I’ve seen plenty of remarkable things covering high school sports — a sinkhole in a football field during a game, a 4-foot-tall wrestler winning a state championship, an 81-foot, 9-inch shot in a girls basketball game — but just when I thought I’d seen about everything…the Seminole District boys basketball pairings came out.
Here’s the deal:
The Seminole divides its boys and girls tournaments by putting the four Division 4 schools in one half of the bracket and the three Division 3 schools on the other side. The thinking is that when teams are contending for Region III tournament berths in the respective divisions, they might as well be playing against each other. I suppose the arrangement has worked well so far.
Not this year.
E.C. Glass and Heritage tied for the regular-season title in the Seminole boys standings. Both teams are in Division 4. Both are going to the Region III Division 4 tournament. Fair enough, but each of the three districts in Region III gets to send just two teams to the region in each division, meaning the Seminole’s other two Division 4 teams — Amherst County and Jefferson Forest — are eliminated from postseason contention before the tournament has even begun.
But here’s the rub. Amherst and JF are still playing in the Seminole tournament. Say what? That’s right, the Seminole is telling those two boys teams that they can compete for a district tournament trophy, but their road will end right there.
A postseason tournament where teams are playing with no hope of advancing to the next level? That is absolutely unheard of.
Competing for a state title is the whole point. Or at least that’s what I’ve been hearing for years as a major reason for the VHSL’s schools splitting into six classifications.
The Seminole didn’t want to hold a playoff between Glass and Heritage, because it felt that a team that proved itself over 2 1/2 months with a first-place finish was deserving of a regional berth and that the loser of a playoff could be at risk of losing it all with one upset loss.
So why have a tournament at all? And more to the point, why would Amherst County and Jefferson Forest want to show up for this one?
With split classifications and expanded regional brackets, the VHSL’s district tournaments aren’t what they used to be and haven’t been for years. In many cases, the most important game often is a consolation game that determines whether the teams stay alive or pack it in for the season. A district tournament title is still a big deal, but in Group AA Region IV and Group A Region C, most of the postseason berths already have been decided and many games are merely to determine regional seedings.
I’ll welcome the change next winter when postseason district tournaments will disappear altogether and the road to Richmond will begin with tournament play in newly formed conferences made up of teams from the same classification. Then, perhaps, the win-or-go-home aspect will bring more excitement to the games.
Win or go home.
For Amherst County and Jefferson Forest it’s just go home.
See the area’s boys and girls pairings here.