High School Sports

State tourneys: Half of champions lost a game at state

I was going to do a Twitter Blast, with 16 or 17 tweets about my thoughts on the state championship teams from the 12 basketball tournaments. Then I figured no one would like that. So instead, here are those thoughts.

Bottom line: Six of the 12 state champions LOST in the state tournament this season.

(Important note: After five weeks of postseason coverage, travel, and bad eating habits, I could be reading these brackets wrong. If I’m off, I’ll make a correction or delete this blog. The reason I’m doubting myself is I was surprised by how many state champions lost a game. I have to be off, right?)

When the WIAA first went away from 16-team, double-elimination in 2011, a team could lose in the state tournament and still win a state title. The system was a four-team regional, with the top two teams playing each other, the “lesser” teams playing each other. The winner of the “top two” game would go to final eight, while the loser would play the winner of the “lesser” teams that played an elimination game.

If memory serves, three teams that year won state titles after losing in the state tournament. (There are 12 state champions, with tournaments for 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A, 2B, 1B, boys and girls.)

Coaches complained. The WIAA modified the format to eliminate that possibility. The next year, a team had to go undefeated in the tournament to win a title.

This year, the WIAA changed the format so that 12 teams would make the final venue for each tournament. The WIAA had find a way to come up with the 12, with four teams earning byes in the final week of the tourney.

So the WIAA went back to the possibility that a team could lose a game in state tournament (regional round) and still win a state title. The top eight teams that qualified for state played a seeding game in the state regional round. Winner got a bye. Loser got a second chance at life, but then had to win an extra game from that point in order to win state.

If I’m reading the brackets correctly, five of the six girls tournaments had champions that lost in the state regional round this year.

Three of those teams that lost, in fact, came back to play the same team again in the finals and won. That means three teams had to face teams they had already beat in the state tournament.

Mount Baker lost to Cashmere at “state” in the regional round. Then Mount Baker beat Cashmere in Class 1A title game.

Another: Lynden lost to Burlington-Edison and then beat Burlington-Edison in the Class 2A title game.

Another: Mercer Island lost to Bishop Blanchet then beat Bishop Blanchet in the Class 3A title game.

In the boys tournaments, Kentwood won the 4A title after losing in the state regional. Kentwood, which beat Union in the finals, was the only boys team to lose at state then win a state title.

In all, half of the state champions won state titles with a loss.

We know there will be adjustments to the new RPI system. And this format is a lot better than drawing out of a hat. (Another thing I loved: The Wednesday elimination games. Talk about drama.)  But I wonder if the “losing-but-winning” thing will be an issue again. It was with the coaches back in 2011.

Then again, maybe this is just fine. If you are one of the top 8 seeds, maybe you deserve a second chance.

Half of the state champions this basketball season aren’t complaining about their “new life.”

But there are three teams wondering why they had to face the same team twice in the state tournament and ended up in second place after going 1-1 vs. those teams.

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