State basketball playoffs: Brackets feature three Empire teams

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

By CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat Alec Raven, left, and the Montgomery Vikings will begin the state playoffs Wednesday on the road.

By CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat
Alec Raven, left, and the Montgomery Vikings will begin the state playoffs Wednesday on the road.

Thanks to being awarded the No. 1 seed in its division, Cardinal Newman won’t begin its quest for a state title until Saturday while the Montgomery boys and girls teams will both see action in opening-round games on Wednesday.

The Lady Vikings will entertain Pleasant Valley of Chico while the boys travel to Mountain View where St. Francis awaits.

Brackets for the 32nd annual CIF State Basketball Championships were released Sunday night and as expected, only three Redwood Empire teams were selected.

The Lady Vikings were seeded No. 5 in Division 2 while Pleasant Valley got the 12th and final seed. The first four seeds received opening-round byes.

The Montgomery boys, with a 23-8 record, were pegged No. 7 and St. Francis received the No. 10 seed. St. Francis enters the tournament with a 12-16 record, but Vikings’ coach Tom Fitchie said that’s deceiving.

“They play in the West Catholic League, which is a high-powered league,” he said. “You’ve got high-quality teams like Archbishop Riordan, Serra and Sacred Heart Cathedral in there. It’s one of the toughest leagues in Northern California.

“That league is nothing like the league (NBL) we play in.”

As soon as the pairings were released, Fitchie began searching for information on St. Francis.

“By looking at their schedule, I can see they’re a good defensive team,” he said. The Falcons allow just under 60 points per game. “I’m going to search the Internet and hopefully find film or other information about them.”

The Lancers have 18 players on their roster with four of those 6-foot-4 or taller. The tallest player is 6-8 freshman Peter Hewitt.

While the boys are on the road, the Lady Vikings will be playing at home, where they’re 12-0.

“You always hope for a home game,” coach Steve Bell said. “I’m thrilled for the girls that they’ll get to play another game here. They deserve it for what they accomplished this season.”

Montgomery compiled a 24-7 record and won the NBL Tournament. The team also won two North Coast Section games before losing to Clayton Valley 58-49 in the semifinals.

Pleasant Valley has a 17-10 record and won the Eastern League with a 7-1 mark.

“We played Pleasant Valley eight years ago in a tournament in Sonoma,” Bell said. “I’m going to make a few calls and see if I can get a scouting report on this year’s team.

“I know they’re good. There are no bad teams playing this time of the year.”

Cardinal Newman got the top seed in Division 4 because Salesian was placed in the open bracket. Salesian beat the Cardinals in the NCS Division 4 final.

Newman will host the winner of Wednesday’s game between Arcata (24-7) and Corning (27-2).

“Salesian exposed a lot of things we need to work on,” Newman coach Tom Bonfigli said. “We’ll focus on those Monday and Tuesday in practice.

“Wednesday, I’ll drive to Corning to scout those two teams and then Thursday and Friday we’ll prepare.”

The Cardinals (29-3) are another team that thrives at home. They are 13-0 in Fitzgerald Gym.

There are four rounds in the NorCal Regionals. The finals are March 16 with the winner advancing to a game against the Southern champ. That will be on March 23 in Sacramento.

SCHEDULE

CIF State Basketball Championships

All games at 7 p.m.

Wednesday’s games

Boys Division II

(7) Montgomery (23-8) at (10) St. Francis (12-16)

Girls Division II

(5) Montgomery (24-7) vs. (12) Pleasant Valley (17-10)

Saturday’s game

Boys Division IV

(1) Cardinal Newman (29-3) vs. (8) Corning (27-2) or (9) Arcata (24-7)

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