Harold Abend's San Diego Section Roundup

First year of new power rankings system is a farce.....San Diego girls forfeit three wins, but would that have happened if all those winning scores were so high?.......Plus, update on Candice Wiggins and which teams to watch as the basketball playoffs get underway.

New power ratings are a black out

In the "old days" of "seeding meetings" the coaches would get together and argue about "who lost to who"...and "who played a tougher schedule"...and "who was ranked higher by Cal-Hi Sports"...and the coaches would get a chance to plead their case in front of their peers and section officials.

I attended and covered over a dozen of the meetings in the North Coast Section and an equal number of Regional/State seeding meetings. The media would get to see and hear the brokering that would go on. Paul Gaddini, the ex-commish of the North Coast Section, was a master at pleasing as many as possible in the political quagmire at these meetings, while at the same time maneuvering to get his teams seeded at the regionals while keeping almost everyone happy.

The new system used by the San Diego Section is just another example of something not looked at closely enough. Any system that rewards a team for just showing up for a game on the road whether they win or not -- and gives no credit to a team for a home win -- is a system that makes no sense whatsoever and is a great disservice to the coaches and athletes who work so hard to get into the playoffs in the first place.

I don't care if the California community colleges use the system. Off the record, a half-dozen coaches I talked to involved in the debacle of this year's seedings say the system, when combined with other factors, clearly favors the north county teams and leagues.

In the most blaring gaffe, Wade Vickery's Santana Sultans didn't even get a seed in Div II girls even though they swept and had a better record than El Capitan...the team seeded No. 1...and they had a better league and overall record than the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds. Orange Glen, which was seeded No. 3, got credit for losses at the Santana tournament while Santana was penalized for hosting the tourney.

Vickery told me he "came out a little stronger" in the Union Tribune than he really feels, but he wants to let section officials and management know that he "will continue to make noise" about things he sees as unfair to the student athletes.

I'm sure coaches Terri Bamford of Country Day and Zack Jones of Horizon must have their phones ringing of the hook from coaches who want to play them as a road game next year...then probably complain that they had the score run up on them.

Are Cavers paying for winning by such large margins?

Now comes the real kicker. The San Diego girls team was informed on Friday that it would have to forfeit three games for using a player who was declared ineligible. Athletic Director Dennis Kane said the player's parents felt they had complied with the requirements for enrollment and participation and the school believed "she was good to go."

Kane told me he was having a hard time understanding how other student athletes at other schools could transfer on a day's notice and play immediately. He deferred further comment to the Vice Principal of San Diego High, Cesar Alcantar, who told me that the student and her family were given "erroneous information" and that the wrong paperwork was filled out.

I also spoke to Bruce Ward at the San Diego City Schools and he said that the CIFSDS contacted him and asked him to review the application paperwork. He said the paperwork "did not include a formulative reason compelling enough to warrant a transfer" and cited Section 214 of the CIF bylaws pertaining to transfer eligibility.

I fully expected this to be the case. I will tell you, however, that I have seen this rule interpreted in as many ways as the dozens of cases in which I have heard it invoked. I do not need to talk to Mr. Alcantar or Mr. Ward to know what is going on here. Mr. Ward did point out that he only rules on incidents involving San Diego City Schools. If the player in question was one of the many "stars" that have transferred in this and other sections recently, I could see the big hullabaloo. Instead she was a player who was seeing PT at a time in games when San Diego is being accused of running up scores. Oh yea...running up the scores...Bruce and I discussed that as well and we will have more on that issue in our next Roundup.

Gettin' Wiggy With It

The Wiggins household has seen two consecutive state championship plaques for the mantle, thanks to Candice being at helm of La Jolla Country Day's Division V title teams.

The big news at the house lately, though, is about her "Big Time" recovery from knee surgery and her Big Brother Alan. Candice is making spectacular progress and told me, "I have been running and doing the stairs since Friday and I don't have any pain."

Candice also says she has no regrets about continuing to play volleyball. "I want to play volleyball and basketball in college and I really hope I have that opportunity. My injury could have come turning on the court or going to the basket or anywhere...not just in volleyball."

The darling of the San Diego pine will probably get a chance to go for a "3-Peat," albeit at Division IV after she returns for what she hopes to be the section semifinal on March 4th. Brother Alan, meanwhile, is at the top of his game and on top of everyone else's with the section's top rated Horizon Panthers. This team has the potential to be better than last year and Alan is a big reason why as he improves with each and every game.

By the way...Jeff Hutzler, the AD at La Jolla Country Day, emailed me asking me to start referring to their teams as the Torreys instead of the Torres. Seems something was removed??... from somewhere??...some years ago?? Maybe the "Y" was stolen by BYU or something...and it came back?? We will try to remember, but don't be angry if we occasionally forget.

Section Playoff Picture...even though it's a bit muddied and sullied.

Boys Division I

It didn't take a brain surgeon or rocket scientist to figure out who is No. 1 in this picture...it's the El Camino Wildcats (26-2), who incidentally remain amongst the top rated teams in the state. Mikel Watson and Gyno Pomare are two of the top five players in the section and Justin Armstrong provides more muscle and inside scoring. This team has a legitimate shot at reaching the regional final with a trip to the Big Dance in Sacramento a possibility. No Division I team from San Diego has ever been to the State Championships.

San Diego (21-4) slipped into the No. 2 seed when Torrey Pines lost on Friday. Anthony Palmer and Chauncey Wiseman have provided consistent scoring all year, but I don't believe San Diego has anywhere near the firepower to extinguish El Camino.

No. 3 seed Torrey Pines (22-5) went to No. 4 seed Rancho Bernardo (208) last Wednesday and won 58-51...then on Friday lost its season finale to San Pasqual. This is the kind of year it has been for Falcon coach John Olive. As for the Broncos, Mohamed Abukar is a great player, but no one is going to beat El Camino this year.

Girls Division I

It's a clean sweep for the Wildcats. In the section rankings I've had El Camino (22-4) ahead of Kearny, who beat them by 13 in the beginning of the season when Nikki Oakland was rehabbing from back surgery. The seeding system, however, jolts them to the top...over San Diego (21-5)...who beat Kearny three times...oh yea...two now with the three forfeits.

The adults can do whatever they want off the court, fortunately the kids play the games. No. 3 seed Carlsbad and No. 4 seed Rancho Bernardo are respectable, but both El Camino and San Diego are better and have beaten them. Question is...at this point of the season and as well as she's playing...who can stop the Cavers Charde Houston when she plays the whole game. Candice Wiggins has done it in other circumstances...but she isn't in this division.

Division II Boys

Helix (21-6) snags the top seed, but the best player and team in this division may be Lorenzo Keeler and his No. 2 seed Escondido Cougars, who play tough north county competition.

Division II Girls

Some call it an embarrassment that El Capitan (19-7) was given the top seed. No. 2 seed Mt. Miguel (24-3) beat Santana (23-4) on the road a couple of weeks ago with star Christine Fitzgerald having a poor shooting night. The Matadors are obviously the team to beat in this Division with a re-match against Santana a distinct possibility.

Division III Boys

La Jolla (20-7) has been rated with the top teams in the section all year and Jake Wohlfiel and company have played well. I'm told by my sources that Lafayette Lofton of No. 3 seed Brawley (21-3) is a quality player but La Jolla would seem to be more experienced and deeper.

Division III Girls

I can hardly wait to see No. 1 seed Kearny (19-3) play No. 2 seed Mission Bay (18-2) if both teams make it through to the finals. I have seen both teams this year several times and this will be a dandy. Kearny is running teams ragged and Daphne Kennedy is one of the top five players in the section, and Mission Bay has the "X" factor in Amber Sprague, who is also one of the top five players overall and top 2 big girls in the section. She can take over a game quickly. I saw her block opposition shots on six straight trips down the court in one game this year.

Division IV Boys

Top seed Horizon (26-1) has answered all the questions so far this season. No one, including No. 2 seed Lincoln, has even given the Panthers a scare in local section play, but the Hornets will probably get one more shot at the team that has become their arch rival.

Some of the pundits, prognosticators and self proclaimed experts continue to argue, but it will take more than their arguments to convince me that Jared Dudley is not the best player in the section. The 6-5 senior, who continues to hold his college options open (he's leaning toward St. Mary's), is averaging a double/double at 23 plus PPG and 11 plus rebounds. His dominance on both ends of the court has been the linchpin in the Panthers' success this season.

"This team is really starting to come together as a unit...they are starting to know where each other is on the floor," says coach Zack Jones, who is quickly rising to near the top of the ranks of prep coaches in California. If the teams meet again in the final Lincoln will not be easy. I suspect that Shaun Davis will play as well and Dominic McGuire will play better than in the 27-point loss to the Panthers at home several weeks ago.

As I said before, Horizon has the depth and the potential to be even better than last years team. "We still have unfinished business," says Jones...and that business ends with one of my most favorite events...the winners' press conference at the state championships next month at ARCO Arena in Sacramento.

Division IV Girls

The No. 1 seed La Jolla Country Day (21-4) Torreys (got it right!!) have certainly matured over the past couple of weeks, playing without Candice Wiggins...and they have answered the critics who felt that without Wiggins the Torreys were ripe for defeat.

Marissa Rivera has been solid all year and played exceptionally well with Candice out. The lone senior on the squad, Ashley Rentz, has taken to mixing it up even harder underneath with her star teammate absent. Super sophomore La Toya Cunningham has gotten to handle the rock and the additional playing time has sharpened her game immensely. Sophomore Mercedes Fox-Griffin and freshmen Ashley Booker and Jordan Godinet have also been instrumental in picking up the slack down the stretch.

I don't see anyone, including No. 2 seed Bishop's, dethroning the Torreys in the section if Candice is back for the last two games. The regionals and if they make it, the state, may be a different story.

Division V Boys

It would be a big surprise if anyone other than top seed Santa Fe Christian (23-6) won this division. Nick Corso has thrown down enough buckets against tough competition like Horizon to be able to post sufficient numbers...together with some help from teammates to withstand challenges from any in this assembled group, including No. 2 seed Julian (21-4).

Division V Girls

Calvin Christian (12-9 overall 4-6 league) gets the top seed because it showed up against La Jolla Country Day and got the points needed to satisfy the new "system." Don't be surprised if the winner of this division comes from the bottom bracket that includes No. 2 seed Julian (15-7) and No. 3 seed Santa Fe Christian (13-12).

Editor's Note: Harold Abend has served as the San Diego Section correspondent for Cal-Hi Sports for two years. He also has assisted the CIF state office as a public relations consultant for many years at CIF state championship events.

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