West Valley Leaves its Sneaker Prints on Playoff Brackets

As the Los Angeles City Section boys’ and girls’ basketball playoffs get underway this week, let us first give a round of applause to the West Valley League. It managed to get at least three boys and girls teams in both of the City’s top playoff rung, known as the Open Division.

Birmingham, El Camino Real, Granada Hills and Taft are in the boys’ bracket. Birmingham, El Camino Real and Granada Hills are in the girls’ bracket.

No other boys’ City league can make that Open Division claim. The Western League also placed three teams in the girls’ bracket.

“I think for years, at least the last five years, the West Valley League has been the premiere league in the City,” Taft Coach Derrick Taylor said. “Fairfax and Westchester are two of the top [boys’] programs. But top to bottom, I think West Valley is the strongest league in the City. And the girls this year, too…it’s pretty good times in both the leagues right now.”

Of course winning the championship games — which will be played on March 3 at Cal State Dominguez Hills — will be, as they say in basketball, a tall order. And other, ahem, “conspiracy theorists” might surmise that the selection committee is trying to get the Valley area teams out of the playoffs as fast as possible.

Taylor, for one, wouldn’t agree.

“You want to avoid playing a league opponent in the [opening game],” he said. “Too many [West Valley] teams had to go into the Open Division. You have to play people. When you take the majority of spots, this is the kind of seeding you can get.”

No matter, the Open Division requires only three wins, not four, to claim the City title. And the teams selected for the Open Division are guaranteed a berth in the CIF state playoffs, which is why they play a double-elimination schedule. If a team loses its opening game, it is placed in a consolation bracket and continues on until it loses again. The state playoffs will be seeded after the City and Southern Section championship games.

Los Angeles schools Westchester and Fairfax, co-Western League champions (and who split their two meetings), were awarded the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the boys’ Open Division. They will host Birmingham, the eighth seed, and  El Camino Real, seeded seventh.

Granada Hills, seeded fifth, travels to Harbor City to play Narbonne, seeded fourth.

Taft, the West Valley League champion, is seeded third and — at least on paper — has the best chance to keep the final from being just a third game between the Comets and Lions.

“We are where we belong,” said Taylor, whose Toreadors open at home against Crenshaw High of Los Angeles, seeded sixth. “No argument with Westchester and Fairfax. They have proven worthy of being seeded where they are.

“[But] I like my team. We are playing pretty well at the right time. We have clearly improved from the December tournaments.”

Granada Hills won the girls’ West Valley title and has the No. 2 seed behind top seed Fairfax. The seeding gives the Highlanders, who open against Venice, potentially two home playoff games and with it a good chance to wind up in the final.

“I really thought…we’d get the ‘one’ seed,” Highlanders Coach Jared Honig said. “I thought we had the resumé. I guess the committee thought Fairfax had [a better] one. But if we beat the team in front of us three times in row, we’ll be all right.”

Birmingham, the eighth seed, will travel to Fairfax. El Camino Real, seeded third, will host Eagle Rock, seeded sixth.

Granada Hills is hurting a bit. Leading scorer Hayley Berfield is recovering from an ankle sprain and Cristian Patron is nursing a sore knee. Honig said both had been receiving treatment and “I hope to get them back” for the quarterfinal game against visiting Venice High, seeded seventh.

The girls’ Open Division quarterfinals gets underway on Friday, Feb. 16, while the boys’ Open Division quarterfinals begins on Feb. 17.

All games tipoff at 7 p.m.

There is plenty more playoff City basketball to go around. Nearly 50 boys’ and girls’ Valley-area teams are sprinkled throughout the 12 total divisions that make up the City’s hoops landscape.

In the boys’ brackets, Sylmar High got the highest Valley team seed in Division I, and that was at No. 10. The Spartans open on the road at Venice High. Should they win that game, they would in all probability face No. 2 Fremont High of Los Angeles in the quarterfinals, also on the road.

Poly High is also in Division I. The Parrots are seeded 14th.

Van Nuys High, which won the Division III championship last season, has competed well enough this season in Division II to receive the No. 3 seed. The Wolves open the playoffs at home against Lincoln High of Los Angeles. Also getting first round home games in Division II are Chatsworth, seeded fourth, and Grant, seeded eighth.  

Cleveland, SOCES and Vaughn — seeded 10th, 11th and 12th respectively in Division II — are on the road.

Chavez and Monroe are the sixth and seventh seeds in Division III, and have opening round home games. Lakeview Charter is a 12th seed, and starts out on the road. 

The boys’ playoffs in Divisions I, II, III, IV and V begin tonight, Feb. 15. The girls’ playoffs in Divisions I, II, III, IV, and V began Wednesday, Feb. 14 (results were unavailable at press time.)

For a complete listing of the boys’ and girls’ City playoff brackets, visit the LA City Section website link:  https://www.cif-la.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=45707&type=d&pREC_ID=236416