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COMMENTARY : Artesia girls basketball program disrespected by ‘bracket experts’ in state playoffs

The Artesia girls basketball team won their division yet got the lowest seed possible that sent them on the road throughout the playoffs. San Jacinto Valley Academy, a team that Artesia beat, was given the top seed in Division 5.

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Today would have been the day that the Artesia High girls basketball might have been playing for a CIF Division V state championship against Branson High. Instead, the committee that put together the brackets for the state playoffs back on Mar. 1 pulled a “not so fast” on the Lady Pioneers.

Artesia defeated San Jacinto Valley Academy 46-39 on Feb. 29 to win the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 AA championship, knocking off the top-seeded team in the division. So, Artesia Nation would have thought it would get a favorable draw in the Southern California Regionals. Nope. Not anywhere close.

NCAA college bracketology experts Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm could have done a better job in making out the brackets and I’m sure they would have kept the Lady Pioneers in Division V, or at worst, one of the top seeds in Division IV.

But none of that happened.

Instead, Artesia was given the 16thseed in Division IV and with it, came a road trip to top-seeded Lancaster High for the first round on Mar. 3. While Artesia lost by 26 points, guess who is playing in Sacramento on Saturday? Lancaster.

This was one of the biggest snubs I’ve seen for the state playoffs in my 25 years of reporting, and left many scratching their heads and asking many questions.

I took the time to break down all five brackets of the state tournament and while I understand the CIF likes to reward more teams, it still doesn’t make a lot of sense.

For example, of the 16 teams in the Division 5 state bracket, half a dozen were divisional champions with San Diego High and Verdugo High being bumped down from Division 4. The same San Jacinto Valley Academy team that Artesia had defeated was given the top seed in Division 5. So, you lose in the divisional finals and get rewarded? Again, it makes no sense.

Moving to the Division 4 bracket, Lancaster lost in the 3 AA semifinals while there were a pair of Los Angeles City Section Division 1 teams, Carson High and Eagle Rock High, that were situated in Division 4.

Now, I understand that the CIF likes to rearrange teams based on enrollment sizes, and if they wanted to move Artesia to another division, why wouldn’t it put the team at a better seed with at least a first round home game?

It’s just a shame that Artesia would be disrespected in this manner. The Lady Pioneers went through the regular season with a 21-7 record with all seven losses coming in league play. They were ranked first in the division for most of the season and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

What would make this season even stranger is had the Lady Pioneers gone all the way to Sacramento, they would have been the ultimate road warriors, playing nine of 10 playoff games away from Artesia. In fact, Artesia would have played 11 of its last 12 games away from its own gymnasium. The last home game Artesia played was on Feb. 15 and before that, Feb. 1.

Bottom line is this-the CIF needs to do a much better job in putting together its brackets for the state playoffs in all spots and reward divisional champions instead of giving them the lowest seed possible and sending them on the road throughout the playoffs. It wasn’t fair to Artesia and it shouldn’t have been the way for the team to end what was a dream season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Artesia uses this as bulletin board material for next season.