The ice storm defended its conference tournament titles successfully from three area basketball conferences. Monday night’s frozen precipitation and ensuing low temperatures kept schools closed for most of the week and forced the cancellation of high school conference basketball tournaments across the state.
It’s the second consecutive season that the conference tournaments have been canceled because of weather issues in the Greater Neuse River 4A, Eastern Plains 2A and Carolina 1A conferences.
The Two Rivers 3A Conference was able to get its tournament in last year.
For most of the week, there was a hope that those tournaments could be fit in in a three-day window or played with reduced schedules. But when the NCHSAA announced Friday that it would not change seeding day for the state playoffs (Saturday) and that it would not take the results from conference tournaments into consideration for playoff seeding, those hopes evaporated.
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“In terms of basketball seeding, with so many school systems out of school … we felt the most consistent and fairest way was not to count conference tournament results for seeding,” NCHSAA commissioner Davis Whitfield said in a news release. “We didn’t want conferences or school systems to feel they had to make a difficult decision to play because of the impact on seeding.”
Games to determine playoff seeding among the top three finishers in conferences were played. The only area conference where that was an issue was the Carolina 1A Conference which had two first place ties.
The NCHSAA gives automatic playoff bids to the top three finishers in each conference, then uses teams’ overall won-loss record to determine the rest of the playoff field.
The state playoffs begin on Tuesday.
The ice and the ensuing decision to cancel tournaments for a second straight year brought a quicker than expected end to many basketball seasons across the state.
For teams like West Johnston’s boys who will not be in the running for an at-large state playoff bid because of their overall record – who knew they would have to win the conference tournament (as against the odds as that prospect might have been) – it means an abrupt end to the season.
The West boys situation is even a little odder. The Wildcats finished off their regular season with an overtime win over Harnett Central, their first in conference play this season.
“It really is an odd feeling to have the season over but no real feeling of having a true end to the season,” said West Johnston coach Kris Bennett. “On one hand, I extremely happy that our seniors got to finish their careers with a win. But on the other hand, I think a little of the excitement is taken from that win because we, as a team, didn’t know that would be or last game together.
“This is two years in a rows we have gotten to end on a win (both overtime games) but at least last year I knew the tournament was cancelled before the last game and we, as a team, could have some closure to the season.”
There’s also the general camaraderie that comes with a conference tournament. A feeling that comes with a trophy, one that will live in the school’s trophy case for years to come, for the team that plays the best over a given week.
“Needless to say, I am very disappointed for the kids across our conference who have not experienced a conference tournament for the past two years and especially so for our seniors,” said Princeton girls coach and athletic director Marty Gurganus. “This is something they will never get back.”
The tournament cancellations also create a funding issue for area conferences since in most cases about half of the revenue a conference has in any given year comes from the conference basketball tournaments.
The funds generated from conference tournaments are used to purchase trophies, plaques, player of the year awards, coach of the year awards, medals in sports that award those and conference certificates for all sports, not just basketball.
“In addition to all of the awards that the tournament revenue covers, at the end of the school year, surplus funds in the conference account are distributed evenly among all member schools,” said Keith Durham, president of the Two Rivers 3A Conference. “In today’s economic environment, that can be a huge impact and losing the basketball conference tournament to weather hurts all of the conference schools, not just the ones trying to play their way into a playoff berth.”
The NCHSAA also altered the schedule for its largest event because of the weather. The state individual wrestling championships reverted back to the old two-day format (Friday and Saturday) with no breaks between sessions.
The weather also put every area spring sports team behind schedule. Tryouts for those teams were set to begin on Monday, Feb. 16, and some teams had scrimmages set for Saturday. Those of course went away.
With no after-school activities for the entire week, most area spring sports teams will get together for tryouts the first time this coming week.
The first playing date of the spring season is March 2.