It is again time for the annual penny pitch in which the toss of a coin can decide the seeding fate of playoff-bound basketball teams. True to the odds, Cleveland Coach Bob Braswell is batting .500 after two rounds of heads or tails.
Cleveland lost a coin flip last week, giving the second-seeded position in the City Section 4-A Division to Manual Arts. But the Cavaliers won a flip Tuesday that gives them the top position in the Valley League should Cleveland (11-1 in league play) share the league title with Fairfax (11-1).
The league concludes its season today. Fairfax plays at El Camino Real, Cleveland plays at Taft and Hamilton plays at Kennedy. The playoffs begin Friday.
Cleveland (18-2) is ranked ahead of Manual Arts--the No. 2 seeded team--in state and City polls and defeated Manual Arts (20-2) in December, 84-77, in the final of the Chaminade tournament. Even though Cleveland came out of the coin tosses even, Braswell is definitely not head over heels for the heads-or-tails process.
"I was pretty upset about it," Braswell said. "I remember telling the kids before that game that we probably needed to beat Manual to give us the playoff bid ahead of them."
City seeding meetings are open to all coaches. Braswell and Fairfax Coach Harvey Kitani attended from the Valley League, and several coaches from the Marine League, of which Manual Arts is a member, also were present. A 3-3 vote by coaches after discussion forced the coin flip.
"They pretty much said that because Manual finished with a 10-0 record in league that they deserved the second seed," Braswell said. "It doesn't make much sense. We beat Manual, we're ranked ahead of them in every poll, and if the Valley League isn't the toughest league in the 4-A then it's the second-toughest.
"We argued for an hour and a half before we flipped. I guess you just can't ever assume that these things are worked out logically."
City Commissioner Hal Harkness agreed that seeding often leaves some coaches seething but that the process is democratic.
"A representative from any league is welcome to come to the meeting," Harkness said. "Then it is basically left to the coaches to reach a consensus. And when it ends in a tie, I don't know of a more impartial way to break it than by flipping a coin."
Jeff Davis, an El Camino Real assistant, points to his team's two most recent playoff appearances as proof of the Valley League's superiority. In a first-round game two years ago, El Camino Real--the fifth-place team in the Valley League--lost to San Pedro, the first-place Marine team, at the buzzer. Last season, El Camino Real defeated first-place San Pedro.
"If I would have known it was going to turn out that way we would have sent somebody down there," Davis said. "It's unbelievable anyone could think that league is tougher than the Valley."
There was better news Tuesday, however. In winning the toss, Cleveland was placed in a bracket opposite Crenshaw (22-0), the top-ranked team in several national polls and the No. 1-seeded team in the 4-A. Cleveland lost to Crenshaw in the 4-A final two years ago but defeated the Cougars in last season's semifinal round.
Either El Camino Real or Hamilton could draw Crenshaw in the first round. If Hamilton defeats Kennedy and Fairfax beats El Camino Real, both teams will finish 3-9 in Valley League play and a coin toss will determine which team plays Crenshaw and which plays Manual Arts. If both teams lose, El Camino Real draws Manual Arts.
In the 3-A, Grant, the East Valley League co-champion, opens Friday against visiting Granada Hills, the second-place team from the Northwest Valley League. Grant, which finished in a first-place tie with North Hollywood, lost a coin flip to determine the league's top representative. North Hollywood plays host to the winner of today's wild-card game between Eagle Rock and Marshall.