It was good news-bad news for the 11 San Mateo County basketball teams that qualified for the Northern California bracket of the CIF state tournament.
The Menlo School girls, which went 0-2 in CCS Open Division play, were the leaders of the pack as the Knights garnered the No. 1 seed in the Division II bracket — the benefit of playing in the West Bay Athletic League that featured three teams in the Open Division as well as the CCS Division IV and Division V champions.
A pair of Peninsula Athletic League teams, the Carlmont boys and Menlo-Atherton girls, didn’t even make the finals of the CCS Division I tournament, yet will both host first-round Nor Cal games by virtue of top-5 seeds. The Bears got the No. 2 seed, while the Scots are seeded No. 4, both in Division IV.
As a side note, those Division IV brackets might be the most entertaining as there are a number of big schools competing. On the girls’ side, CCS Division I semifinalist Silver Creek is seeded No. 1 in the Nor Cal Division IV bracket and is joined by always-strong East Bay Athletic League teams Foothill and Amador Valley of Pleasanton, Monterey Trail from Elk Grove and San Francisco’s Lowell.
The girls’ Division III bracket is loaded with county teams, led by South City, which earned the No. 3 seed, despite falling short in the CCS Division III title game. Sacred Heart Prep and Woodside Priory, which won the CCS Division IV and V titles, respectively, earned the Nos. 5 and 6 seeds.
But a pair of PAL CCS champs — Sequoia and Aragon — were not given much credit in the Nor Cal bracket. The Cherokees won the CCS Division I title with one of the most impressive defensive performances in recent memory, but were seeded just No. 10 in the Nor Cal Division I bracket.
Aragon was slotted as the No. 9 seed in Division III. Their reward? A road trip to No. 8 Eureka.
Aragon athletic director Steve Sell said in a text message that Dons’ head coach Sam Manu, “Is being great about it. Treating it like an adventure.”
The two boys’ teams that represented the county in the CCS Open Division, Menlo-Atherton and Serra, will begin the Nor Cal tournament on the road. While Serra’s No. 9 seed in Division II is probably in line with going 0-2 at CCS, M-A’s No. 14 seeding in Division I is a head scratcher. The Bears put together a 20-game win streak this season, seeing it broken by eventual Open Division champion Sacred Heart Cathedral in the Open semifinals. They became the second public school to advance to the Open Division semifinals and proved that they can hang with the best in Northern California.
Aragon’s Lydia Manu probably slept well Saturday night. After the junior combo guard helped lead the Dons to their first Central Coast Section championship, scoring 28 points as the second-seeded Dons topped No. 4 Lynbrook 53-48 in the Division II finals Saturday, she hugged every family member and family friend in the stands — which seemed to be nearly every person on the Aragon side of the Santa Clara gym.
These were not your ordinary “good job” hugs. No, these were deep, meaningful, emotional embraces because as thrilled as Manu was in winning a section title, there was also a sense of relief.
Relief that she has earned a championship spot in the Manu family basketball legacy.
“(Trying to win a section title) was such a burden,” said Sam Manu, who entered a small circle of coaches to win both a boys’ and girls’ CCS championship. “I’m just so happy for her.”
The Manu family might be the first family of Aragon basketball. Coach Manu and younger brother Rex, now an assistant with Aragon’s boys’ teams, starred for the Dons in the early 1980s and early 1990s before going to play Division I basketball — Sam Manu at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and Rex Manu at Pepperdine University.
Lydia Manu’s older brother, Alex, was the starting point guard for the 2014 Dons’ squad that captured the section crown — Sam Manu’s first title. Perhaps that’s why the embrace between the two siblings had a lot more passion and lasted longer than most hugs.
Even youngest sister Mabryn Manu got in on the championship action, earning a call-up from the junior varsity team for the Dons’ playoff run.
It’s been a banner 2018-19 season so far for Lydia Manu, who is quickly climbing the list of all-time Aragon greats. She adds a basketball title to the crown she won as a member of the Dons’ volleyball team this past fall. In three seasons of basketball, she’s been to the final twice.
“It’s, like, every single year we’re working to this (basketball title),” Lydia Manu said following Saturday’s win. “It’s so awesome.”