NCS basketball playoffs 2024: The matchups are set. Here’s what to know


NCS basketball playoffs: Top storylines

Boys: Open Division

It sure looks as if the selection committee emphasized the total body of work rather than being a prisoner of the moment when it seeded teams in the section’s top division. San Ramon Valley avenged its two regular-season league losses in the East Bay Athletic League tournament, winning impressively on the road over Granada on Thursday in the semifinals and De La Salle on Saturday in the final. But the committee still placed SRV behind De La Salle in the six-team bracket. So in reality, SRV’s 68-59 victory over the Spartans meant next to nothing in terms of seeding purposes. De La Salle, which hadn’t lost to a Northern California team this season until Saturday, was placed second behind top-seeded Salesian. San Ramon Valley drew the No. 4 seed as North Bay powerhouse Branson, led by Illinois-bound Jase Butler, was seeded third. Branson’s resume includes victories over Archbishop Mitty, Archbishop Riordan and a Redwood team that beat San Ramon Valley. What does all this mean? Well, SRV will now have to play a rubber match on its home court Thursday night against Granada for the right to face Salesian on the road in the semifinals on Feb. 21. De La Salle, meanwhile, will get a home game on Feb. 12 against Branson or Diablo Athletic League tournament champion Clayton Valley Charter, which was seeded sixth. The good news for all teams selected for the Open: They have qualified for the Northern California regionals. – Darren Sabedra  

Girls: Open Division 

San Ramon Valley is the top seed in the NCS’ top bracket after a banner regular season that included victories over Carondelet, Pinewood and Oakland Tech, but its path to an Open title is no cakewalk for Sofia Bowes and Co. Any of the six teams could realistically win the section. … Cardinal Newman enters the tournament winners of 24 straight, with its last four victories coming by at least 60 points each. … Scoring in the Bishop O’Dowd and Acalanes matchup could approach triple-digits. Bishop O’Dowd’s Lizzy Quinteros and Devin Cosgriff are both future college players, as are Acalanes’ Karyss Lacanlale and Dulci Vail can put up points in a hurry too. … Carondelet has depth surrounding lead guard Keshia Vitalicio, and the Cougars just took top-seed SRV to the brink in a close EBAL title game loss. … Meanwhile, no one puts up points quite like Piedmont’s Natalia Martinez, a San Diego State commit who is capable of single-handedly winning games for the Highlanders. … Between O’Dowd’s Malik McCord, Carondelet’s Kelly Sopak, SRV’s John Cristiano, Piedmont’s Bryan Gardere, and Acalanes Margaret Gartner, the Open teams all have coaches who have won at the state level. … Each program automatically qualifies for NorCal competition regardless of how far they advance in section play. – Joseph Dycus

Boys: Meet the No. 1 seeds

Salesian was a no-brainer for the top seed in the Open Division. The Pride ended the regular season on a 15-game winning streak, beat Archbishop Riordan in a much-anticipated MLK showcase at De La Salle and took third in the top bracket at the prestigious Damien tournament in Southern California over the holidays. Salesian’s only loss in a 27-1 regular season was to St. John Bosco-Bellflower in the semifinals at Damien, 68-66 in overtime. Longtime coach Bill Mellis has led a team of standouts who are committed to the end-goal rather than individual glory. On most nights, the team’s rotation players score between seven and 12 points. …  Bishop O’Dowd, thought to be a contender for an Open Division spot late in the season, stumbled down the stretch with losses to Berkeley and Modesto Christian. But the Dragons still got a nice consolation prize. The Oakland powerhouse is the No. 1 seed in a Division I bracket that should be highly entertaining. O’Dowd’s path to the title could include a semifinal game against fourth-seeded Dougherty Valley – last season’s Open champion – and a title game against second-seeded league rival Berkeley. But given the parity in this bracket, don’t be surprised if there are several upsets along the way. … Montgomery-Santa Rosa and University-San Francisco had computer ratings that merited Open Division consideration. But both ended up as No. 1 seeds in the enrollment divisions – Montgomery in Division II, University in Division III. … Ygnacio Valley, the DAL’s regular-season champion, did not get a No. 1 seed in Division IV. Instead, the Wolves were seeded second behind Justin-Siena. … Oakland private school Head-Royce received the top seed in Division V. – Darren Sabedra

Girls: Meet the No. 1 seeds

San Ramon Valley went 27-1 and defeated Carondelet twice in the span of a week to clinch the top spot in the Open Division. Lost an early-season matchup with powerhouse St. Mary’s-Stockton and have since ripped off 25 consecutive wins. If it gets past the winner of O’Dowd and Acalanes, the Wolves will play either Cardinal Newman or the winner of Piedmont and Carondelet in the title game. … California went 23-4 and proved it was better than all but the Carondelet and San Ramon Valley in the EBAL. It played a competitive 61-55 game against Piedmont earlier in the season and beat 22-win James Logan in non-league play. Point guard Trinity Chu and the team will enjoy a bye in round one, and then play the winner of Clayton Valley and Dublin in the second. … Redwood and Marin Catholic are the top seeds in Division II and III respectively. … St. Patrick-St. Vincent gave Division I team Salesian all it could handle in the Tri-County Athletic League Rock Division title game, and now the Bruins have a chance to feast as the No. 1 seed in Division IV. Their lead guard Marissa Elizalde averages 20.5 points per game, and may not face a difficult defense until the championship game, possibly against No. 2 University-San Francisco. … St. Bernard’s is the No. 1 seed in Division V, and San Francisco Waldorf is tops in Division VI.  – Joseph Dycus

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