LOS ALAMITOS -- The top three divisions of the Southern Section boys' basketball playoffs are ruled by Orange County teams.
The playoff pairings, released Sunday at the CIF-SS office, established the foundation that will crown section champions Feb. 29-March 3 at Anaheim Arena, and the state finals March 23-24 in Sacramento.
The most diverse grouping atop the brackets is in Division 1AA, where Mater Dei (24-2) and Long Beach Poly (23-1) are seeded 1-2, followed by Etiwanda (26-1) from the Inland Empire and Los Angeles Loyola (21-4).
Mater Dei, last year's state champ that returned nine of its top 10 players including Katin Reinhardt and Xavier Johnson, won the Trinity League and will open the playoffs against at-large opponent Temecula Chaparral; it is Chaparral where Johnson played before transferring to Mater Dei after his sophomore season. In the same quarter of the pairings are San Gabriel Valley champion Downey (22-5), Century co-champ Foothill (22-5), and Golden champ Palmdale (19-6), which could meet Mater Dei in the second round.
Orange County, particularly in the south, will have a keen eye on Division 1A. Mission Viejo (23-3), by virtue of its South Coast League season-ending victory over Capistrano Valley (22-4), went to the top of the pairings as the No. 1-seeded team; Capo, previously ranked No. 1, dropped to No. 2 and is on the same side of the bracket now as third-seeded Orange Lutheran (16-10). OLu opened the season at No. 1 but foundered in the middle when Gabe York got appendicitis -- it lost seven of nine at one point because of York's absence and tough scheduling. A third team from the South Coast League, El Toro (19-8), was seeded fifth.
Ocean View (23-3), in its first season since the death of Jim Harris -- the only coach the program had known -- was seeded No 1 in Division 2AA. The Sea Hawks won the Golden West title and figure to be challenged by Canyon Country Canyon (23-3), Riverside North (21-5) and Anaheim Canyon (20-7).
There were three county teams in the girls' playoffs that were seeded No. 1, but two-time state champion Mater Dei (23-3) was not one of them despite currently being ranked the No. 1 team in the division statewide by Cal-Hi Sports. Long Beach Poly (25-2) was seeded No. 1, and Mater Dei -- after losing to L.A. Windward in the Nike Extravaganza -- is seeded No. 2. Undefeaterd Corona Santiago (27-0) and Huntington Beach Edison (21-3) are 3-4, while Brea Olinda (20-5) is No 5.
Foothill (21-5), the second-place team from the tough Century League, is top-seeded in Division 2A. Yorba Linda (21-5), in its third season, is top-seeded in 3AA, and Orangewood Academy (21-4) is No. 1 in Division 6.