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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Bill Pierce’s almanac: Ever-changing state basketball tournament format

Teams are now in the final stages of determining who will advance to the state basketball tournaments.The first tournament was held in 1923 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion on the University of Washington campus. There were no classifications in those days, so Almira and Endicott took the court against the bigger schools from Walla Walla, Vancouver and Yakima. No Spokane school participated in that first year.

The tournament stayed at Hec Ed until 1978 when it moved to the Seattle Center Coliseum. In 1995 it went to the Kingdome, and finally in 1999 to the Tacoma Dome.

As new classifications were added, other sites hosted the smaller schools, among them the Spokane Coliseum, University of Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran and Central Washington.

Everything stayed the same for 50 years, with 16 teams coming together for a four-day tournament and awarding the top eight finishers trophies. That changed for the bigger schools in 1964 when they began a regional format, with only four schools advancing to the finals in Seattle.The smaller schools continued the four-day tournament.

In 1974, the runner-ups from the regionals were allowed a trip to Seattle to play in a consolation bracket. That lasted until 1979 when an eight-team tournament began, with all those participating having a chance for the championship. In 1988, the large schools returned to the original 16-team tournament.

Beginning in 2011, the WIAA decided all schools, no matter the classification, were to play eight-team tournaments.

To keep the 16-team atmosphere, the Tacoma Dome hosts the 4A/3A schools, the Yakima Sun Dome the 2A/1A, and the Spokane Arena the 2B/1B. A curtain hangs between two courts, the boys playing on one side, the girls on the other. The classifications alternate games and four champions are crowned on the final day at each site

This year, the regional games deciding the final eight teams for each classification, are being considered state contests. It makes you wonder how much of a tournament feel a player for a losing school gets, with only one game at a high school gym comprising their entire state tournament experience.

Bill Pierce
Bill Pierce is a sports blogger who writes the weekly nwprepsnow prep sports almanac.

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