By GERARDO RECINOS
For months you all probably got tired of hearing me say how competitive the Diablo Foothill Athletic League is when it comes to basketball.
But when I glanced at the North Coast Section brackets and saw what I saw, I felt vindicated. It’s rough to write about less than excellent season’s, and credit to the athletes taking in part in them, because the only thing tougher is actually playing through them.
As a player for a 6-22 baseball I would know.
But when it comes down to it, there is a large gap between the level of play in the DFAL and the neighboring East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) and Diablo Valley Athletic League (DVAL) and Bay Valley Athletic League (BVAL).
Especially when it comes to the girls game.
In the DFAL, a whopping four teams are playing in the CIF State tournament.
Kind of puts Alhambra’s record in perspective, doesn’t it?
By comparison the DVAL’s first place team, Concord, was knocked out in the second round of the Division II playoffs, and the BVAL only sent Heritage-Brentwood, while the EBAL sent NCS Division II champions Carondelet-Concord.
Miramonte won the Division III title, an almost pre-determined outcome. With three-time DFAL MVP Sabrina Ionescu leading the charges it seemed evident that Kelly Sopak’s team would do so.
Ionescu and first team All-DFAL selections Elle Louie and Keana De los Santos helped Miramonte win a third straight NCS title by winning games by an average of 34 points.
The Matadors are once again on a crash course for the Northern California Regional final where they will face CIF Open Division foe St. Mary’s-Stockton, the number one team in all the land according to MaxPreps.
Acalanes, who the Bulldogs played in their final game of the season, lost the NCS Division II title game to Carondelet-Concord who will be playing the Open Division bracket.
The Dons still managed to secure a number five seed despite going 6-6 in DFAL play, and coming in fourth place.
Second place Campolindo was knocked out in the Division III semi-finals by Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland, another Open Division bracket competitor.
The Cougars will be one of the younger teams in the tournament, sporting a roster with only three players who are junior year or above. The heavily sophomore based team went 24-5 overall in 2015-2016, with their only two DFAL losses coming to Miramonte.
Dublin, who made it to the regional final in 2015, is back in the state tournament, this time in Division I.
Despite losing a bright crop of seniors and their coach, the Gaels went 18-10 overall in 2015-2016 and 8-4 in DFAL play. They earned an 11-seed in the tough Division I bracket.
Of those four teams, Alhambra played Dublin the toughest, but there was still a clear disparity in the competition they faced, and teams in the EBAL, DVAL and BVAL faced.
Things are much more even on the boys side, with EBAL teams De La Salle and Monte Vista both qualifying for spots in the CIF State tournaments. De La Salle will look to avenge a regional semi-final loss. As the number one seed in the Open Division, the Spartans looked poised to go deep in the tournament.
Monte Vista-Danville lost to De La Salle in the NCS Division I title game, which is clearly worth something, because they were awarded a number three seed in Division I, and a first-round bye.
Monte Vista knocked out BVAL champions Freedom-Oakley in the second round of NCS Division I.
The DVAL champions Concord were knocked out in the NCS Division II second round by Newark Memorial-Fremont.
Next season’s re-conferencing will help the Bulldogs, who will be looking forward to playing more competitive basketball after both team’s broke playoff droughts last season.
They’ll both be looking to get back into the promised land as the field opens back up again.