On a hunch, Merced’s Hector Nava and Golden Valley’s Keith Hunter made a trip last Friday to watch Pleasant Grove play Jesuit in Elk Grove.
That trip proved to be beneficial for Nava when he found out his Bears (21-6) earned the No. 6 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs and will be hosting No. 11 Pleasant Grove (13-13) on Wednesday in the first round.
“There’s a reason me and Coach Hunter jumped on Highway 99 to watch that game,” Nava said. “We knew one of us would probably end up playing one of those teams.”
Hunter’s Cougars (21-6) also earned a first-round Division 1 home game as the No. 7 seed and will host No. 10 Oak Ridge (13-13).
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Hunter won’t have to work hard to find video of the Trojans. Golden Valley defeated Oak Ridge 50-49 in the first round of the playoffs last year.
Merced earned a higher seed than Golden Valley after the two teams flipped a coin after the Bears’ 61-51 win on Tuesday night. The two teams shared the Central California Conference title, split their two games this year and beat the same teams in Central California Conference play. So the next tie-breaker was a coin flip.
If Merced hadn’t won the coin flip, the Bears likely would have been on the road in the playoffs.
The Merced girls will play a Division 1 outbracket game as the No. 16 seed on Friday against No. 17 Rodriguez (16-10), with the winner playing a juggernaut in top seed St. Mary’s (21-5) on Tuesday. The Rams have won six straight section titles.
Merced (16-10) finds itself in a Division 1 bracket loaded with 10 league champions.
“We put ourselves in that position with some early losses that we should have won,” Bears coach Rob Pierce said. “It is what it is. Hopefully it’s something we can learn from. We have to take care of our business. Do what we do well, play defense and hopefully take care of the ball.”
Buhach Colony (19-7) and Atwater (15-12) will both open on the road on Tuesday in Division 2 action. The Thunder earned the No. 11 seed and will play No. 6 Bear Creek (22-5). The Falcons are the No. 16 seed and will face top-seeded McNair (24-3).
This is the Thunder’s third straight playoff appearance. Buhach Colony is still looking for its first playoff win in school history.
“This year we had a lot of expectations,” Buhach Colony coach Shane Gentry said. “Going into this, winning a playoff game would take some of the sting away of not winning a league title. It’s something that has never happened for the Buhach girls basketball program.”
In Division 4, the Los Banos (17-10) girls earned the No. 11 seed and will travel to No. 6 Bret Harte (23-4) on Tuesday. Hilmar (11-13) drew the 13th seed and travels to No. 4 Bradshaw Christian (16-6) in the first round.
Gustine (14-6) is seeded seventh in Division 5 girls and will host No. 10 Big Valley Christian (14-11).
Despite an undefeated run through the Southern League, the Mariposa boys could do no better than the No. 11 seed in Division 4 boys and will host No. 6 Lathrop on Wednesday.