NorCal brackets released

One bounce on the rim can be the difference between winning and losing a basketball game. And as several Redwood Empire teams learned Sunday, one loss can be the difference between a comfy home game and a commute from hell.
Three Empire teams got a priority of 8 or 9 in the NorCal brackets (the CIF officially seeds only the top four teams in each division; the rest get “host priority numbers”), and that finest of lines had some big travel ramifications.
The Rincon Valley Christian girls got a priority of 8 and will host Turlock Christian when play begins Tuesday night. But the Casa Grande and Analy boys are No. 9s.
Casa will play at Pleasant Valley in Chico, a 170-mile trip that clocks in at just under three hours from Petaluma, while Analy will visit Foothill High in a place called Palo Cedro, which cartographers claim is just outside of Redding. The tally for that drive from Sebastopol: 226 miles and about 3 hours, 45 minutes.
“It’s probably gonna be a long day Tuesday,” Analy coach Brett Page said. “Wow, we had an opportunity where just one seed higher and we’d get a home game. But we expected to be on the road, and to go anywhere.”
The other three local survivors are the Montgomery boys, who received a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed after winning the North Coast Section Division 2 title; the Santa Rosa girls, who drew a priority of 10 in Division 2 and will play at El Camino in Sacramento; and the Sonoma Academy girls, who also travel to the capital — to play Bradshaw Christian — as the lowest-ranked team in Division 5.
The structure of the NorCal tournament makes scouting a luxury. The CIF works to split teams from the same section in the first round, so there is little familiarity. And Tuesday’s games will rapidly be followed, for the winners at least, by quarterfinals on Thursday and semifinals on Saturday.
Championship games are to be played on a neutral court — Arco Arena for big schools, Folsom High for smaller schools — on Saturday, March 19.
Casa Grande coach James Forni had the foresight to send two assistants to the Chico-Pleasant Valley game Saturday night. As of early Sunday evening, he still hadn’t seen the scouting report on Pleasant Valley.
Analy is fortunate enough to have played in the same tournament as Palo Cedro early in the year.
“The matchup is pretty good for us,” Page said. “They’re probably about the same size as us, and they play a similar style.”
Page wasn’t thrilled with Analy’s NCS semifinal loss at El Cerrito last Wednesday. Uncharacteristically, the Tigers didn’t always do a good job of getting back on defense, and they suffered through two extended periods of sloppy play against the full-court press.
“We went back and had practice the next day, and we talked about what happened and why,” Page said. “And we had a couple good days. We’re obviously not riding high on a couple of wins, but I don’t feel like we’re down. We’re in it to compete and do the best we can.”
Mostly, the Tigers are happy just to be playing after hitting a late-season skid during the injury absence of standout guard Max Fujii.
Casa Grande can relate to the feeling.
“We’re all excited about this opportunity,” Forni said. “Most of the time, when you lose like we did (to Las Lomas) last Wednesday, it’s a bummer and you’re turning in your gear. We’re happy that’s not the note we get to end on. It’s good to know you put yourself in position to keep playing.”