University boys win NCS playoff opener

Following his team’s 69-38 win over College-Prep Oakland at Kezar Pavilion in a North Coast Section Division 5 opening-round game Wednesday, University boys basketball coach Randy Bessolo clearly was focused on winning the school’s fourth section crown.

But if the top-seeded Red Devils (27-2), ranked 40th in the state by MaxPreps, claim the NCS title, advancing much further in the postseason could be very difficult.

That’s because University probably would be moved up to Division 2 in the CIF’s new competitive equity model.

In the past, a team other than those selected in the top Open Division would be placed in its section designation. That was Division 4 or 5 for University, a school of 410 students.

Now, all regional qualifiers will be seeded 1-88 and placed in divisions based on their seed. At No. 40, University would be in Division 2.

“I’m not a big fan,” Bessolo said of the new system. “I think it’s bad when you’re punished for success and rewarded for failure.”

Bessolo noted the 2015-16 Serra team that lost 53-51 in the Central Coast Section Open Division semifinals to Bellarmine. That dropped the Padres to Division 2 at regionals and they won the first state title in school history.

“If they won that (Bellarmine) game, they probably would have been the eighth seed in the state Open and lost in the first round,” Bessolo said. “They get dropped down at NorCals and win the whole thing. … Sure, there are huge advantages to losing if you want to win a state title.”

Bessolo said he wasn’t hinting he had thought about losing on purpose. He said winning an NCS crown is priority No. 1.

“Personally, we’ve never won one while I’ve been there, so it’s definitely important for me,” said Bessolo, who is 316-103 at the — but 0-3 in NCS title games.

This might be his best team, though on Tuesday, the Red Devils weren’t really sharp, he said. In limited playing time, Spencer Spivy had 18 points, and Max Fried and Julian Manyika added 11 apiece.

“We missed a lot of layups,” Bessolo said. “But the good news is we got in all 14 players early and 13 of them scored.”

University advances to quarterfinal action at 7 p.m. Saturday at Kezar against ninth-seeded Head-Royce-Oakland (15-10), a 62-47 winner at eighth-seeded Cloverdale.

Other games: In Division 4, Kobe Kiener had 14 points and Julian Vaughns and Cameron Ba added 11 apiece as top-seeded St. Joseph-Notre Dame (20-9) won 79-34 in a first-round home game against Gateway (13-14). … Fifth-seeded Lick-Wilmerding (22-6) got 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists from Walter Lum and 15 points from Allen Wilson in a 65-59 overtime win over 12th-seeded Arcata (14-12). Phin Horowitz added 12 points and seven rebounds for Lick-Wilmerding. … Three three-pointers in the fourth quarter by freshman Nigel Burris helped third-seeded Stuart Hall (19-10) to a 54-46 win over Middletown (18-8) at Kezar. Stuart Hall got a big spark from guard Miles Amos, who returned from a knee injury. … Other Division 4 first-round winners were Fortuna, Piedmont, St. Patrick-St. Vincent-Vallejo, Healdsburg and St. Mary’s-Berkeley, which pulled out a 57-56 win over Del Norte. Sixth-seeded St. Mary’s (15-13), coached by former Riordan coach Rich Buckner, comes back to San Francisco to play Stuart Hall in Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. quarterfinal game at Kezar. … Other Division 5 winners were Redwood Christian-San Lorenzo, San Domenico-San Anselmo, Branson-Ross, Bentley-Lafayette, Urban and St. Bernard’s-Eureka.

MaxPreps senior writer Mitch Stephens covers high school sports for The San Francisco Chronicle.