The high school basketball season has been a thrilling ride thus far, but the regular season is the regular season and is now a thing of the past. Those fortunate enough to make the final four in their respective divisions are focused now on the present, and the long-awaited playoffs.
The key to victory is simple: Win three games in the next two weeks and the trophy will be in your school’s hallway.
The ball club that holds the regular-season title and is the overwhelming favorite to win this year’s playoff title is the reigning champion, Mission High School, with a flat-out dominating 15-1 record. The team has mowed down nearly every team in the league, and any adversary in the post-season faces the daunting task of simply trying to keep up.
The first to try will be the Galileo Lions, who face the Bears at Mission High today at 4 p.m. The two teams last met on January 26, when Mission defeated Galileo 82-59.
Here’s the lineup for the playoffs. The schools competing from the NEFF division are listed here from the highest seed to the lowest:
Lowell Cardinals (12-4)
Wallenberg Bulldogs (10-6)
Burton Pumas (6-10)
Galileo Lions (6-10)
The schools representing the LANG division are listed here from highest seed to lowest:
Mission Bears (15-1)
Washington Eagles (14-2)
Lincoln Mustangs (12-4)
Marshall Phoenix (8-8)
The LANG division squads have a more impressive record than the NEFF, but it would be a mistake to discount the Wallenberg Bulldogs, the second-seed NEFF team. The Bulldogs are no strangers to rallying and pulling off shockers during the playoffs. Last year’s AAA finals contenders will enter post-season as the underdogs and attempt to impress doubters. Wallenberg head coach Patrick Mulligan has a knack for finding a way through trouble and sneaking his team to safety when it really matters.
Be on the lookout for the LANG division teams, though, as their records are no exaggeration.
Third-place Lincoln will play with an added sense of urgency: Before the regular season began, the Mustangs lost their head coach, Mike Gragnani. Since then the team has had a new level of determination.
The second-place Washington Eagles will definitely catch the attention of many during the ceremonial two-week playoffs. With a staggering record of 14-2, Washington has established itself as an elite citywide force. The Eagles were leading the league in the standings for the whole season until their last game, on February 22, when they were defeated by the Mission Bears. The team will rest on the shoulders of its “Big 3” — the senior trio of guard Brendan Glapion (who leads the league in individual scoring, with 23 points), forward Levander Moore and guard Jeremy Jetton.
An interesting note: Washington beat Mission on a blowout win of 89-66 — Mission’s only loss of the regular season.
A monolithic amount of pressure is on the line for every single team. One loss is all it takes for a team’s season to be finished until winter comes around again. With the stage finally set for a show, each organization will be forced to put on a competent performance. If not, they will have to walk toward the exit sign, check out, and make way for the teams that play better.
Awesome article by the great Richard Lee.