully get tape of them and make a go of it."

Villa Park's Spartans are No. 8 in the latest Orange County rankings and are seeded No. 3 in Division 2AA. They won the Century League championship and have won 20 of 23 games after a 0-3 start.

Valencia was not the only last-place county team that qualified for the playoffs. There are nine others that finished or tied for last, filed the at-large berth petition and got in: Capistrano Valley; Crean Lutheran; Eastside Christian; El Dorado; Laguna Hills; Los Amigos; San Juan Hills; Santa Margarita; and Whittier Christian. Capistrano Valley, Eastside Christian and Santa Margarita did not win a league game.

The playoffs, which have 12 divisions of 32-team brackets, begin with first-round games Wednesday in divisions 3AAA, 3AA, 3A, 4AA, 4A, 5AA, 5A and 6. First-round games will be played Friday in divisions 1AA, 1A, 2AA and 2A.

Three county teams are seeded No. 1 in their divisions: Mater Dei, in Division 1AA; El Toro, in 1A; and Tustin in 3AAA.

Mater Dei and Orange Lutheran were CIF-SS champions last season. Mater Dei won the 1AA championship, its 19th boys basketball section title. Orange Lutheran won the 1A title, was moved up to Division 1AA and qualified for the 1AA playoffs as one of the division's two at-large teams.

Several leagues that include county teams got all of their teams into the playoffs, including the Century, Garden Grove, San Joaquin, Sea View, South Coast and Trinity leagues.

Seventy-four county teams qualified for the playoffs, 44 as automatic qualifiers and 30 as at-large teams. Acaciawood Academy does not play in a league, so it had to qualify for an at-large berth as a freelance team.

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