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THE PREPS / ERIC SHEPARD

Changes Could Make State Basketball Tourney a Bigger Winner

March 15, 1995|Eric Shepard

The state basketball tournament needs changes.

When many of the CIF's 10 sectional finals draw more interest, something is wrong.

Consider, when the Southern Section had six championship games at The Pond of Anaheim on March 4, the two sessions drew 24,682. Last Saturday, six Southern Regional finals at the same site drew 17,850 for two sessions.

Southern Regional winners advance to the state finals Friday and Saturday at Oakland Coliseum Arena to play the Northern Regional winners. There are five divisions each for boys and girls.

With berths in the state finals on the line, why don't the regional tournaments draw more interest?

Part of the problem is the format. By placing four sections in the Southern Regional and six in the Northern Regional, the CIF is eliminating some of the top teams. Many times, the best boys' and girls' teams play each other in an early round.

Another problem is scheduling. The two-week tournament has three rounds of games the first week and only one the second. The first three rounds are held at various sites on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Thus, fans have to free most of a week to follow their favorite teams.

The Riverside North boys, for example, played a first-round game in Bakersfield last Tuesday, traveled to Oceanside El Camino for the second round Thursday, then finished the week against Compton Dominguez at The Pond Saturday.

"Our players were physically and mentally drained," Coach Mike Bartee said after his team lost to Dominguez, 69-45. "We've been all over the state this week."

Ideally, the state tournament would be patterned after the NCAA's format of seeding all the qualifying teams. But in a state as large as California, that would make travel demands unrealistic.

A better solution is to bring together the semifinalists from each regional for a two-day tournament. A committee could seed the four teams in each division, with the semifinals on Friday and the finals on Saturday.

The girls' tournament could be held in Northern California and the boys' in Southern California one year, and they could alternate the next.

"We've talked about ways to do the tournament differently, but the bottom line is money," said Ray Bell, the tournament director. "The CIF picks up some of the travel costs for teams, and the more you travel, the higher the costs."

The tournament netted $171,000 for the CIF last year, which helped offset the costs of other state finals, such as cross-country and wrestling, which do not make a profit.

But if schools favor a change and know about it far enough in advance, they could help offset any increased costs by raising the money themselves.

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The Santa Ana Mater Dei boys' and girls' basketball teams each won Southern Regional Division I finals last Saturday against Fresno Clovis West.

Mater Dei thus became the first school to advance both of its teams in the tournament's major division. If the Monarchs win Saturday night--the girls play Atherton Sacred Heart at 6 and the boys play Oakland Fremont at 8--their combined record of 75-2 would be a state record.

The record of 65-2 was set by San Anselmo Drake in 1982 in Division II. The Drake boys were 34-0 and the girls 31-2.

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Verbum Dei, an all-boys' parochial school in Watts, has seen a resurgence in its basketball program since Mike Kearney took over as coach six years ago.

The Eagles (25-5) lost to San Diego Lincoln Prep in the Southern Regional Division IV final last year, but redeemed themselves against the same team Saturday, winning, 94-70, at Cal State Fullerton. They play San Bruno Capuchino (26-5) for the state title Saturday at 12:45 p.m.

Verbum Dei has never played in a state final. The school probably would have appeared in several in the 1970s when it compiled a record of 271-22, but there was no such tournament then. Between 1969 and 1975, the Eagles set a state record by winning 32 consecutive playoff games.

*

Prep notes

Mike Scyphers' job as baseball coach at Simi Valley is safe for now. His school last week investigated allegations of undue influence in trying to dissuade sophomore pitcher Mike Rainer from transferring to nearby Simi Valley Royal. "It's just been resolved and no further action will be taken," said Leon Mattingley, the district's assistant superintendent. "(Scyphers) will be the coach over there this year." The team, however, could still receive sanctions from the Southern Section.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

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