By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A tough start to the North Coast Section basketball playoffs gets no easier for Empire large-school teams in today’s quarterfinals.
Five teams won opening-round games. But only the Montgomery boys and girls host contests Friday night.
The Vikings play a doubleheader in their gym. The pairing worked in the first round, and both squads want to take advantage before likely facing road games — should they win Friday.
“It’s great. You don’t want to go on the road this time of year unless you have to,” said Montgomery boys coach Tom Fitchie.
Going on the road in Friday’s quarterfinals are the Analy boys, and Santa Rosa and Casa Grande girls.
A measure of the difficulty teams face in winning away section playoff games can be found in Empire large-school results from the opening round. Eight teams were one-and-done, with six playing away from home.
Home court, though, is not a sure recipe for winning. Montgomery’s boys fell in the first round at home last season.
“The bottom line is this time of year you have to play your best game all the time,” Fitchie said. “Playoff games bring a great atmosphere and competitiveness.”
The Montgomery boys face a high-scoring opponent in College Park of Pleasant Hill, champion of the Diablo Valley Athletic League. Defense has been Montgomery’s strength in a fine season as runners up to Cardinal Newman in the North Bay League.
The teams’ seeding — Montgomery fourth and College Park fifth in Division 2 — indicate a close contest is in store.
The second half of Montgomery’s doubleheader has the Vikings girls hosting Newark Memorial. Montgomery has won 11 of its past 12, including the NBL tournament title. Like the Vikings, the Cougars are tough on defense.
Montgomery is seeded third and Newark Memorial sixth in Division 2.
Much is at stake in the section quarterfinals. Win today and Empire large-school teams not only advance in the brackets but assure spots in the Nor Cal half of the California Interscholastic Federation state playoffs.
Note: The Analy boys’ NCS playoff game at El Cerrito will be streamed online here: http://www.playonsports.com/channels/analy/events/54546.