Atwater’s Lexi Valencia
It’s hard making the basketball playoffs. It’s even harder earning a home playoff game in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
The section office released the playoff brackets on Saturday and the Golden Valley boys and Atwater girls were two of the few Merced area teams to earn home playoff games. Both had to win Central California Conference championships to do it.
“I’m thankful we’re in and I’m thankful we get to play another game,” said Golden Valley coach Keith Hunter, whose team finished with a 23-5 record overall and went 12-0 in the CCC. “I’m happy we got a home game. I was a little worried about that because of the schedule rating.”
The Cougars are the No. 7 seed in Division III and will host No. 10 Beyer (20-8) in the first round on Wednesday. It’ll be a matchup of two teams that liked to get up and down the court quickly.
“I think so,” Hunter said. “It’s certainly two teams that press, trap and rotate. Both teams push the ball up the floor. It should be fun. They’re a good team, we’re a good team, it should be a good game.”
Atwater girls coach JR Davis has been working at Atwater for 15 years and can’t remember the last time the Falcons girls had a home playoff game.
Atwater (22-6) earned the No. 6 seed in Division II and will host No. 11 Modesto Christian (14-14) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The Falcons defeated the Crusaders 73-53 back in December, but Modesto Christian will have some players who weren’t in uniform in the first matchup.
“The first time we played them they had some transfers sitting out and their big girl was out,” Davis said. “So it’ll be interesting. It will be a challenge. We’ll see what we can do to stop them.”
The Buhach Colony boys qualified for the playoffs as the No. 3 team out of the CCC and will play an outbracket game against Elk Grove in Division II on Monday at 7 p.m. The Thunder (16-12) are the No. 18 seed. A win against No. 15 Elk Grove (11-16) sets up a Wednesday matchup against No. 2 Rocklin (24-4).
El Capitan boys are the No. 9 seed in Division III and will face No. 8 Center (20-7) in the first round on Wednesday. The Gauchos (21-6) finished second in the CCC.
The Mariposa boys earned the No. 5 seed in Division V and the Grizzlies (22-5) will host No. 12 Hughes in the first round on Wednesday. Also in Division V, No. 13 Gustine (9-15) will open at No. 4 Ripon Christian (18-9).
On the girls side, four area teams make up the Division III field and all four teams will open on the road.
Livingston (19-8) is the No. 9 seed and will open at No. 8 Bradshaw Christian on Tuesday. El Capitan (19-9) makes its first postseason appearance in program history as the No. 13 seed and will play at No. 4 Manteca (19-8). Merced (14-9) qualifies as the No. 14 seed and will make the long trip to No. 3 Placer (20-7). Los Banos is the No. 15 seed with the Tigers (20-8) opening at No. 2 Christian Brothers (18-8).
The Mariposa Grizzlies earned the No. 1 seed in Division V after going 23-1 and going through the Southern League with a perfect run of 12-0. Mariposa will get a first-round bye and will host the winner of No. 9 Hughes and No. 8 Rio Vista.
The Le Grand girls are the No. 7 seed in Division V and will host No. 10 Holt on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
In the Central Section, defending Valley Champions Chowchilla (18-9) earned the No. 3 seed and will host No. 14 Fresno Christian in the first round on Tuesday.
The Le Grand and Livingston High boys soccer teams made deep runs in the playoffs last year. Both are set up to make similar journeys this year.
The Bulldogs became the first team since 2001 to win a section title last season. They then went on to make history by becoming the first Le Grand team to win a Northern California championship.
After winning another Southern League championship, Le Grand (13-3-2 overall) was named the No. 1 seed in Division VI and will open at home against ABLE Charter on Tuesday.
The Livingston boys are the No. 2 seed in Division IV and could be on a collision course with top seed Galt, which defeated the Wolves 3-2 in overtime after a controversial penalty late.
Livingston (20-2-2) will host No. 15 Calaveras at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
El Capitan and Golden Valley boys are both in the Division III field. The Gauchos (11-6-4) are the No. 4 seed and will host No. 13 Pacheco on Tuesday. The Cougars (11-7-4) are the No. 7 seed and will host No. 10 Laguna Creek in the first round.
Hilmar boys earned the No. 4 seed in Division V and will host No. 5 Waterford on Tuesday. Delhi is also in the Division V field as the No. 8 seed and will face No. 1 Summerville in the first round.
The Mariposa boys are the No. 5 seed in Division VI and will open at No. 4 Millennium in the first round.
The El Capitan girls qualified for the playoffs for the first time and will be the No. 6 seed. The Gauchos (9-4-3) will host No. 11 Manteca in the first round on Wednesday. Golden Valley is the No. 12 seed in Division IIII and will open at No. 5 East Union.
The Livingston girls are the No. 10 seed in Division IV and will face No. 7 West Campus in Sacramento in the first round on Wednesday.
Hilmar qualified as the No. 4 seed in Division V and will host No. 5 Calaveras on Tuesday at 6 p.m. In Division VI, No. 3 Mariposa will host No. 6 Millennium on Tuesday in the first round.