By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
As I stood on the sidelines getting my shots and taking notes as the Lady Braves hosted Mitchell on Thursday night, I noticed several things. First and foremost, the stands were about as full as they were on Tuesday night. Ok, so, what’s the big deal?
Well, on Tuesday night, both the Braves and the Lady Braves played in the first round of the playoffs. Both Cherokee teams were in action on Thursday night as well, but the Lady Braves were at home and the Braves were 231 miles away at West Montgomery.
Since the stands were about as full as they were on Tuesday night, I could only deduce that not many fans, probably other than parents, traveled over four hours to see the Braves game.
I completely dislike the current North Carolina basketball playoff system as it seems to only divide a team’s fanbase, especially with smaller schools like Cherokee. I’ve written before about the Cherokee fans and their incredible support of the Braves and Lady Braves, and I’ve stated several times how they will many times turn an away game into a home game by outnumbering the opponent’s fans.
In cases where both teams are playing on the same night, but in different towns, this is virtually impossible.
There’s that problem, but then I add the additional problem of high school students having to criss-cross the state to play in the state tournament. Unfortunately, the Braves lost on Thursday night at West Montgomery, but if they had won that game, they would have had to turn around and travel 154 miles to Lincoln Charter on Saturday. That’s a lot of driving around.
I can maybe see and get onboard with teams traveling to the higher-seeded team’s venue for the first two rounds, but the first four? Lower-seeded teams that hit a stride and make it to the regional semi-finals could end up traveling for four games in a row – sometimes as far as four or more hours away. The Braves were a ninth seed, and they ended up traveling for their second round game.
After the first two rounds, why not hold the rest of the tournament at one large venue over the course of one weekend? Get it finished up and the teams and fans only have to travel once.
The current tournament has 64 teams each for the boys and girls so there would only be 16 left in each after the first two rounds. For the boys and girls, there would be 15 games each from that point to get to a champion. That’s doable over the course of a weekend. If you did this after the third round, it would be even more doable with only eight teams per side and seven games each.
I know some would argue against that due to the number of games, but most basketball players are used to playing games over the course of multiple days or even multiple games in a day. When I used to play volleyball, it was not uncommon for me to play up to eight matches in a day…one outdoor tournament I played 12!
Tournaments all across the country use this format. Why not at least try it at the state level? It sure would cut down on teams and fans having to travel all over the place, and it would cut down on a team’s fanbase being split like we saw happen to Cherokee this past week. Either that, or maybe it’s time to have the boys games on one night and the girls games on another?