Basketball coaches upset at format for title games

Sidelines

February 20, 2000|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Since the boys and girls county basketball championship games began in the 1995-96 season, doubleheaders at one site have drawn big crowds.

On Wednesday night, those games will be at two sites as part of a controversial day that has all 12 public schools playing.

Tripleheaders at four sites could keep attendance down at the championship games. That's just one of several reasons why most county coaches are not thrilled about the all-inclusive championship day and wondering if the championship games have been de-emphasized.

Top-ranked Annapolis (20-0) plays No. 15 North County (15-5) at Meade for the boys title, while No. 6 Arundel (18-2) faces No. 7 Severna Park (16-4) in the girls championship at Broadneck. Both games are at 7: 15 p.m., and will be the third and final games that day at those respective sites.

Three more boys games, at 3: 30, 5: 15 and 7: 15, will be at Arundel High, while Chesapeake will host three girls games at those same times.

"It's got to hurt the crowds for the games that count, the championship games," Glen Burnie boys coach and 4A East Region director Mike Rudd said.

"Those four teams playing for the championships earned the right to be there and should be showcased in front of everybody around the county. Coaches and players from the other teams should have the opportunity to come out and watch. That's not the case."

It's all part of a new format voted on by county athletic directors last year without input from coaches. The idea was to prevent a week-long layoff going into the playoffs for those not in championship games and to save money on bus transportation.

While the idea was well-intended, the coaches believe it was not well-advised without their input.

"If they [athletic directors] had come to us [coaches], I don't think you would see this happening," Annapolis boys coach John Brady said.

"Most of the coaches I've talked to would rather have played a fourth game against an outside team, rather than another county opponent."

State public school rules allow 22 games to be played in basketball. Anne Arundel County teams play a 16-game county regular-season schedule, two holiday tournament games, and four non-league games.

That fourth game is now against another county opponent, and the meaningless game has created five (two boys, three girls) third-game matchups this season, not including the girls championship game.

Of the five third-time matchups, the possibility of a fourth game against the same team exists because of the open draw today for the state tournament.

Last Friday's regularly scheduled games were postponed to Tuesday (tomorrow is a holiday), and for some teams, it could mean three games (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday) in four days, which negates the theory of avoiding a layoff.

"We all hope to play in the championship game, but if not, most of us this late in the season would rather have the week off to rest our legs," Rudd said.

The teams were matched by order of finish in the county league standings, which also caused confusion because many of the coaches, including Brady and Rudd, were uninformed.

A case can be made that five additional county games were meaningless since the seedings are based on 11 (not 16) games, with the top two finishers playing for the championship.

"I don't think a lot of coaches knew what the criteria was," Rudd said.

"There's got to be better communication with the coaches."

On the girls side, Arundel and Severna Park split two games, but Severna Park won the first one, thereby earning the top seed. It's interesting that when today's top four seeds for the 4A East Region are made official, Arundel will claim the top seed over Severna Park because of its better overall record.

"After the season, we will re-evaluate the format," county administrator Marlene Kelly said.

Sideliners

With a win at Arundel on Tuesday, No. 1 Annapolis (20-0) tied the county boys public school record for consecutive wins (21) set by Meade in 1982-83 and could tie the overall county record (22) set by Severn (1992-93) by taking the county championship over North County on Wednesday. It would also make Annapolis the first county boys team to go undefeated in the regular season. St. Mary's Maria Smear is No. 5 in the NCAA Division I rankings for three-pointers in women's basketball. Smear, All-Metro and a member of the All-County Academic-Athletic Team last year, has made 33 of 66 three-point attempts for Yale. The only freshman in the national top five, Smear did not make a three-pointer until her senior year with the Saints. Old Mill boys basketball coach Paul Bunting has told school officials that he will step down after this, his 15th, season with the Patriots.

Have a note or idea for Sidelines? Call Pat O'Malley's 24-hour Sportsline at 410-647-2499.

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