Last week's Southern Section ruling that all boys' and girls' basketball teams with at least 10 victories are eligible for playoff berths may have far-reaching implications in Orange County.
As of Monday, 10 boys' teams and nine girls' teams that would not automatically have qualified for the playoffs based on their league records were in. Seven more boys' teams and eight girls' teams with eight or nine victories could also qualify by the end of the regular season.
In theory, inclusion of more teams in the playoffs might be a good idea to give "bubble" teams a chance to participate. But might the new ruling also lead to a bloated playoff system with needless additional rounds and meaningless wild-card games?
For example, Century (9-13 overall, 1-5 in the Empire League) is in last place in its league but could qualify with one more victory. Edison (8-12, 1-5 in the Sunset League) is in fifth place in its league but could also get in with two more victories.
Should teams that can't win consistently in their own league be rewarded with playoff berths?
"I'm more old-school," said Katella Coach Sal Glorioso, whose team is tied for third in the Empire League but has only eight victories overall. "I feel like you should have to earn it by being one of the top three teams [in the league]. But I don't think we'll turn it down if we get our 10th win either."
Because of the new ruling, all four teams in the Serra League have already qualified for berths. And all six teams could be playoff bound in the Empire League, where the bottom three teams have eight or nine victories apiece.
It must be noted that these new qualifiers must petition the Southern Section to gain entry into the playoffs, but that's only a small detail. All petitions will be accepted, said Hal Harkness, Southern Section assistant commissioner, if section officials are able to verify the 10 victories as legitimate.
Harkness did note that the decision whether to file a petition will rest with a school's principal, who may choose not to file based on a lackluster season or the expense of traveling to another school for a wild-card game.
Ten games into the season, Bolsa Grande was plodding along at 5-5. The reborn Matadors haven't lost since.
Bolsa Grande Coach Michael Anderson attributes his team's 12-game winning streak and apparent hold on its first Garden Grove League title since 1987 to two things: the play of Jon James and Will Montgomery.
James, a 6-foot-4 senior power forward, has averaged 28.2 points while shooting 65.6% from the field over the last six games. He scored 22 points in a quarter earlier this season twice, against University and Saddleback. For the season, James is averaging 20.3 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.
"He's just carried us," Anderson said. "He's been a cornerstone and has had a great run."
Montgomery, a 6-3 junior swingman, has been just as impressive despite having only one year of high school basketball experience. Montgomery, who's averaging 18.6 points in league play, starred at Rancho Alamitos last year before coming over to Bolsa.
"There's not 10 better athletes on the court in Orange County," Anderson said. "He lacks experience, but he's learning. He's a fun player to watch and his best days are ahead of him."
More impressive than their statistics, perhaps, were these players' performances in the clutch during Bolsa's 77-74 overtime victory against Pacifica last week. In a game that may have clinched the league title for the Matadors (17-5, 8-0), Montgomery hit a three-pointer to tie the score at 68 and send it into overtime, and James sealed the victory with a strong move inside for a basket with a second to play in the extra period.
OFFICIAL BAD NEWS
The fears became real on Monday when Mater Dei guard Kyra Melville had an MRI exam on her knee, which she injured in the Monarchs' 62-51 victory Saturday over No. 10 Rosary.
"I'm out for the season," Melville said after seeing the doctor. "I tore my ACL and fractured the end of my femur."
A 5-foot-10 guard, college interest had been limited to Fresno State and UC Davis, and local Division II schools such as Cal State Dominguez Hills, Occidental and Chapman. She looked forward to the postseason.
"I was hoping in the playoffs, maybe I'd get some more notice," Melville said.
She has been one of the county's best players this season.
An outstanding defender who could guard posts or guards, Melville averaged 13.5 points and 4.2 assists for the seventh-ranked Monarchs. The options she provided Coach Ollie Martin on both ends of the floor gave the Monarchs an excellent chance to win a section title.
Now, the Monarchs look like a longshot.
Compounding Mater Dei's problems, center Lindsay Pavlik will likely be out another week with a dislocated shoulder after aggravating the injury against Rosary.
"It probably wasn't the smartest thing," she said of playing. "But I felt pretty good and I thought I could go. But I didn't want to go in unless it was necessary."
As it turned out, Rosary played "out of their minds," said the Royals' coach, Richard Yoon, and Pavlik was desperately needed.
Rosary led, 37-31, when Pavlik entered the ball game. Creating a mismatch inside, the Monarchs tied the score at 39, then dominated after Melville's injury.
"The game was stopped for 45 minutes [after Melville was injured], and that was the worst thing that could happen to us," Yoon said. "We went cold."
Staff writer Martin Henderson contributed to this report.
If you have an item or idea for the prep basketball report, you can fax us at (714)966-5663 or e-mail us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com