Final Thoughts from the State Finals

After a 1-9 mark in 2001, North teams only won three times in this year's CIF championships. But is the South really that much better than the North?

Southern California prep writers all loved to mention the fact that teams from the South went 7-3 in this year's finals after the 9-1 mark from last year. One columnist even used the word "trounced." We're not going to argue that Northern California is equal to or on par with the South, but that record is certainly skewed by two facts.

First, NorCal teams tend to move up to higher divisions while SoCal teams do not and starting this year in the Southern Section they can't move up even if they wanted to. Would these move ups make a difference?

In Division V boys, for example, the accomplishment of Price's boys winning three straight titles would have been much more difficult if Modesto Christian was in Division V instead of Division I. Not wanting to take away anything from coach Michael Lynch or his players, the Crusaders team of last year was clearly better than Price. After all, Modesto Christian only lost to Mater Dei in the Div. I final by three points.

This year, St. Mary's of Berkeley would have been a much stronger Div. IV state final opponent of San Diego Horizon than Valley Christian. The Panthers won that title in 2001, but also opted for Division I this year.

Two other traditionally strong NorCal programs, Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland and St. Joseph of Alameda, always move up to Division I. If O'Dowd stayed in Div. III (its enrollment division), we're sure coach Mike Phelps would have two or three state titles by now. But Phelps cares more about challenging his players than win-loss records and Div. III state titles. St. Joseph has been down in recent years, but when the Pilots had several strong teams in the aftermath of Jason Kidd's graduation in the mid 1990s there's no question that one or two of those teams would have won Div. IV state crowns.

On the girls side, the move up by St. Mary's of Stockton this year from Div. IV to Div. II was a moot point since the Rams won the state title in Div. II and Marin Catholic (the NorCal rep) won in Div. IV. But two strong Div. III schools that moved up to Div. I were Mitty of San Jose and St. Ignatius of San Francisco. That also may be a moot point since Miramonte of Orinda might have beaten both of them anyway.

Another significant girls team from Northern California that has moved up the last two years is Pinewood, up from Div. V to Div. II. Pinewood might have lost this year in the playoffs to either Modesto Christian or La Jolla Country Day, but last year's Pinewood team probably was better than last year's La Jolla Country Day team.

It didn't make a difference this year, but another fact that tilts the win-loss record in the south's favor is that teams from the CIF Central Section are counted as south teams when in fact, from a geographical and population standpoint, those schools should actually be in the north.

An example of that was last year when Hanford's girls won the Div. II crown. Checking a map, Hanford isn't really a Southern California or Northern California community. But having been there many times we can tell there's a lot more Giants fans there than Dodger fans.

It may be time for the CIF to start exploring different options than ARCO Arena for the state championships.

Even though a Sacramento team was in the girls final, attendance at this year's 10-game event spread out over two days and three sessions was 19,801. That's about 5,000 less than came to the 2001 games.

We're no experts, but we think this year's schedule in which the regional playoffs were stretched out an extra week because ARCO was unavailable on March 16-17 was a factor. You'd have thought the extra week would have allowed fans more time to make plans to attend the regional finals and state final, but we got the impression that the extra week gave more time for people to lose interest in what was going on. We'd be surprised if the CIF continues this year's schedule next year when ARCO's schedule won't be conflicted.

Of course, last year's higher attendance figure also was due to the fact that Modesto Christian's boys had such a strong following. There was 13,000 plus for the Saturday night session last year and most of those folks were from Modesto.

ARCO has been the home of the CIF finals since 1998. The Arrowhead Pond was used in 1997 and the Oakland Coliseum was used in earlier years as well, but the Coliseum became too expensive after it was remodeled several years ago and attendance at the Pond in 1997 was way below expectations.

New arenas in Fresno and Bakersfield might be possibilities since both communities would be very supportive of a state championship event (with no pro teams like the Sacramento Kings dominating media coverage) and since both arenas would be big enough to generate attendance figures over three sessions of more than 30,000.

This was the best year for our predicted winners at the state finals since we started the pre-event practice in the early 1980s.

We've never gone 10-for-10 before, but after Westchester had put the wraps on its 80-75 win over Oakland Tech the 10-for-10 weekend was complete.

It didn't look like we'd be right about the St. Mary's girls, Riordan boys or King boys, but all three were able to win close games to keep us going.

We don't like mentioning spreads, but if you look at the predicted scores we had last week, two of the spreads were right on (St. Mary's girls by four over Redondo and Bishop Montgomery girls by five over Miramonte) and another was almost right on (we had Westchester winning by four).

Needless to say it would have been nice had Brandon Heath missed one of those last two free throws. Then we would have gone 10-for-10 and hit the spread exactly in three of the games.

This year's 10-for-10 showing follows two straight 8-for-10s and a 9-for-10 in 1999. So in the last 40 state championship games, we've correctly predicted the winner in 35 of them.

Our own Nelson Tennis says that M.L. King became the first school to win a state title in any sport in which no alumni celebration can be held.

King grads will be able to celebrate in June, though, as there will be at least one graduating class by then for the new school.

Nelson also reports that Bishop Montgomery's girls title is the seventh in basketball for the school overall (counting boys) and is the school's ninth in all sports (counting volleyball).

Another gem from Nelson: Archbishop Riordan won in the state finals. Dick Riordan lost in the state semifinals.


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