After a long and arduous road in the regular season, the playoffs have arrived for Central Section schools.
Well, at least some of the playoff brackets have arrived. The actual games start next week.
This is the first winter sports postseason in the CIF Central Section for the 13 area schools that left the Southern Section at the end of the last school year.
The Central Section basketball brackets were released Friday afternoon.
St. Joseph is the city's top basketball program, with the most recent CIF title (in 2015) and consistently winning, or at the very least competing for, league championships.
The Knights are seeded seventh in the section's top division and will host Bakersfield Liberty Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
St. Joseph is 22-7 overall and went 9-3 in Mountain League play, finishing in second place with an inconsistent 3-3 finish in league games. Liberty is 16-12 overall. The Patriots went 7-3 in the Southwest Yosemite League behind league champ Bakersfield, which got the six seed.
If the Knights win their first-round game, they'll likely head to No. 2 Fresno Bullard in the quarterfinals on Friday, Feb. 15. Bullard hosts No. 15 Clovis in its first-round game. Bullard is 23-4 overall. Bullard went 9-1 in the CMAC. (The Bullard football team knocked St. Joseph out of the DI playoffs in the fall).
Arroyo Grande, the outright Mountain League champion, earned the No. 3 seed in Division I. The Eagles will host No. 14 Clovis Buchanan Wednesday night. They are 22-5 overall after beating out St. Joseph by a game in the league standings at 10-2.
Clovis West, at 26-3, is the division's top seed. The winner of Wednesday's Mission Prep-Edison game will play Clovis West in the quarterfinal round. Mission Prep, the third-place team in the Mountain League, landed the No. 9 seed and will play at No. 8 Edison Wednesday in Fresno.
Atascadero, the third-place team in the Ocean League, plays at Clovis North as the No. 13 seed playing the No. 4 seed.
In Division II, San Joaquin Memorial is the No. 1 seed. San Luis Obispo is the No. 2 seed. The Tigers are 19-10 overall and went 7-5 in Mountain League play. They have a first-round bye and will play the winner of the Fresno-El Diamante game Feb. 15 in the quarterfinals.
Nipomo is the No. 13 seed. The Titans, 12-16 overall, play at No. 4 Bakersfield Independence Wednesday in the first round. Nipomo went 5-5 in the Ocean League.
Ocean League co-champion Templeton is the No. 12 seed in Division III and will play at Garces in Bakersfield Wednesday. Morro Bay, the other Ocean League co-champ, is the 11 seed and plays at North Bakersfield. Visalia Mt. Whitney is the No. 1 seed and Reedley Immanuel is the No. 2 seed.
No area teams are in the Division IV or V playoffs.
Righetti has become the premiere girls basketball program in town, but the Warriors are in a different spot this season.
They've typically started the postseason at home under head coach Desiree Hitch, but No. 9 Righetti will play at No. 8 Hanford Tuesday night in the first round of the Division I playoffs. The Warriors made the CIF-SS semifinals the last two seasons, also making the state playoffs.
The Warriors are 13-9 overall. They went 6-4 and finished tied for second in the Mountain League with Mission Prep and San Luis Obispo. The Bullpups of Hanford are 21-6 and went 10-0 to claim the West Yosemite League title. MaxPreps has Righetti ranked 202nd in the state while Hanford is 169th.
Mountain League champion Arroyo Grande earned the No. 6 seed and will host Clovis East. The Eagles are 20-6 overall.
San Luis Obispo and Mission Prep don't have to travel very far for their first-round games. In fact, SLO doesn't have to travel at all and the Royals just have to drive across town. No. 7 San Luis Obispo hosts No. 10 Mission Prep in a first-round game Tuesday night.
In Division II, Ocean League co-champ Nipomo is the highest ranked area team, landing the No. 6 seed. The Titans (21-8, 11-1 Ocean League) host No. 11 Tulare Mission Oak in a first-round game Tuesday night. The Hawks are 13-16 overall.
Pioneer Valley, which earned the other half of the Ocean League title, is the No. 8 seed in Division II. The Panthers host Bakersfield Liberty on Tuesday. Pioneer Valley is 17-8 overall and also went 11-1 in the Ocean League. The Patriots are 10-14.
Santa Maria (11-12, 4-8 Ocean League) also made the Division II playoffs and is the No. 13 seed. The Saints head to Tehachapi (20-6) to play the No. 4 seed on Tuesday.
Orcutt Academy (20-7, 8-4 Ocean League) is the lone local team in Division III. The Spartans are the No. 7 seed and host No. 10 Delano Chavez on Tuesday. If the Spartans win, they will face the winner of the No. 15 El Diamante-No. 2 Fresno game.
In the Central Section, the higher seed always hosts the playoff game. The Central Section soccer brackets will be released this weekend.