RENTON - The WIAA Executive Board at the Representative Assembly meeting April 23 voted to restructure the 16-team format for all 12 state basketball tournaments next season. Under their new format, 16 teams from each classification will compete at first round regional sites Feb. 25 or 26 and then only eight teams will advance to a state site for the next three rounds March 3-5.

The board said sites and classification distribution have yet to be determined for the eight-team tournament that will be a modified double-elimination format.

Ilwaco boys' coach Kip Meinhardt said, "I am not in favor of the change. Smaller 1A schools like Ilwaco may never get to Yakima again." Playing district champion caliber teams like Meridian, Vashon Island, or Nooksack Valley on their home courts to get to Yakima would be a challenge to say the least.

Arguably the best basketball weekend of the season is the district loser-out, winner-to-state games played on the Friday and Saturday the WIAA has now taken for first-round play-in contests.Naselle boys' coach Brian Macy said, "I'm not in favor of it. The 16-team tourneys are great events, especially the 2B tournament. They are something kids look forward to playing in or attending all of their lives. The small school needs are different from the big schools, yet they seem to be dictating to us what kind of tournament will be played."

With the WIAA's cost-cutting change 1,152 boys and girls will be denied the opportunity to play at venues like the Spokane Coliseum, the Sun Dome, or the Tacoma Dome in 2011, not to mention 96 cheerleading squads and home town fans who will instead go to a one-and-done play-in game.

Ilwaco senior guard, Justin Short said, "Going to Yakima for state basketball was the highlight of my high school sports career. Having a Miner's Burger, watching the Chelan-Vashon game, and making my first basket in the Sun Dome were all very special. Spending that time with my friends and coaches are things I won't forget."

From The Chinook Observer

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