All B’s Spokane bound

It's all but official, all State B basketball will be in Spokane. Although sites haven't been settled, the WIAA executive board voted Friday to drastically alter the look of the state high school tournaments beginning next school year.

Instead of six - or 12 if you count boys and girls - 16-team tournaments and different sites there will be two (or four) eight-team tournaments at three different sites, all on the same weekend. It appears as if Spokane gets 1B and 2B, Tacoma 3A and 4A with the 1A and 2A in Yakima.

The story I filed fo Saturday's paper is below.

There are more questions than answers, but the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association executive board voted on Friday to restructure the state high school basketball tournaments, beginning next season.

The move paves the way for all the Class B schools to again play in Spokane, although that is not official.

All of the B schools used to play in one tournament in Spokane, beginning in 1958. But three years ago those schools were split into two classifications, with the smaller 1B teams sent to Yakima and the 2B teams staying in Spokane. Now they will all return, but remain in two tournaments, played simultaneously at the same site.

Each of the six classifications (4A, 3A, 2A, 1A, 2B, 1B) will still have a 16-team tournament for boys and girls, but the field will be cut in half the weekend prior with first-round, loser-out games at regional sites.

Eight teams from each regional will advance to the state sites for three-day, double-elimination tournaments. Six teams would earn trophies at each tournament, compared to eight under the current four-day format.

All the regional tournaments would be held Feb. 25-26, with the state tournaments March 3-5.

It is probable the 4A and 3A state tournaments will be in Tacoma, 2A and 1A in Yakima and 2B and 1B in Spokane.

The change was made in part because of dwindling attendance at the current 16-team state tournaments.

“There were a number of issues,” WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese said. “The board is trying to generate more excitement for the event; we wanted to be sensitive to the academic issues of the schools because fewer days of class are missed; and we were sensitive to the cost of these events.”

Al Falkner of Gonzaga Prep, the District 8 (Greater Spokane League) representative on the executive board, and Ken Lindgren of Oakesdale High School, the District 9 (southeast Washington) representative, were both excited by the vote – and both indicated Spokane was all but a lock for the combined B tournaments.

“I’m pretty excited about it for various reasons,” Lindgren said. “We were the only state left that has a 16-team, double-elimination tournament. It happened so fast there is some apprehension, but it’s something that has been needed.

“I think it’s an exciting opportunity to do something we’ve been wanting to do,” Falkner said. “It was a response to a lot of important needs that have been expressed about state basketball tournaments. I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Jim Redmon, who has taken the Lewis and Clark girls to eight straight State 4A tournaments, said he first heard about the possible changes Wednesday and was surprised it happened so quickly.

“My personal feeling is I wanted them to go to a 32-team field and regionalize it until we got until at least a final- eight or a final-four type of situation, so I’m in favor of that scenario,” he said. “But without having all the details, it’s hard to say if it makes sense or not.

“How are they going to do (the regional)? How are they going to seed it? It may be possible that our (eastern) regional (with the Columbia Basin Big Nine League) may go away. I think if we play more of our games on the East Side before we have to go over there it helps the East Side teams because we don’t see a lot of our fans in Tacoma.”

Colbrese said the sites, formats and seeding into regionals will be determined in the next six weeks. Falkner said he was under the impression that each regional tournament would feature four teams (per classification and gender) with No. 1 seeds playing a winner-to-state game and the No. 2 seeds playing a loser-out game. Then the No. 1 loser and No. 2 winner would play for the second berth at state.

“For just throwing it at me, I’m just blessed we have some type of state tournament that is reasonable,” Redmon said. “Because of finances, I think this is just the first step. It could be downsized even more. We’re going to be dealing with these problems until finances get better. You know when they take these things away and it’s hard to get them back.”

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