Tigers roar into semis
Stockton bucked the Mid-Continent League trend and advanced at their state basketball tournament. The Tigers defeatd Dexter/Cedar Vale, a cooperative between two tiny schools near the Kansas/OKlahoma border, 59-44 in the Class 1A-Division I tournament at the ancient William L. White Auditorium in Emporia.
The Class 1A-Division I boys tournament has three teams with at least 10 losses this season. One, Pretty Prairie, was 8-12 during the regular season, yet got hot at the right time, winning three games in sub-state to advance.
I’m not trying to take anything away from Stockton. It’s the smallest school in the MCL, and it has a mighty hard time competing in most sports against Norton, Phillipsburg, Smith Center and now TMP-Marian. The Board of Education there almost voted to pull Stockton out of the MCL–a league it helped found in 1946–but the motion could not get a second and died. I was surprised Stockton didn’t try to leave when the Kansas State High School Activities Association placed TMP in the MCL, the way Trego and Osborne did (although Trego came back), but the Tigers would have a tough time justifying an exit with Plainville and Phillipsburg not too far away on US 183.
Stockton is seeded second in its tournament despite a 16-6 record. Only Hanover at 22-1 would be a high seed in any classification. The team the Wildcats defeated in their sub-state at Clyde, Osborne, would have been the #1 seed at 18-4 had they won.
The MCL hasn’t produced a boys basketball state champion since Trego in 2006. Plainville made the 2A final last year, losing to St. John, which looks like it will repeat barring something unforeseen tomorrow or Saturday.
Class 1A is ridiculously diluted because of the split into two divisions, which first occurred in 2011. There are only 44 teams in Division I and 43 in Division II. No sub-state in 1A has more than six teams in it, and some have five.
Of course, since the Kansas State High School Activities Association places teams in sub-states strictly based upon geography, it means that a few sub-states have #1 seeds who are close to .500, or in a few cases, below it. It leads to sub-par basketball at what should be the time for the best basketball of the season.
It used to be the 1A state tournament was surivvial of the fittest. Those schools had to go through a regional round first, where two teams would advance. Then four regionals would be paired into pods, and two sub-states would emerge. I can recall three or four teams in a 1A tournament prior to the split with only one loss or undefeated. Now, that’s never going to happen.
Classes 5A and 6A have had this problem since the KSHSAA adopted its current structure in 1978-79. With only 32 schools in each classification, one-quarter of the schools will advance to state. Teams only have to win two sub-state games, and if the best teams are clustered in one area, some good teams will be sitting at home, while others will be playing with records of 9-13, 10-12 and so on. Or worse. I can recall a 6-14 team getting hot at the right time and making it to state.
Class 4A now has this problem with two divisions.
It’s emblematic of the let’s not hurt anyone’s feelings era we live in. Let’s give everyone a medal, let’s let everyone go to state. Guess what? You’re going to lose. It doesn’t make you a loser. The lessons the kids learn playing high chool basketball will serve them well down the road. One of those lessons needs to be how to handle adversity.