Wednesday night was the start of the California Interscholastic Federation Central Section (CIF-CS) basketball playoffs, and the North County hosted four games and ended each of their opponent’s seasons. The Paso Robles Bearcats hosted a pair of games, with their girls winning first 58-53, followed by the boys who won 67-55. The Atascadero and Templeton boys also earned victories, with the Hounds cruising to a 60-40 win while the Eagles won a nail biter 59-56.
The evening of basketball started in Paso Robles with the red hot Lady Bearcats. They rolled into the playoffs after going undefeated in the Ocean League and earning a no. 3 overall seed in the Division Central Section playoffs. Paso Robles finished the season 11-2 overall, with both losses coming to the same team in Bakersfield Christian early in the season. The girls in crimson have been the best basketball team in the county this season and have been led by their five seniors in Madison Holbrook, Hailie Abel, Meadow Ingle, and the Stanko sisters Janiel and Xena. The Bearcats have an incredibly balanced team this season. All five of their starters averaged between eight and ten points; however, Wednesday was Xena Stanko and Ingle’s time to shine as the pair put up 36 combined points with 21 and 15, respectively.
Because there are only eight teams in the Division 2 playoffs bracket, the girls have already advanced to the CIF-CS semifinals, and a win on Friday would send them to the big game. Even though the girls earned a no. 3 seed, they will most likely be on the road on Friday and will face no. 2 seed in Centennial.
Following the girl’s game, the boys took the floor against no. 9 seed Righetti. The Bearcats finished this season 11-4 overall and in second place in the Ocean League, earning a no. 8 seed in the Division 2 playoffs. From the very beginning, it was clear that the Righetti Warriors had no answer for the Bearcats offense, which was led by Devin Perez and Darius Thompson, who combined for 50, just five fewer than the Righetti team with 25 apiece. Perez added seven assists, while Thompson added seven rebounds. Paso Robles will need to stay hot on offense as they will face the no. 1 overall seed on Friday when they travel to Centennial.
Joining the Lady Bearcats with an early tip-off was the Atascadero Greyhound boys, who were also preparing for Grad night with graduation on Thursday. The Hounds entered the playoffs at 12-4 overall as the Ocean League Champions and earned 4-seed in the Division 2 playoffs. AHS hosted Selma in the first round and, just as they have all season, played suffocating defense, only allowing their opponent to score 40 points. Both Jayden Fischer and Mitchell Carpenter played with active hands and recorded four steals each. Drew Ardouin shouldered the load offensively, scoring 26 points while making five shots from beyond the arc.
Up next, the Hounds will play Hanford, who is the no. 4 seed in Division 2, with the winner advancing to the semifinals. Interestingly, if the Hounds and the Bearcats can win their games on Friday night, the two teams would face off for a third time this season with a chance to play for a CIF title on the line.
While all four teams earned victories on Wednesday night, the Eagles had the most exciting game and the only one that came down to a last-second heave. The Templeton boys finished their regular season at 7-7 overall and in third place in the Ocean League, with Pioneer Valley and Paso Robles tying for second. The Eagles earned the no.8 seed in the Division 4 playoffs and hosted South-Bakersfield. Templeton jumped out to an early 13-2 lead, but they went ice cold until Xander Shaw recorded a huge block that led to a three by Grant VandeHoeff. Shaw finished the game as the leading scorer with 16 points, but it was VandeHoeff’s ten fourth-quarter points that put the Eagles in position to win. With just four seconds remaining, Josh Kaiser was fouled up one point in the game and made two clutch free throws to seal the win. South would make one last heave but would come up empty.
Templeton will be on the road Friday as they face the no. 1 overall seed in Kingsburg.
Templeton’s leading scorer Xander Shaw takes it to the rack and finishes over his defender. Photo by Matt Macfarlane Eagles Seth Cherry holds the ball in the post while looking for an open teammate against South-Bakersfield