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SoCalHoops High School News

Sylmar Hearing Decision:  City Section Panel
Waives Forfeitures, Restores Playoff Spot--(Feb. 14, 2004)

The LA City Section came to its collective senses yesterday, as an appeals panel of the LA City CIF Section ruled that Sylmar High School's boys' basketball team will not have to forfeit any games for failing to properly fill out its official eligibility participation roster form earlier in the season, which had omitted the name of one of their standout players.    The decision reverses two earlier rulings, one from the City Section Office and the other by the IAC Rules Committee, both of which had required Sylmar to forfeit 7 league games, dropping them behind Monroe and Reseda in the league standings, and denying Sylmar the league title which it had won based on the standings without forfeits.   

Yesterday's hearing restores the Valley Mission League title to Sylmar,  and also assures the Spartans of an automatic berth in the City Championship bracket as the league's automatic entry in the playoffs.   The City Section seeding committee, consisting of most of the basketball coaches in the City Section as well as other Section and community representatives, will meet today to construct the brackets for both the City Championship tournament, and the City Invitational tournament, both of which will begin play next week. 

The City Championship bracket consists of the top 16 teams in the Section, and the winner and runner-up advance to the Division I CIF State Southern Regional Tournament, from which the winner of the Regional advances to the Division I State Championships,  to be played in Sacramento at Arco Arena in March.    The winner of the Southern Regional Tournament plays the winner of the CIF State Northern Regional in the finals for the State title. 

But there's a long road to Sacramento, and Sylmar is probably a huge longshot to get that far.  But, you never know....With consensus No. 1 ranked team in the City Section,  the Westchester Comets out of the playoffs as a result of other rules violations, there are a handful of contenders for the title, including No. 2 Fairfax,  Cleveland of Reseda, Crenshaw, and perhaps even Sylmar, which is expected to receive a No. 8 or No. 9 seed in the bracket according to most observers.

We couldn't make it to the hearing yesterday, but from news accounts it appears that Sylmar received a lot of support from a wide variety of folks, including LA City Councilman Alex Padilla, who spoke on behalf of Sylmar at the appeal hearing.

And we want to give out huge kudos and congratulations to Reseda Coach Mike Wagner,  who also appeared at the hearing to speak on behalf of Sylmar's appeal.    Coach Wagner's efforts were doubly impressive because he was essentially arguing against his own team's interests in the playoffs, something you don't see very often among coaches in the City Section.    With yesterday's decision, Reseda HS drops back to 5-4 in league play, third place in the Valley Mission League, just behind Monroe, which finished in 2nd place.  

Had the decision to impose the forfeits been upheld,   as seemed likely earlier this week, Reseda would have finished in 2nd place,   and given the overall standings and strength of schedule in the rest of the Section, might have had a shot at obtaining a No. 15 or No. 16 seed in the City Championship bracket, which takes only the top 16 teams.   But with yesterday's decision reversing the forfeitures,  Reseda has probably lost any chance of getting into the City Championship round, and will instead have to be content with a berth in the City Invitational Tournament, which takes the teams seeded Nos. 17-32.   And unlike the City Championship bracket, the winner and runner-up of the Invitational do not advance to further post season competition in the State Tournament.

Congratulations to the City Section and to everyone who helped restore some sanity the administration of the CIF rules process.     We don't know who the folks were that were on that panel yesterday,   but they were showed some grit, intelligence and heart by making the right decision not to punish a bunch of kids for something they had no control over.

And to the kids on the Sylmar team,  who have at least one more opportunity to play this season,  just remember how lucky you really are,   and what might have been.    And someday in the future,  when you find yourselves in a position to give someone who's made a mistake another chance, we hope you will all remember how important that second chance can be.  

See you all around the gym....

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