Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Feb. 25. 2015 — The problem when you don’t have “one and done”

In most high school athletic competitions, teams in the postseason are out after one loss.

But in many states, second chances abound for teams whose state tournament seedings are based upon the number of schools participating in a certain enrollment classification (such as Pennsylvania), or a combination of enrollment and geography (like Virginia).

In these states and many others, a team can lose a subregional game to avoid a potential powerhouse team later on.

Such was the case when both Murfreesboro Riverdale (Tenn.) took on Smyrna (Tenn.) tried to avoid being the third seed coming out of the District 7-AAA tournament. In this game, both teams knew that a loss would allow them to avoid the Tennessee Region 4-AAA top seed, Murfreesboro Blackman (Tenn.).

Given the fact that Blackman was the consensus No. 1 girls’ high school basketball team a year ago, there is a certain apprehension in meeting them in the postseason. But not even the field hockey team at Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) or the girls’ lacrosse team from Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) had teams falling all over themselves to try to lose to avoid them.

Smyrna and Riverdale played a sloppy, ugly contest which saw numerous missed shots, 10-second violations, deliberate over-and-back violations, and even a situation where a team tried to shoot at the wrong basket. Smyrna won the game 55-29, but the actions of both coaches and teams led to severe sanctions.

Both teams were ousted from the Region 4-AAA Tournament, their schools were fined, their athletic programs put on probation, and the coaches — Cory Barrett, of Riverdale, and Shawn Middleton of Smyrna, were suspended from all coaching activity in Rutherford County, Tenn. through the end of the 2016 school year.

I know there have been teams in similar situations where teams have tried to lose in order to avoid a powerhouse opponent in their half of a seeded bracket. Teams in larger districts in Pennsylvania (Districts 1 and 3 come to mind) will sometimes try to avoid an Emmaus (Pa.) or a Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) in the first round of the state tournament. But for the most part, in some of these games, the incentive is to win its classification game in order to avoid them, not to lose.

It’s a lesson the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association needs to learn.


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