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Big-school basketball seeding draws polite boos

By David La Vaque, Star Tribune, 02/02/12, 10:13PM CST


Board praises tougher hockey penalties, examines other athletics

Minnesota State High School League associate director Kevin Merkle

Visions of a March Madness-inspired high school basketball section tournament format got cloudy Thursday at the Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors meeting.

The state's 16 regions voted 8-5 against revamping the Class 4A boys' and girls' basketball section tournament to give greater weight to competitive balance. Three regions did not vote. An activities director advisory committee also opposed the plan.

But supporters said their bracket isn't busted.

Tom Critchley, executive director of the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association, remains "pleased with the interest even though we don't have a consensus at this point."

Under the proposed format, teams would be rated and put in various sections. Currently, several top teams will see their season end in loaded sections. Later this year, Critchley said an 11-member committee, including metro and outstate coaches, will conduct a mock seeding of the 63 teams in Class 4A and place them in eight regions, or "pods."

Critchley said having the mock seeding data "will help pique more interest" when the board next meets in April.

Kevin Merkle, MSHSL associate director, said he remains "intrigued" by the idea and wants to see the mock seeding results.

"Every time we've floated the idea of more competitive balance vs. geography in terms of who gets to the state tournaments, it falls flat in Greater Minnesota," Merkle said.

If the Class 4A basketball tournament makes this change, Merkle said, other sports will ask for something similar.

Seeding small-school hoops

Boys' basketball teams in Class 1A and 2A will play the upcoming state tournament under a seeding system approved by the league Thursday.

The top four teams in each class, representing the state's smaller schools by enrollment, will be seeded by committee. Opponents will be chosen by blind draw.

Class 3A and 4A teams in both boys' and girls' basketball already use the seeding system.

"It's the right thing to do," said coach Bob Hennen of Watertown-Mayer (No. 9 in Class 2A). "I always want to see the teams playing the best at the end."

Praise for tougher penalties

About three weeks of games have passed since the MSHSL aimed to change the culture of prep hockey by imposing tougher penalties for three of hockey's most dangerous infractions.

Craig Perry, MSHSL associate director, said his observations and the feedback he's received "hasn't been anything but positive."

The measures were in response to a check from behind into the boards on Benilde-St. Margaret's sophomore Jack Jablonski in a junior varsity game Dec. 30. Doctors fear he will not regain the use of his legs.

Perry said the league's instructional video on illegal and proper checking techniques has drawn support locally and nationally.

Wheelchair track changes

The league approved a state meet format that allows wheelchair athletes to share the track with runners while maintaining space to ensure the safety of all competitors. A weighted scoring system will allow wheelchair athletes to contribute to the team score as well.

Rose Hollermann, a sophomore at Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, sued the league in December seeking to allow wheelchair athletes to compete with, but not against, runners at the state meet and to score points toward the team score.

She won the Class 1A state 800- and 1,600-meter events last June but disliked racing alone.

Hollermann's attorney, Justin Page, said Thursday that he had not been contacted by the league but said the board's action "sounds promising. Hopefully, the lawsuit can be resolved soon."

Lacrosse adds sections

The league approved expanding boys' and girls' lacrosse from four- to eight-team section tournaments beginning in 2013.

Staff writer Brian Stensaas contributed to this report.



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