WIAA revamps state hoops tournaments

By AnhViet Nguyen

The state basketball tournament format is changing once again.

The WIAA executive board voted to make the state tournaments single elimination with first round games being held at local sites on Monday. 16 teams will fill the tournament field and the eight regional winners will move on to the final site. The new format will debut in 2012.

Changes to the tournament’s format came after a barrage of criticism from players, parents and coaches around the state regarding the addition of a regional round among other issues.

After meeting with the WIAA, Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association president Nalin Sood was convinced positive changes would be on the way. They did not come.

“We had every reason to believe that they were going to change it to state sites; they’re not going to now,” he said. “And instead of double elimination, they’re not doing that anymore.”

The state tournaments are essentially shortened by one game and that does not sit well with coaches around the state.

“As a coach and a teacher, you drive home and you hit your steering wheel because a kid’s not doing post moves or he’s not handling the ball or this play isn’t working. And you get back in the car and drive back the next day wanting to do it,” Sood said.

“You want to make the season longer and want to keep going, but the WIAA is making it shorter.”

The WIAA decided to take a different route in order to be able to financially support other activities.

In 2010, the tournaments fell $80,000 short of expected income. This year, the new tournament format helped bring in $37,000 more than expected.
“This decision is placing dollars and cents over positive student experiences,” Sood, who is also the MTHS head basketball coach, said.

Another issue that was addressed was boys and girls teams from the same school playing on the same day, thus dividing the fan support.

The WIAA decided to have boys play first round games on Friday and girls play on Saturday in 2012, with dates rotating yearly. The WIAA will determine locations and matchups, among other issues, in a meeting later this year.

Even though many changes were made, some feel like the experiences simply won’t be the same. Senior Zack Karels was on the 2009 men’s basketball team that was among the final 16 teams and went to the Tacoma Dome. He was also on this year’s team that fell in the regional round and feels that the two experiences were different.

“Being at the T-Dome had a different atmosphere than playing at a neutral site,” Karels said. “It’s more of a state feeling. Regionals kind of just felt like another game.”