The Division I playoff seeding race has changed shape several times over the past week.
A fortnight ago, it appeared as though La Salle Academy and Shea High would finish 1-2 in the overall points race. Now, thanks to a strong finish by Central Falls, the Warriors will be the No. 2 seed in the eight-team playoff field that begins action on Friday.
La Salle (12-1-5) finished with 29 points while winning the South. Central Falls accumulated 27 points (11-2-5) en route to the North title. Shea (11-3-4) garnered 26 points in the East but may have to share the division title with defending state champion Barrington (11-4-2) if the Eagles defeat Chariho (2-13-2) in today’s final regular season contest.
The fifth through eighth seeds are North Kingstown (23 points), Portsmouth (23), Cumberland (22) and Bishop Hendricken (22), which sneaked into the field when Central Falls bested South Kingstown on Monday evening.
Shea took the third seed based on head-to-head competition with Barrington. North Kingstown earned the fifth seed over Portsmouth for the same reason. Cumberland got the seventh seed thanks to its regular season win over Hendricken.
Barrington had won its last five games to move into the running for second seed. The Eagles then lost 3-0 on Monday to a hungry North Kingstown team that needed a win to qualify for the postseason.
Central Falls finished with five wins in its final six games to take second seed away from Shea.
The playoffs feature the usual 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5 format. This sets up the possibility of Shea meeting Central Falls in the semifinals and La Salle facing Barrington, assuming the quarterfinals go according to form (which is a big assumption).
The quarterfinal pairings follow: Hendricken at La Salle, Cumberland at Central Falls, Portsmouth at Shea and North Kingstown at Barrington. All matches are listed for a 3:30 p.m. start on Friday, unless changes are made by the competing schools.
Shea High coach Pierre Ridore knows his team has no one to blame but itself for falling to the third seed.
“I don’t want to say we play down to the competition sometimes,” he said, “but it seems that way. It seems like our players feel if they go out and play their game, they should win. In the playoffs, where you go home if you lose, I don’t think we will have a problem with their attitude.”
Shea’s first misstep came last month during a 1-0 road loss to Central High, which finished a distant third in the North with a 6-11-1 record. After a 2-2 tie with La Salle in a game played at a high level by both sides, the Raiders then lost to Hendricken on a very wet Thursday evening.
“I know what they were thinking,” Ridore said, referring to Hendricken’s decision to play the game after a day-long rain. “We have a lot of warm weather players on our team, kids who were born in warmer places. But we have to forget about that when the playoffs come.”
Central Falls proved it could run with the big dogs when it tied La Salle 0-0 on Sept. 20 and then played to a 1-1 stalemate with Shea on Oct. 15. Both matches were on the road for Central Falls.
To show how even these playoff teams are, Cumberland defeated Central Falls 3-1 at Tucker Field on Oct. 22. Shea lost to Portsmouth 2-1 in September on its home field, then tied the Patriots down in Portsmouth 1-1 on Oct. 13.