In a 32-team playoff bracket, it’s pretty rare to see a team that didn’t win its own league be awarded a top-four seed.
It’s clear, though, that the PAC 7 is a highly respected league for girls basketball in the CIF-Southern Section.
Arroyo Grande High, seeded fourth in the section’s Division 3AA, despite finishing as the runner-up in the PAC 7, represented the league well Thursday night, blowing out Century of Santa Ana 55-35 for a first-round victory.
The win was a bounce-back game for the Eagles, who had to recover from a 57-25 loss Friday in the regular-season finale to top-seeded St. Joseph, the league champion.
“We just let it go,” Arroyo Grande guard Haley MacDonald said. “They beat us fair and square, and it’s in the past and we have to move on. “Our league is very tough, so each game just prepares us for a CIF (playoff) game.”
Against the Centurions (14-13), Arroyo Grande (20-5) quickly got out to a 7-0 lead and went to halftime up 36-17 thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the right corner by MacDonald.
MacDonald hit four 3s during the game and finished with 14 points and a team-high four assists, and fellow guard Madi Ventura had six points and three steals.
In the post, Emma Weinreich had team-best totals of 16 points and 10 rebounds for Arroyo Grande, and Ana Vasylenko scored four points and grabbed nine rebounds.
“We played as a team,” MacDonald said. “We played together and just had fun. When people would come in, the energy would just keep going.”
The Eagles’ second loss to St. Joseph (24-5) this year was a major departure from the 57-48 outcome in their first matchup this season, a contest that they actually led at the break, 23-19. Arroyo Grande brought that kind of resolve into this week.
“I wasn’t surprised that they bounced back,” Eagles coach Dwight MacDonald said. “They’re a great group. That St. Joe game was our 24th game of the season, and that was the only game (all year) we didn’t really play well, but like I said, St. Joe played outstanding.
“We took Saturday off and let them decompress a little bit, and I knew they’d come out and play well tonight,” MacDonald said. “They’re seeded fourth, and there’s a reason.”
Arroyo Grande’s three other losses — only one of which was also in league — came by margins of five, two and six points.
With Thursday’s win, the Eagles advanced to face either Rosemead (15-11) or 14th-seeded Peninsula of Rolling Hills Estates (12-15) in the second round at 7 p.m. Saturday.
A result on the first-round matchup between Rosemead and Peninsula wasn’t available as of press time, but Arroyo Grande will travel for the second round regardless of the opponent because of a Southern Section coin flip done in advance to determine the host site.
Arroyo Grande’s half of the bracket is headlined by second-seeded Junipero Serra of Gardena (23-5). Righetti (18-7), the PAC 7’s third-place team, opened seeded 11th, also in the Eagles’ side of the pairings.
“The PAC 7 is an incredibly tough schedule,” MacDonald said. “Not only are they good teams, they’re all well coached and there’s some good athletes you play against every night.”