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Playoffs?

Even if you don’t remember it, sports fans were treated to one of the best post-game press conference speeches of all time on November 25, 2001, by Jim Mora, the then coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Following his team’s dismal five-turnover performance in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Mora gave a blistering tirade

Even if you don’t remember it, sports fans were treated to one of the best post-game press conference speeches of all time on November 25, 2001, by Jim Mora, the then coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Following his team’s dismal five-turnover performance in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Mora gave a blistering tirade of his team’s ineptitude to the gathered media. When it came time for questions, Mora was asked to assess the Colts playoff chances.

In a memorable high-pitched sounding voice, Mora expounded, “What’s that? Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs. You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game! Another game.” For the record, the Colts didn’t make the playoff finishing four games under .500 with a 6-10 record.

As this is being written, the District Four High School Basketball playoffs are about to begin, and as you read this, the surviving teams are about to be embarking on what they hope will be a successful run at the State Championships to be held in Hershey March 22-24. In reality, the chances of a local hoop team making it to Chocolate Town are akin to one of its’ chocolate bars holding up to the heat of a 100-degree day. But, the dream will be there just as it always is this time of the year.

Yes, playoffs are the carrot on the end of the stick, annually waved before the noses of high school athletes at the beginning of every scholastic season. It is a goal, a motivation, an achievement to which every athlete can devote the countless hours of practice and preparation necessary to obtaining that elusive prize. It matters little regarding the reality of same; it is the pursuit that counts the most.

In case you might have missed it, last week in this column Loyalsock boys basketball coach Ron Insinger talked about a state championship. In over 40 years of coaching and 900+ victories, Insinger’s teams have made one trip to Hershey, losing in the Class A title game to Duquesne 70-60 in 1993.

“I’d really like to win a state championship,” Insinger longed. “I know that is an awfully lofty goal and is something that has evaded us. It is not even a realistic goal. If we do get to go to states in the first or second round, we’ll have to go up against a Neumann-Goretti or Conway Egan or someone that has kids from out-of-state. Those teams are made up of blue-chip Division One players. It is not a level playing ground, but still, that is in the back of my head. I don’t know that will ever happen. But we are going to keep plugging along, and hopefully, someday that will happen.”

But, just like the state lottery, you can’t win unless you buy a ticket and the District Four tournament is where you begin your chances to do so.

Congratulations go out to all the boys’ and girls’ teams that made an appearance on this year’s brackets. By the rules under which they played the season, they earned the right to do so. It is an experience they will remember, and for the underclassmen involved it may provide a springboard for future successes.

But are the playoffs for everyone?

Much has been talked about and written about how the playoff teams are determined and how the seeding takes place. Obviously, the PIAA subscribes to the theory that more is better. This will be the second year in which the governing body decided that six state champions are better than four as the Giant Center will open its doors to three days of competition rather than two with 24 teams and their fans traveling to Hershey. (Can you say cha-ching?)

The number of teams each Pennsylvania District sends into state tournament play is determined by the PIAA based upon school enrollment and the number of schools each district has in the various six classifications. Locally, District Four was allotted the following: Boys AAAAAA, the District Champion; AAAA – top three teams qualify; AAA- top three teams qualify; AA – top two teams qualify; A – top three teams qualify.

In girl’s play: AAAAAA – District Champions advances; AAAA – top four teams qualify; AAA – top three teams qualify; AA – top two teams qualify; A – top four teams qualify.

In following this qualification format, Pennsylvania Districts can determine how many teams will be entered into the tournament field and how those competing team will be bracketed. District Four has determined (presumably to round out eight-team brackets) that teams with sub-.500 season records were selected for the tournament field. In some cases, a pig-tail round was added (pitting the eighth and ninth-seeded teams to meet in an opening round.) They further determined the seeding of the teams strictly on the basis of the season’s win/loss record, with no consideration to the strength of schedule the teams played.

These methods have drawn criticism from resulting first-round pairings and teams not achieving a .500 record qualifying for the tournament. The powers-that-be should certainly review a more equitable selection system for future District tournaments.

As Jim Mora’s rant suggested, “Playoffs” are not meant for everyone.

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