Just like that, the defending California State Open Division girls basketball champions have been eliminated from the North Coast Section tournament.
And the playoffs don't start until Tuesday.
In a shocking development, Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland, Calif.)
scheduled and played 27 regular-season games this season, one more than the allotted 26. Thus, the Dragons are not eligible for the NCS Division III tournament, one it has captured the last five seasons.
O'Dowd officials admitted to the error but simply thought one of the 27, a Dec. 11 game at Oakland Tech, was a scrimmage.
Administrators met with coach Malik McCord and the Dragons (23-4), ranked 23rd nationally
and 10th in the state, Sunday morning and delivered the bad news.
"Understandably they were devastated," O'Dowd athletic director Mike Bowler said. "We feel terrible for them taking the brunt of our mistake. … We added a game this season and thought another game on the schedule was a scrimmage. This is obviously very unfortunate."
But O'Dowd's season may not be over. Bowler and NCS commissioner Gil Lemmon are schedule to meet Monday to discuss about a possible entrance into the CIF Northern California Open Division Tournament.
The Dragons more than meet all of the criteria of the tourney, which was created in 2013 to form a super division of the state's top programs that have excelled for numerous seasons. It doesn't appear to stipulate that a team must actually compete that season in its section playoffs.
A call to CIF Associate Executive Director Ron Nocetti, or one to McCord, were not immediately returned.
"We'll review any opportunity they have to advance," Lemmon said. "But it is their (the CIF's) tournament and we'll abide by any rules and parameters to get in."
Lemmon said O'Dowd isn't the first to go over the game-allotment number. "It's happened many times over my 19 years as commissioner," he said.
This, no doubt, will be the most publicized considering O'Dowd's state and national standing. Lemmon noted a Maria Carrillo-Santa Rosa boys soccer team from years ago was slated as the top seed in a tournament until it was revealed it had played too many games.
"For years and years the North Coast Section has established a maximum number of contests teams can play and when they are exceeded, they are not eligible for our championships," he said. "But, it happens and it's unfortunate."
O'Dowd was expected to be one of the top two Division III seeds along with Miramonte (Orinda)
(25-1), another power which is ranked sixth in the state and 13th nationally in the MaxPreps computer rankings. O'Dowd defeated Miramonte in last year's D3 finals 77-48.
After losing five Division I players to graduation off last year's 30-3 team that finished second nationally, O'Dowd was supposed to struggle somewhat this season. Instead, behind two dynamite junior guards Asha Thomas
and Aisia Robertson
, the Dragons excelled from the get-go, opening with a 70-68 win over Saint Mary's (Albany)
, a preseason Top 10 nationally-ranked team.
In a statement from the Bishop O'Dowd athletic department:
"Bishop O'Dowd High School attempts to schedule the best teams in California every year. Unfortunately, this year while scheduling our allotted contacts, we failed to designate one of our contacts as a scrimmage. As a result, this put us over the number of games allowed by our section.
"This oversight falls collectively on our entire staff and we feel terrible that this has occurred. We are disappointed for our girls who have dedicated countless hours to their pursuit of defending their NCS championship. We will look into every option for them to compete in the CIF NorCal Open Division tournament."