The Mustangs, 19-6 overall, 10-2 in league, finished second in the Inland Valley League behind J.W. North, which has been promoted to the CIF Playoffs Open Division. The Tritons (12-14, 3-5) finished third in the Sea View League, and could have expected to draw the first-place team from another league. The playoff pairing implies San Clemente is ranked 26th in the division.
The two teams had no common opponents during the regular season, and Rancho Verde does not post player statistics or even a roster online. Based on its game scores, the Mustangs would appear to be a defensively oriented squad, giving up only 44.8 points per game. They scored 53.6 per game. Rancho Verde's league finale on Tuesday was a low-scoring 32-26 victory over 10-14 Vista del Lago.
In contrast, San Clemente scored 57.5 per game, while surrendering 57.1 per game. Its regular season finale was a 60-53 loss to another Mustang team, Trabuco Hills.
But very little of that should factor into the first-round matchup. The Tritons could be a much different team from what they showed during the regular season. Returning from injuries will be 2013 Sea View League MVP Sam Darnold, who missed all but eight games, and 6-6 center Eric Anderson, who made a brief season debut in the Tritons' league finale against Trabuco HIlls. See sidebar story for more details on Darnold's return to action.
If San Clemente can pull off the upset, it would get a home game at 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 25, in the second round of the playoffs. That was assured based on the results of a coin flip held Saturday. The Tritons' opponent would be the winner of West Ranch and Long Beach Millikan.
A victory by West Ranch automatically places the game in Triton Gym. If Millikan and San Clemente win, the venue was determined by the coin flip. Millikan and San Clemente met at the raucous Millikan gym in the second round of the playoffs last year, when the Rams pulled a notorious 12th seed vs. 5th seed upset over the Tritons.