Southern Section playoffs confirm soccer is now Long Beach’s best high school sport

The lights are brighter, the games are more intense and every player knows history is on the line. It’s playoff time.

If you’re a high school sports junkie, this is the week for you. A total of 25 Long Beach high school teams are kicking off action in the winter CIF Southern Section playoffs this week, with 12 boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, 10 boys’ and girls’ soccer teams, and three girls’ water polo teams.

Soccer

Soccer is officially the city’s best high school sport, this year. There are five Division 1 playoff soccer teams coming out of the city, while there are just three Open Division or Division 1 hoop teams.

Two of those Division 1 soccer teams reside at Millikan High, where the Rams boys’ and girls’ teams are taking two distinctly different approaches to Millikan’s field being currently under construction.

The Millikan boys will host Downey on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Millikan girls are facing off against Orange County power JSerra, a speedy and technically sound team.

But, rather than play at Vets on turf, the Rams will host the Lions on the baseball outfield at Millikan, a small, soggy pitch that’s sure to slow the game down and let the physical Rams test the mettle of the JSerra team. We love all the new turf fields going in around town, but we also love seeing Millikan bring some old school Long Beach physicality to the playoffs.

Basketball

Two Long Beach basketball teams made the prestigious eight-team Open Division, where the St. Anthony boys and Long Beach Poly girls will compete in a different format than the usual “playoff bracket.”

While the other divisions will look like a 32-team March Madness bracket, the Open Division is conducting its playoffs like a non-league tournament. There are two four-team pools, where every team will play every other team in that pool. The two champions of the pools will play each other in three weeks for the CIF-SS Open Division championship.

For example: St. Anthony is seeded No. 5 in the Open Division (quite an accomplishment). The Saints are guaranteed three games against their pool-mates: roadies to Etiwanda and star-studded Sierra Canyon on Friday and next Wednesday, respectively, and home the following Friday for a game with St. John Bosco.

No sweat.

Long Beach Poly’s girls’ are seeded No. 4 and will open Saturday at home against Rosary, then host Corona Centennial next week. Two wins there would mean that Feb 22’s road game against Windward would be for a trip to the CIF-SS title game.

Outside of the Open, several other girls’ teams are set up to make a run. Millikan is seeded No. 4 in Division 2AA and will host Vista Murrieta Thursday evening. Wilson is the top seed in Division 3A and will open up on the road Thursday at Marina before returning home for a Saturday, second-round contest.

Water Polo

Honestly, all three Long Beach teams got brutal draws in the water polo playoffs. Moore League champion Wilson has to travel to Harvard-Westlake on Wednesday, usually league champions get a home game. Poly has to travel to face top-seeded ML King, as well, while Millikan will get the only home game in the first round, Tuesday evening at 5 p.m. against Carpinteria.

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Mike and JJ go together like mac and cheese: they’re best friends, business partners and Long Beach sports experts. They’ve been working together for over a decade covering Long Beach local sports and now run the562.org, a community-funded nonprofit media outlet.
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