WHAT IF THEY PLAYED A TOURNAMENT AND NOBODY CAME?
Its often been said that with the BCS, college football owes itself a better ending. With the new WIAA Regional Basketball Tournament, the WIAA owes itself a better beginning to the end. No doubt the combined 4A/3A, 2A/1A and 2B/1B Tournaments will be great in Tacoma, Yakima and Spokane, but the means by which the teams got there was anything but.
First I need to say well done to the Hoquiam men, Elma women, Taholah men and women and North Beach women for making it to the new regional round and all the other teams, including the Aberdeen and Hoquiam women who made it to districts. I had the pleasure of calling several postseason games for District Four and the tournament was as always, a great success and a joy to attend.
As to the regionals, the first thing I said upon entering Glacier Peak High School (where Hoquiam played their regional games) in Snohomish was “Oh this is much better than Yakima”, with great sarcasm. The game had more of the feeling of a non-league regular season affair than a “state” game, played in a 1/4 filled gym (that might be generous), miles away from all of the schools. The Class of 2011 hoops players were robbed of their state experience. For finishing in 2nd place in their league and 2nd in district, Hoquiam should get more than what the WIAA provided. Hats off to the staff at Glacier Peak. They did their best to make it an easy go for fans and media, but it paled in comparison to the outstanding experience the media and fans had in Yakima.
Remember, the Hoquiam men’s comeback win over Othello in 2003 or the Hoquiam ladies dropping a heartbreaker to Blaine that same year? Those games were enhanced by the atmosphere of the Sun Dome in Yakima. Under the current system, hardly anyone would have seen those matches, because (lets be honest), there is not much alluring about a trip to Snohomish on a cold weekend in February. Something about the trip to the big stadium for a game played on a big stage draws fans, even if the team is a huge underdog. The state experience was completely absent from the Hoquiam match-ups on Friday and Saturday.
The new tournament is a response to tough economic conditions and I was willing to give it a try, but now that it’s over, I think the postseason suffered as a result and the real losers were the kids who played important games under conditions that seemed to lack importance. We can only hope that its back to the drawing board for the WIAA, but I won’t be holding my breath. Major changes like this aren’t usually scrapped after one year. Then again if the tournament continues as is next year, it’s not likely many people would be at the games to notice.