History will be made Saturday when eight of the 10 Central Coast Section basketball bracket championships will be decided. Historic in the fact that section champions will be crowned six months after wondering if any high school sports would be played during the ongoing pandemic.

Saturday’s winners will go down in history as teams that won titles during COVID.

But history is about more than just what happened in the past. It’s how it happened and what could happen.

Take the Division III boys title game that pits No. 2 Burlingame (10-4) on the road at No. 1 Santa Cruz (19-0) at 7:30 p.m. It’s the renewal of a rivalry that goes back a generation and the third time these teams will meet with a CCS title on the line.

Jeff Dowd, who returned to the Burlingame sideline prior to the 2018-19 season, was the Panthers coach in the early- to mid-2000s when they announced their presence in 2004 by knocking off the top-seeded Cardinals in the semifinals on their way to its first CCS finals.

Santa Cruz returned the favor the following year, when the Cardinals took out the Panthers in the 2005 championship game.

The two teams met again in the 2013 title game, with Pete Harames leading the Panthers to their first-ever boys’ basketball title. Dowd is back in the CCS final for the first time in 16 years and is still on the hunt for his first section title as a coach.

“It is crazy,” Dowd said of the cyclical nature of life. “All this stuff kind of blurs. We (the Burlingame program) were just beginning to get pretty good. We had beaten them the year before (in 2004) and we had got their attention (in 2005).

“Every time we get deep into CCS, there they are.”

While the years have changed, the way Santa Cruz goes about playing basketball hasn’t. The program was build under the legendary Pete Newell Jr., whose father was a longtime college coach at USF and Cal and later became a legendary teacher of big men. His son continued that tradition at Santa Cruz and the Cardinals still have the same style.

Must be something in the Santa Cruz Mountains because the Cardinals always seem to have trees on the court. This season is no different.

“They’re really big,” Dowd said. “6-6, 6-6, 6-7 across the front line.”

The Panthers will answer with their guard-oriented attack, although they are fairly well depleted at this point. Dowd said his rotation goes about seven players deep right now. Already without defensive standout Jacob Yamaguchi for the season, Dowd is hoping shooting guard Lou Martineau’s ankle heals up enough to play Saturday. He tweaked it in Tuesday’s quarterfinal and missed Thursday’s semifinal win.

“He’ll be a game-time decision,” Dowd said.

To counter the Cardinals’ height, Dowd will turn to a couple of reserves to hopefully give the Panthers some support in the middle. He is really high on 6-6 sophomore Kyle Haslam, who hasn’t seen much playing time so far in the playoffs.

“These last two games were really fast-paced. It wasn’t a good fit for him. Against Santa Cruz, we’re hoping to give him some minutes,” Dowd said.

Also expected to see time is senior Ilan Rosenbaum, a 6-2 wing who converted a key three-point play in Thursday’s semifinal win.

“He’s already graduated,” Dowd said of Rosenbaum. “We’re happy he stuck around. He’ll probably get some more chances with Santa Cruz.”

Sequoia coach looks to go out on top

While Burlingame and Santa Cruz renew an old rivalry, history will be in the offering in Los Altos when the second-seeded Sequoia girls (7-1) take the drive down Interstate 280 to face off against the top-seeded Eagles (13-3) in the Division I title game.

A Ravens win would not only be the second in program history, but it would give head coach Steve Picchi his third CCS title in a third decade. Picchi led the 1987-88 Burlingame girls’ team to not only the section title but also a state championship. He stepped down from high school coaching before returning to the game at Sequoia in 2003. He stepped away again following the 2011-12 season, only to return four years ago.

In 2019, he led the Ravens to their first CCS title and a win Saturday would be a third crown in a third decade.

“That’s pretty cool,” Picchi said. “I thought it was really significant, for me personally, to win section titles 30 years apart. To have the opportunity to do something you enjoy this long, that’s pretty cool.”

While some aspects of the Ravens have changed since that 2019 championship season, there is a still a direct link as Jacqueline Kerland, Alexis Jackson and Caitlin Dulsky — key-contributing sophomores on that team two years — are all back and hoping to cap their high school careers with a second section title.

Despite all the new-fangled ways of playing the game — which relies on speed, quickness and knocking down the 3 — Picchi and the Ravens play a decidedly old-school style, one that relies, first and foremost, on defense.

“We predicated our system on defense. As your offensive options change (through the years), you change a little bit, but defensively, we haven’t deviated at all,” Picchi said. “It keeps you in the game.”

And while Sequoia is more than willing to get into a running game, the Ravens are just as comfortable in the half-court set — a lot more than a lot of teams.

“Our goal in each possession is, we’re going to get a quality shot. A quality shot is a shot we’ve worked on and the kids have shown an ability to shoot reasonably well,” Picchi said. “For each kid it’s different.”

This will be Picchi’s last chance to win a third CCS title as he said he is stepping down as the Ravens head coach. A recent move to the Central Valley has made the commute much greater.

He did not say, however, he was stepping away from coaching altogether.

“My buddies are already taking bets on how long before I’m coaching in the Central Valley,” Picchi said.

One school will add to historic season

While the Burlingame and Sequoia coaches are looking to make some personal history, the Summit Shasta and Crystal Springs Uplands School girls’ teams will be looking to make school history when they face off for the Division V title at 7 p.m. in Hillsborough. Already in their first section finals, both the Black Bears (11-3) and the Gryphons (8-1) are looking for their first CCS titles.

Crystal Springs, the No. 1 seed, did not join the CCS until the 2008-09 season, after participating in the North Coast Section prior to that. Summit Shasta, seeded No. 3, has only been competing in high school athletics since 2017, but the Black Bears have already shown some success as an athletic program. The school’s volleyball team has a CCS finals appearance under its belt, while the Black Bears boys’ basketball team, seeded No. 2, will also be play for its initial CCS title when they travel to Los Altos Hills to face top-seeded Pinewood at 4 p.m.

“Even though it’s a crazy year, we always want to win CCS,” Burlingame’s Dowd said. “But if you go back in time, we weren’t even going to have a postseason. To be where we are now, it’s a blessing.”

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