The Gridley High School boys basketball team came up just short this time around in its trip to the CIF Northern Section Division 4 finals.
The No. 1 Bulldogs fell to No. 2, Corning, 56-36 last Friday night at Butte College.
But under the California Interscholastic Federation’s revamped state tournament format, both teams move on.
Under the new format, the Golden State is divided into north and south.
In each half of the state, there are six divisions: An open division, consisting of the top eight teams in the state; and five other divisions. Each division has a 16-team bracket assembled using a formula called “competitive equity.”
Instead of grouping playoff teams by enrollment, competitive equity uses a power rankings formula that looks at the past two years of performance, including strength of schedule.
Last Friday night’s Northern Section championship game was a rematch of the 2016 title game, which saw the Bulldogs edge the Cardinals, 52-49. The two teams have now faced each other in the section finals three of the past five seasons.
This time, it was pretty obvious early in the contest that it just wasn’t going to be Gridley’s night at the gym.
On this night in Oroville, the Cardinals took control of the contest early in the first quarter and never really relinquished it, snapping Gridley’s 14-game winning streak in the process.
Things started off well for Gridley (23-6), which got out to a quick 5-1 lead.
But from there, it was all Corning. The Cardinals closed the opening stanza with an 8-2 spurt to lead 9-7 at the first stop.
The Cardinals scratched out to a 24-16 advantage at halftime, and then took control for good in the third quarter, outscoring the Bulldogs, 18-7 in the frame to take a 43-23 lead into the fourth quarter.
For second-year Gridley coach Chay Dake, last Friday night’s game came down to the fickleness of the game.
The two teams had met Feb. 6 in Gridley in a BVL/WSL crossover game, with Gridley taking a 61-48 win.
This time, the result was much different.
“Last time we played, our shots were falling and theirs weren’t,” Dake said.
In the past, a loss in the section championship game meant turning in the uniforms, saying goodbye to your seniors, and thinking about next year.
Under the new playoff system, it means getting off the floor, dusting yourself off and getting ready for a state playoff game.
A strange dynamic, indeed – and one that the Bulldogs tackled Monday night, holding practice and trying to move on from last Friday night’s loss.
The Bulldogs drew the No. 2 seed in the Division V bracket. They’ll host No. 15 Brookside Christian (20-8) Wednesday night at Farmer’s Hall in a first-round contest.
If the name sounds familiar, it should. In 2016 in football, the Knights faced Biggs in a first-round CIF Division 6-A play-in game.
Dake said he and his assistants have had a chance to get a look at the Knights.
“They’re very athletic, and they like to run,” Dake said. “We’re going to have to make them play our game and keep it in the half-court. We don’t want to get into a track meet with them.”
Dake said if his team can keep the score around 50, he likes the Bulldogs’ chances.
Tipoff Wednesday night at Farmer’s Hall is slated for 7 p.m.