FAIRFIELD — The Sac-Joaquin Section basketball playoffs start on Friday and the Rodriguez girls team is on the road – again.
The Mustangs (16-10), the Monticello Empire League runners-up and the 17th seed in Division I, open the postseason in an outbracket game at Central California Conference champion Merced (16-10), the No. 16 seed.
Rodriguez has qualified for the playoffs six times in its 14-year history and has gone 1-5 in its previous five postseasons. The lone victory was a 52-41 triumph over Pitman of Turlock in 2006-07 and its last appearance was in 2009-10, a 61-50 loss at Franklin of Elk Grove.
The Mustangs, winners of four straight and eight of their last nine, came painfully close to claiming at least a piece of the MEL title, opening league play with a 53-48 loss at eventual champion Napa before losing to the Indians 62-58 in overtime after overcoming a 20-point deficit and taking a one-point lead in the final minute of regulation.
The Bears went 9-1 in the CCC and won the conference title by a game over Buhach Colony, avenging their only league loss, 46-35 to Atwater, as part of their current nine-game winning streak.
Ironically, Merced’s last two forays into the playoffs were ended in the first round by a Fairfield school with big losses at Armijo in 2010-11 (71-34) and 2012-13 (52-31).
If coincidences mean anything, Rodriguez’s only other playoff game with a CCC member was its only postseason victory.
Regardless of who wins, the victor won’t have time to celebrate long. It faces St. Mary’s of Stockton, winner of a record 14 SJS titles, Tuesday.
The other area game on Friday is in boys Division II and has No. 14 Vacaville hosting No. 19 Gregori of Modesto. Will C. Wood, seeded 20th in Division II, had its game at No. 13 Whitney of Rocklin moved to Saturday night because they SJS Division III wrestling tournament is at Whitney and runs Friday and Saturday.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.