By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
CRESCENT CITY The North Coast Section Division III playoff bracket turned out to be a mixed-bag at best for the Del Norte High boys basketball team.
The good news is the Warriors play at home against Encinal High of Alameda of the East Bay tonight in front of what should be a raucous crowd at packed Thunen Gym at 7:30 p.m.
The bad news is Del Norte received the No. 8 seed in the 12-team playoffs, which means, if they win, the Warriors will have to travel seven hours to the Bay Area on Friday to face top-seed Campolindo, which has a bye. The Encinal Jets, 18-8 overall, the No. 9 seed, plays in the tough Alameda-Contra Costa league where they finished with a 9-5 conference record.
The Warriors are 18-8 overall and won the Big 5 Conference with a 6-2 mark. On Friday night, Del Norte defeated Arcata for the third time this season to earn the title in the Dick Niclai postseason tournament, which features teams from the Big 5 and Little 4.
"I'm very disappointed," Warrior head coach Blaine Lopez said. "I thought we would get a higher seed."
He said he believed Del Norte would receive at least a No. 7 seed. If his team were a 6 or even 11 seed, they would likely be at home in the second round if they won, Lopez said.
"It's the worst place they could have put us," he said.
Lopez said the Jets coaching staff was up in Crescent City on Wednesday at the Hoopa game scouting his team, though the brackets had not been announced yet.
"It seems an odd coincidence," Lopez said. "Obviously that gives them an advantage."
Since Monday was the end of a holiday weekend, he was unable to get hold of anyone to gain information on their opponent. He hopes to get material today before the game.
But despite these setbacks, Lopez emphasized that he is glad to be in the playoffs playing at home and said his team just needs to play like they have the majority of the year, and play their brand of tough, defensive basketball and go from there.
"Everyone's good now," he said. "There's no gimmes and they come from a real tough conference. They're definitely a good team."
On the MaxPreps Website, Jets senior guard Hasan Thomas-Finklea, is listed as the squad's leading scorer with 14.8 points per game. Encinal has a 6-11 senior center, Jason Silsdorf, who leads the team with 7.6 rebounds per game. In a Feb. 7 loss to Berkeley, Thomas-Finkes has 15 points while Silsdorf had nine blocks and 10 rebounds, according to a Contra Costa Times article.
This year, the NCS selection was done differently. Instead of coaches going down to the Bay Area to state their case, they wrote down their accomplishments, records and other materials, which was faxed to the committee.
Lopez said he was unsure the reasons why the selection committee put the Warriors in the No. 8 seed.
"I have no idea," he said. "There's no question we get no respect up here."
He said it's hard for the other teams and the selection committee to see them play because "we live a long ways away." And, Lopez said, the majority of teams in the NCS are in close proximity to each other and can scout and see fellow teams more easily.
There are five divisions in the NCS playoffs, based on school size.
Eureka, which tied for second in the Big 5, was the No. 6 seed in Division II and hosts No. 11 Montgomery today.
In Division IV, Arcata received the No. 9 seed and travels to Moreau Catholic on Wednesday. McKinleyville earned the No. 10 seed and plays at Cardinal Newman on Wednesday. In the Little 4, St. Bernard's, Ferndale and Hoopa all made the Division V playoffs.