Daily News boys basketball: Notre Dame falls to Division 1 in CIF-SS playoffs

The Mission League will be well-represented in the CIF Southern Section boys basketball playoffs, as all eight teams made the postseason.

But there was a big shock Sunday as Notre Dame was omitted from the Open Division.

Instead, Notre Dame was named the top seed in the Division 1 bracket and will start its CIF-SS playoff journey on the road against Crean Lutheran. Notre Dame defeated Crean Lutheran 63-51 in the State Preview Classic on Jan. 20.

The Knights had an undefeated record going until they lost their last three games of the regular season. The first loss was to Sierra Canyon in a game they held a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, followed by a loss to Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, but they were without their starting backcourt of Mercy Miller and Lino Mark.

Notre Dame lost to Harvard-Westlake, a team they had beaten two weeks prior, Wednesday in the semifinals of the Mission League Tournament.

The Wolverines came away victorious against Crespi in the tournament championship game Friday and earned the No. 1 seed in the Open Division.

Harvard-Westlake is coming off winning the State Open championship last year, but missed out on winning the Southern Section Open Division title.

“Our goal at the start of the season was to win all three. Last year we won two out of three, we didn’t win CIF, so this year that’s what we’re aiming for,” Harvard-Westlake senior Christian Horry said after Friday’s win. “Monday we get back to work, start practicing and focusing on CIF.”

Sierra Canyon #2 Isaiah Elohim and Sierra Canyon #1 Justin Pippen guard St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy #0 David Mack. St. Pius X played Sierra Canyon in a non-league game on Jan.6, 2024 in Cerritos, CA. (Photo by John McCoy, Contributing Photographer)

Sierra Canyon joins Harvard-Westlake in the Open Division. The Trailblazers are the only boys basketball team that has made the CIF-SS Open Division playoffs every year since its inception.

Sierra Canyon and Harvard-Westlake are grouped in Pool A and will play each other along with last year’s Open Division champions Centennial and runner-up St. John Bosco.

The Trailblazers beat Harvard-Westlake and Notre Dame in the regular season but fell to Crespi in an upset in the Mission League Tournament semifinals.

West Ranch, an Open Division team last year, joins Notre Dame in the top half of the Division 1 bracket and will take on Edison at home in the first round Wednesday. West Ranch and Edison had one common opponent this season, Heritage Christian, which beat both teams.

Village Christian and St. Francis are also in the Division 1 bracket. Village Christian, the No. 3 finisher in the Olympic League, will play Etiwanda, last year’s Division 1 champ, on the road.

St. Francis, representing the Mission League, will head to Orange County to play Pacifica Christian, the San Joaquin League champion.

Division 2AA is arguably the most loaded division in the playoffs, with multiple local teams capable of going the distance.

Crespi head coach Derrick Fisher coaches against Harvard-Westlake in the Mission League boys basketball tournament final at Harvard-Westlake on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Crespi earned the No. 1 seed and will host Maranatha, a team it beat 73-44 in December. Sophomore Joe Sterling had 29 points in the victory.

Thousand Oaks, the Marmonte League co-champ, could see Crespi in the quarterfinals but will have to go through King first.

“Beyond excited more than anything just to get an extra opportunity to be on our court with my guys,” Thousand Oaks  coach Logan Baltau said. “This is such a great group of kids who have worked so hard and love each other and playing with each other.”

“Winning our first Marmonte League title in a decade was a blessing of its own. We could call it a great season there. Now we have to just honor each extra game with a genuine gratefulness to play and see where it takes us.”

Heritage Christian, the undefeated Olympic League champions, earned a bye in the first round of the Division 2AA playoffs and will take on the winner between Shalhevet and Calabasas. Calabasas lost to Shalhevet 53-44 when the teams met in the middle of December.

Coastal Canyon League champion Oak Park will host Diamond Bar and Loyola will face La Serna on the road.

Foothill League champion Saugus gets a home game in the first round against Valley Christian and will play the winner between second-place Gold Coast League finisher Campbell Hall and Simi Valley.

Marmonte League co-champion Westlake earned the second seed in the Division 2A playoffs and will play Santa Monica at home. If the Warriors get past the Vikings they’ll play the winner of Paraclete and Valencia in the second round.

Despite going 0-8 in the Mission League, Chaminade made the Division 2A playoffs as an at-large team and will open the postseason on the road against San Dimas.

The local matchup to watch in Division 3AA will take place in the opening round between Oaks Christian and Canyon.

The Lions got their hands on a share of the Marmonte League crown by defeating Westlake in triple overtime in the league finale.

The Cowboys closed the regular season on a strong note and finished in fourth place in the Foothill League, a league that has six out of seven teams in the postseason.

“I’m extremely excited for our team and the opportunity we have to compete and participate in the playoffs this year,” Canyon head coach Ali Monfared said. “Our goal is always to focus on ourselves and improve day by day. We have a really young team entering the year who worked extremely hard every single day and listened and bought in no matter what.” .

“As the year progressed we gained more valuable experience and had more consistent practices, we kept focusing on defense and improvement and it helped us finish the year 12-4 and earn an automatic playoff spot in a very tough league. I’m very very proud of this team, we are hopeful to make some things happen in the playoffs.”

Viewpoint is one of the area teams to watch closely in Division 3A. The Patriots beat Campbell Hall at the buzzer on Friday, giving the team momentum heading into the playoffs. Viewpoint will be on the road against Santa Barbara, which finished 13-1 in the Channel League.

Also in Division 3A, Hart from the Foothill League will travel to El Dorado to play the North Hills League champion. Rounding out the Mission League teams is Alemany, which will play River Valley League champion Arlington.

Castaic will make its first postseason appearance in only its third year as a varsity program. The Coyotes went 0-12 in the Foothill League but finished the regular season with a 14-14 record. Castaic will make the 115-mile trek to Wildomar to play Cal Lutheran in a Division 5AA first-round matchup.

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