Preview: Redwoods basketball to host state playoff games

Redwoods men's, women's teams to host NorCal Region state playoff games Friday

Redwoods’ players Isaac Puzz (2) and Thomas Nelson high-five. Nelson earned GVC MVP on Saturday, while many other ‘Woods garnered postseason awards. (Elliott Portillo — HumSport)

There’s going to be a pair of home state playoff games in the ‘Woods.

The College of the Redwoods men’s and women’s basketball teams each earned No. 8 seeds in the California Community College Athletic Association NorCal Regional state playoffs.

The women will host No. 9 Skyline Friday at 5:30 p.m. and the men will follow up with a 7:30 p.m. tip-off against No. 9 Sacramento City College. The games will count as the tournament’s second round. The first round will be played Wednesday and consists of three play-in games for the tournament’s bottom seeds.

The four remaining teams in both the NorCal and SoCal Regional playoffs will advance to the state tournament at West Hills College-Lemoore and will be re-seeded for the 8-team state championship playoff.

Men’s basketball

Redwoods (21-5) proved itself worthy of a home playoff game after securing the program’s first outright Golden Valley Conference title since 2007 with a 109-84 win over Shasta on Feb. 19. The conference championship was the defining stamp on an incredible 2019-20 run by Redwoods under first-year head coach Ryan Bisio, who inherited a team which went 0-26 a season ago and had won 12 total games in the three seasons prior to his arrival.

Redwoods’ No. 8 seeding, according to Bisio, is in line with the rumors he heard in the days leading up to selection Sunday. In previous head-to-head contests Redwoods beat the NorCal’s No. 6 and 7 seeds, Santa Rosa and Mendocino respectively.

Redwoods split its season series with Mendocino 1-1, falling to Mendocino 91-78 on Nov. 15 before beating the club 81-78 in the John Hogue Memorial Tournament championship on Nov. 23 on Mendocino’s home floor. Redwoods has a better win-loss record than Mendocino, 21-5 compared to 20-8.

Redwoods defeated Santa Rosa 84-80 in Santa Rosa’s home gym in the championship game of the Kris Kringle Tournament. Santa Rosa (21-7) also has an inferior regular season record compared to Redwoods.

“I think we were accurately placed in terms of the rumors I was hearing,” Bisio said. “With that said, at face value I think many people have observed we beat the No. 6 and 7 seeds in championship games on their home floors.”

The No. 8 seed comes with a tall task — the ‘Woods will likely have to beat No. 1 City College of San Francisco (28-0) to advance to the final eight. CCSF is the lone undefeated team in California, and the No. 1 ranked team in the entire state, not just NorCal.

Bisio said the majority of coaches he has talked to think this year’s CCSF squad is perhaps the best junior college team in the history of the state. According to the Massey Rankings, a system which projects outcomes of games and seasons based on a team’s statistics and previous success, CCSF would be favored to beat the majority of teams in the CCAA — the Division 2 conference Humboldt State plays in.

“I think when you see a bracket like that, your first reaction is to look at CCSF and think ‘well, that’s a death-sentence,’” Bisio said. “We spent about 25 minutes at practice just talking about the possibility of playing them, and then I told the team that’s the last time we’ll talk about it before Friday’s game.

“The thing is, we want to play them,” Bisio said. “There’s something in that game that this team needs to know moving forward, something that you can only learn when you face a team like that.”

Friday’s game against Sacramento (20-8) is one Redwoods should enter with a bit of added confidence. Redwoods beat Sacramento 83-67 in the semifinal-round of the Hogue tournament on Nov. 22.

Redwoods averages 81.2 points-per-game, good enough for 22nd in the state. The ‘Woods rank No. 2 in the state in 3-pointers made per game (11.3). Redwoods has the-48th ranked defense in the state and gives up 74.2 points-per-game.

Sacramento has the 42nd-ranked offense, scoring 75.6 points-per-game. On defense Sacramento gives up 68.9 points-per-game, 20th-best in the state.

“That first matchup (with Sacramento) was a bit of a perfect storm for us,” Bisio said. “They were having sort of a let down game after a big win over Los Medanos while we were due for a breakout game, and we had it that day.

“They have improved a great deal and so have we,” Bisio said.

Zac Claus led Redwoods with 21 points in the win against Sacramento while Thomas Nelson scored 20.

Nelson’s 20 points in the win was just another night for the sophomore out of Arcata High, who’s 20.1 points-per-game average makes the former Tiger the 12th-leading scorer in the state.

And that’s just one of many reasons why Nelson earned an all-state first-team nod when the GVC announced its postseason awards on Saturday. Nelson, in addition to his all-state accolade, earned the title of GVC MVP.

Nelson, who was a part of a Santa Rosa team which made a run to the final eight in the state two years ago, is showing why he garnered such accolades with his week of practice leading up to Friday’s game.

“It’s not about what Tom says, but its about the type of practice habits he his bringing every day,” Bisio said. “I think he’s trying to guide us through this tournament.”

Bisio, who coached Nelson during his four-year varsity career at Arcata High, was named the GVC Coach of the Year while Claus, Donald Willis and Drew Gillette garnered GVC first-team selections and Bradley Willis, and all-defensive team nod.

In short, players from Fortuna and Arcata high schools dominated the all-GVC selection process — and local fans have taken note, filling the house at Redwoods for every home game this season.

“The support from the community means the world to us,” Bisio said. “Our community feels connected to our players and we are all so grateful.”

The only other GVC team to make the NorCal playoff, No. 12 Butte, will play at Sequoias on Friday.

Women’s basketball

The Redwoods women’s team (20-5) secured its first GVC championship in 40 years on Feb. 19 with an 83-61 win against Shasta.

Redwoods’ title came as a co-championship as both the Corsairs and Butte finished 8-2 in conference.

For it, Redwoods earned the NorCal’s No. 8 seed and will host a not-yet seen opponent in Skyline (19-9) Friday.

Skyline finished in a three-way tie for first-place in the Coast-North Conference. Skyline ranks 56th in the state in point-per-game (59.0) and 6th in point-per-game allowed (46.5).

Redwoods is the 10th more productive offense in the state at 78.8 points-per-game and ranks 50th in the state in point-per-game allowed (62.9).

The GVC as a whole shows very strong in the NorCal bracket as five of six GVC teams made the cut, three outright (Redwoods, Butte, Lassen) while two (Siskiyous and Feather River) were selected for play-in games.

Redwoods, like the men’s team, enjoyed more than a few GVC postseason awards for its historic regular season.

Freshman guard Ashley Quigley, who leads the Corsairs with her 17.6 points-per-game average, was selected to the all-state third-team, the all-GVC team and the GVC all-freshman team.

Freshman Dennise Horton, who averages a near double-double in points (12.3) and rebounds (9.5), was likewise given an all-GVC team and an all-freshman team nod. Sophomore guard Breesia Northern, another former Tiger, was also a an all-GVC selection.


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