In their nearly year-round commitment to the game, high school basketball teams work to prepare for the playoffs.
Now that playoff time has arrived, the emphasis is different.
"It's a one-game situation now," said Sandy Greentree, coach of the Marshall High boys team.
Eight teams from the Glendale area have qualified for first-round playoff action Friday night. A ninth, the Flintridge Prep boys, played in a wild card game Wednesday night with another playoff berth at stake.
Each team has this much in common: They qualified by finishing as one of the top three teams in their leagues.
Seeding and Luck
What it will take to further extend the season is a matter of opinion.
"Believe it or not, it takes luck," said Greentree, whose Marshall team is the top seed in the City 3-A playoffs. "In a one-game situation there are a lot of factors that could make a difference."
Those factors begin with the seeding process, which can all but determine a team's playoff fate before the first game is played.
Example No. 1:
The St. Francis boys, playing St. John Bosco on Saturday night to determine the third Del Rey League representative in the Southern Section 5-A playoffs, trail by 11 points with four minutes remaining in the third period.
Then the Knights stage a furious comeback to claim a 64-56 victory.
The win earns St. Francis a first-round game against top-seeded Mater Dei, winner of 54 straight games. A year earlier, the Knights' first-round opponent was top-seeded Ocean View.
"It's better than not practicing," said St. Francis Coach Drew Sorenson. "I'm glad to have a game."
Flip of a Coin
Example No. 2:
Crescenta Valley, second-place finisher in the Pacific League, draws Culver City, technically the second-place team from the Ocean League.
The catch is that Culver City tied for the Ocean title and lost a coin flip to determine its seed, resulting in its second-place classification.
"We got a terrible draw," said Falcons Coach John Goffredo. "But I feel we can play with them. I think the toughness of our league has prepared us to play anybody."
Example No. 3:
Defending CIF 4-A champion Glendale, which finished third in the Pacific League and was 14-9 overall, will play Simi Valley, The Times' eighth-rated Southern Section team, in the first round.
For Dynamiters Coach Steve Keith, the seeding process has come full circle.
"In my nine years here, this is the first time we've gone into the playoff as a third-place team," he said. "When we hosted third-place teams, we would blow them by 25 points. I hope to avoid that situation.
"The seeding is important. And since they've gone to three teams from each league making the playoffs, there are going to be some mismatches in the first round."
Determined to Triumph
Keith is not conceding anything to the Marmonte League champions.
"Sometimes I read those quotes about the playoffs being just a reward and icing on the cake," he said. "People who think like that are the ones who are out in the first round.
"We may very well be out in the first round, too. But we're going in with an even-ground psychology with Simi Valley. We are going to invest ourselves psychologically like we're going to win it."
The bottom line, of course, is that teams that win their league outright are rewarded in the playoff seeding.
Marshall, champion of the Northern League and the only team from the Glendale area in the City playoffs, faces a problem of its own. The Barristers won't know who their first-round opponent will be until tonight. Four wild card teams--Lincoln, Wilson, Birmingham and Chatsworth--were candidates to play Marshall.
'Any Team Is Tough'
But Greentree said preparing for an unknown opponent is only a minor problem.
"Any team is going to be tough," he said. "Any team can beat us if we don't play well and the other team does.
"We're going into the playoff with the notion that they are icing on the cake. We could lose to any single team, but that doesn't make the season."
The following are first-round playoff pairings for Glendale-area basketball teams. All games are Friday night unless otherwise noted.
City (3-A Division):
Wild card at Marshall (Northern League No. 1)
The Barristers (18-3, 10-0) are the top-seeded team largely because they have the City's all-time leading scorer in Jerry Simon. The 6-5 senior, who will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, set a City scoring record with 69 points (46 in the second half) in a 98-61 victory over Belmont last Friday. His 25 rebounds in that game set a school record. For the season, Simon scored a record 378 points. He also averaged 18 rebounds and 10 assists in league play. Greentree uses an eight-man rotation that emphasizes speed. The Barristers press on defense and run a passing-game offense.
Southern Section (4-A Division):
St. Francis (Del Rey No. 3) vs. Mater Dei (Angeles No. 1) at Chapman College on Thursday night