Five local teams qualified for the end-of-season California Interscholastic Federation northern region state basketball playoff games (NorCals), which kick off tonight.
The CIF’s competitive equity model, now in year two of use, once again sent a couple local teams well above their normal divisions as they will have to navigate tough roads in order to win a state title.
The Fortuna boys’ team’s (29-2) reward for downing a talented Saint Mary’s team in the North Coast Section D-IV semifinals and advancing to the section title game where it fell to Branson is a No. 7 seed in the D-III bracket, where it will host No. 10 Liberty Ranch (29-3) tonight at 7 p.m. The seventh seed came as somewhat of a surprise to Fortuna’s head coach Tony Miles as his team is ranked higher than every single other team in its 16-team bracket, according to Maxpreps, except for No. 4 Stuart Hall.
“Our seeding didn’t make a whole lot of sense but we’re good with where we are at; we like our bracket,” Miles said. “We’re ready, and luckily for us they have to drive up to Humboldt County.”
Fortuna’s case is a common example of the CIF’s “competitive equity” model, a system designed to group similarly skilled teams into one postseason division based off of their strength of schedule and other variables, negatively impacting a team by moving them up a division and handing it a mid-to-low seed.
Coming as somewhat of a slap in the face to the Friendly City faithful is Saint Mary’s seeding in the D-IV bracket. Saint Mary’s reward for losing to Fortuna: The No. 1 overall seed in the D-IV bracket.
Fortuna wasn’t the biggest upward mover on Selection Sunday, however — that title belongs to the Del Norte girls’ team. Del Norte received a No. 6 seed in the D-II bracket, a large jump up for the D-IV team. Del Norte (24-3) will host No. 11 Palo Alto (24-3) tonight at 7 p.m. Del Norte fell 66-62 in the NCS D-IV championship game to St. Patrick-St. Vincent.
The St. Bernard’s girls’ team, fresh off a North Coast Section Division-V championship win on Saturday, was the lone Humboldt-Del Norte league team to receive a No. 1 seed and will skip into the second round with a surprise bye as No. 16 Western Sierra Collegiate Academy forfeited what would have been tonight’s first-round game. The Crusaders, even as reigning section champs, were not bumped up a division and remain, surprisingly, in D-V. Last season the Crusaders, runner-ups in the NCS after losing the section title game, were bumped up to D-IV.
“I was shocked to say the least,” St. Bernard’s head coach Mark Gardner said. “I don’t know why were weren’t moved up, but I’m not going to argue with it. Humboldt County provides a great home-court advantage and we’ll take it.”
The No. 8 Eureka girls (21-10), NCS D-III semifinal losers to Salesian College Preparatory, were left in D-III for the NorCal tournament and will enjoy a home game tonight against No. 9 Aragon (17-11) at 7 p.m. Eureka head coach Mike Harvey said he was thrilled to have picked up a first-round home game, saying that he thought it could have gone either way.
“I was suspecting maybe a low seed in division two, so to stay in division three is great for us,” Harvey said.
Rounding out the five-team local class are the Hoopa boys, who fell to Stuart Hall in the NCS D-V semifinal round. Hoopa will remain in D-V for NorCals as a No. 9 seed and will be the lone Humboldt-Del Norte League team to hit the road tonight. Hoopa (21-8) will take on No. 8 Pierce (21-5) tonight in Arbuckle at 7 p.m.