St. Ignatius and Sacred Heart Cathedral are both one win away from squaring off in the CCS Division III Championship.
Casey Manuel

CCS semifinal previews

February 27, 2020

All 10 semifinals in Central Coast Section Divisions I-V will be played on Thursday night, and along with a spot in Saturday’s championship games, those teams will be playing to extend their seasons beyond this week as well. The winners of Thursday’s semifinals will guarantee themselves a place in the CIF State Tournament.

Division I

No. 5 Santa Teresa (20-6) vs. No. 1 Palo Alto (21-4), 5:30 p.m. at Fremont HS

Mahmoud Fofana has willed the Saints into the semifinals with wins over Salinas and Piedmont Hills, but he’ll be facing arguably the best defense he’s had to deal with all year as Santa Teresa faces the Vikings. Palo Alto has been a defense-first team all year, with Tuesday’s win over Mountain View marking the seventh time this season the Vikings have won while scoring less than 50 points.

No. 7 Independence (16-10) vs. No. 6 Sequoia (16-10), 7 p.m. at Fremont HS

With all the big upsets on Tuesday, Independence’s victory at Los Altos largely went under the radar. Sequoia’s win at Evergreen Valley was much less of a surprise, considering how well the Ravens have been playing since the calendar turned to 2020, but the 76ers struggled through league play. Thursday will mark Independence’s first semifinal appearance since 2000, while Sequoia will be trying to earn a spot in a section title game for the first time in program history.

Division II

No. 5 Willow Glen (12-14) vs. No. 1 Hillsdale (18-7), 5:30 p.m. at Gunn HS

The Fighting Knights barely held off Wilcox on Tuesday night, and if they’re going to reach their first championship game since 1997, they’ll need to beat a Willow Glen team that’s averaging 66.3 points per game since Noah Yang’s return. He scored 24 in a Tuesday win at Woodside, combining with Jackson Bingham to shoot 16-of-23 from the field.

Gunn (13-14) vs. No. 7 Christopher (17-9), 7 p.m. at Gunn HS

By far the most unexpected semifinal matchup, two ‘B’ division teams will be playing for a chance to reach the state tournament. Though the Titans are unseeded, they do have the luxury of playing in their home gym, a site that was picked long before their quarterfinal upset of Valley Christian. Still, the Cougars will have access to the home locker rooms and will wear their white jerseys. Gunn last made a section championship game in 1981 under coach Hans Delannoy, 28 years before Christopher was even opened.

Division III

No. 5 Aptos (19-8) vs. No. 1 Sacred Heart Cathedral (10-15), 5:30 p.m. at Burlingame HS

Both the Mariners and Fightin’ Irish labored their way to close wins on Tuesday, with Aptos beating Soquel 60-58 while SHC held off Jefferson, 66-60. Despite their distance, the two schools are quite familiar with each other, meeting in football during the fall (a 35-14 Mariner win) and in the 2015 Division III Championship, which the Irish won 62-51.

No. 3 Monterey (15-10) vs. No. 2 St. Ignatius (9-16), 7 p.m. at Burlingame HS

Having finally gotten over the hump by beating Burlingame, the Toreadores will now head up to San Mateo County, where they’ll be playing in a semifinal game for the fourth consecutive year. They’ll be looking for a better result than their last outing against a WCAL team, a 76-31 drubbing at the hands of St. Francis back on Dec. 27 at the Lancers’ Joe Schram Holiday Classic.

Division IV

No. 4 Santa Cruz (16-13) vs. No. 1 Palma (21-4), 6 p.m. at Hartnell College

The Cardinals and Chieftains have already met once this season, a 56-53 Palma victory in the 7th Place game at the Joe Schram Holiday Classic, all the way back on Dec. 30, the first of Palma’s ongoing 15-game win streak. When they reconvene on Thursday, it’ll be much closer to home.

No. 3 Half Moon Bay (20-5) vs. No. 2 Carmel (21-4), 7:30 p.m. at Hartnell College

J.T. Byrne has terrorized the Cougars in regular season meetings in each of the last two seasons, scoring 22 when the teams met last season and 32 in a Dec. 7 matchup, a 75-63 Padres victory. Half Moon Bay’s undersized roster will have to find a way to contain him to win a battle of the last two Division IV champions, but the Cougars are playing phenomenal basketball as of late, winning 19 of their last 21. The matchup between dynamic guards Mykola Ediger and Kai Lee should be one of the best battles in any of the games played on Thursday night.

Division V

No. 3 Pacific Bay Christian (26-2) vs. No. 2 Stevenson (18-7), 5:30 p.m. at Woodside Priory

One of the Eagles’ two losses all season came to Stevenson back on Jan. 11, a 42-28 grinder of a game in which they shot a ghastly 17% from the field and hit just two of 26 3-point attempts. Thursday will provide a chance for redemption for Mark Bermudez’s team and an opportunity for the PSAL to earn representation in a section title game for a second straight year after Nueva represented the league last season.

No. 4 Eastside (18-7) @ No. 1 Woodside Priory (18-7), 7 p.m.

Priory swept a pair of low-scoring regular season meetings between two of the three teams called the Panthers in the WBAL. Zach Zaffran missed the first, but David Ajanaku-Makun scored 29 for a 47-42 road victory. When the teams got back together in Portola Valley three-and-a-half weeks later, it was Zaffran’s turn to carry the weight, scoring 24 in a 48-39 win. Raymond Reece carried Eastside in that loss with 19 points and 24 rebounds, and if his guards can provide any secondary scoring, last year’s Division V champions could have an opportunity to defend their title come Saturday.

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