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Elk Grove Citizen

If the playoffs started today ….

Feb 01, 2024 08:49PM ● By John Hull, Citizen Sports Editor

Cosumnes Oaks' big guy Holden Grieger and his teammates are looking up through the Delta League standings, hoping to pull out a couple wins in the final week of the regular season to notch a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

Elk Grove (MPG) – That’s the sometimes stupid comment sports radio talk show hosts like to use just to fluff up the audience, no matter the sport and, at times, no matter what time of the season.

“If the playoffs started today…”

But, we’re going to do that as we enter the final week of the 2023-24 regular season in high school basketball.

The top three teams in each league will qualify for the post-season. But atop that, 15 teams in each division of play in the Sac-Joaquin Section will also make it to the playoffs. That means some leagues could send four or five teams into the post-season. The Delta League and the Sierra Foothill League each get to send its top four teams to the playoffs.

To add to the hype, the Section office will live stream a basketball selection show on Feb. 10 at 1:30 p.m. on the NFHS Network. In the past several teams gathered for a pizza party and put the show up on the big screen.

The Section will create 16-team brackets with play to begin either Feb. 13 or 14, depending on which division you’re in. Should a school find itself in the top 15 rankings, established by MaxPreps, yet not in the top three or four, they’ll be paired up for a “play-in” game in their bracket on Feb. 12.

Going into play Feb. 2, there are four Elk Grove-area girls teams in the top 15 of Division I, Monterey Trail (No.7), Franklin (No. 9), Cosumnes Oaks (No. 12) and Pleasant Grove (No. 14).

In the Delta League, Franklin and Cosumnes Oaks are tied for first place. Pleasant Grove is in fifth place, so a win or two in the last week of the regular season would solidify the Eagles into the post-season. But, right now, they look like they would be an out-bracket contender.

In the boys side Monterey Trail (21-2 at this writing) is battling Modesto Christian at the top of the MaxPreps rankings in Division I. Sheldon is at No. 5, Franklin at No. 7, Laguna Creek at No. 10 and Cosumnes Oaks at No. 16. If the season would end today, the Wolfpack would be out of the post-season, after starting the year 8-0.

In the Delta League standings, Cosumnes Oaks is tied with Elk Grove for fourth place, but they dropped a 57-54 decision to the Herd Jan. 31. Thus, the final week of the regular season has home games against Pleasant Grove and Franklin and a road game at Sheldon to determine whether the Wolfpack reaches the post-season.

Bradshaw Christian (No.3) and Fortune Early College (No. 4) both look like they’ll compete in the Division V playoffs. The Panthers enter the final week of the regular season at the top of the Northern Pacific Athletic Conference while the Pride is in second place in the Sierra Valley Conference.

The Section finals for Divisions I, II and III will be played Feb. 21 at the Golden 1 Center, while the Division IV, V and VI championship games will be played Feb. 23 at UC-Davis.

And, remember, the Section tournament is not the end of the basketball season. The Sac-Joaquin Section qualifies 23 teams to the NorCal Tournament. The winner, runner-up plus both semifinal losers in Divisions I-V of the Section Basketball Tournament will advance to the CIF Northern California Regional Basketball Tournament. The winner and runner-up in Division VI of the Section Basketball Tournament will advance to the CIF Northern California Regional Basketball Tournament, as well.

The last spot will be filled by one at-large berth according to the MaxPreps rankings, which means if a highly-ranked team gets beat in the first round or two of the Section tournament, they may re-surface in the NorCals.