By Joe Henricksen

Don't tell me the little guy can't compete

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By Joe Henricksen

I know this is a time to celebrate high school basketball. Thus, I do admit I feel like the Grinch that Stole March with this blog, but I can't help it. As the small school state tournament comes to a close this weekend in Peoria, with Class 1A and Class 2A schools being crowned as state champions, I continue to hear from different people in conversation about how the four classes is giving teams a chance.

The small schools can't compete? No, they can't if they aren't good enough. History shows that small schools can compete. Quit telling me small schools can't compete.

The 2007 Class A Elite Eight had three schools with relatively small enrollments in state champion Maroa-Forsyth (367 students), Mt. Sterling-Brown County (240) and Putnam County (308). In the 2005 Elite Eight tiny Liberty with 185 students finished fourth in the state. In 2003 half of the Class A Elite Eight field had enrollments under 300 students, including Mt Carroll (149 students), Cairo (216 students) and Cissna Park (130 students).

What about state champion Nauvoo-Colusa (136 students) in 1998? Or state champion Warsaw (195 students) in 1997? Those two small schools couldn't compete? That Warsaw team in 1997 had to battle an Elite Eight field that included whopping giants like Nokomis (275 students), Madison (245 students) and Williamsfield (94 students).

The figures go on and on, year after year, including four of the eight schools in the Class A Tournament in 1995 being under 300 students, four of the eight schools in 1991 under 300 students, and Findlay winning a state championship in 1992 with 96 students.

Want more? If the 1990s weren't proof enough you can dip into the next decade to 1987, where -- holy, small schools! -- the first, second and third-place finishers in Class A all had tiny enrollments. The top three finishers that year -- Venice (174 students), Okawville (234 students) and Chrisman (146 students) -- had an average student body among the three of 184. And do you think the beloved Ohio team from 1986 that finished second in the state with 69 students would have been remembered in a four-class system the way they are now?

In 1985 Chrisman finished as the state runner-up with 142 students. The 1984 Elite Eight field in Class A had four schools with enrollments under 300, including second-place finisher Mt. Pulaski with 225 students. In 1983 Flanagan finished second in the state with 132 students in an Elite Eight field that had three other schools under 275 students.

And don't tell me about private schools, either. In the last 30 years there have only been four private schools that have won a small school state championship: Providence St. Mel (1985), Hales Franciscan (2003), Chicago Leo (2004) and Hales Franciscan (2005). And one of those -- Hales in 2005 -- was forfeited.

In a 15-year period from 1990 to 2004 there were 29 schools with enrollments of 304 or fewer students that reached the Class A Elite Eight. Small schools can't compete?

Yes, more small schools that just aren't that good are now getting more opportunities to win regional and sectional plaques. The four classes allows Rochelle, a team that finished fifth in its own conference and lost its last four games of the regular season by an average margin of 18 points a game, to win a regional and advance to a sectional championship in Class 3A.

However, the number of schools that get to experience the state finals in Peoria remain the same. There are still eight small schools in Peoria and eight large schools. What the four classes also did was make it a whole lot easier for the basketball powers in 3A, which includes a few of the Public League powers, St. Joe's, Hillcrest and Peoria area powers, to win regular state championships. We saw Simeon, a school that would have been a 3A school win the 2007 Class AA state title, Marshall in 2008 in 3A and, very likely, North Lawndale this year. Will 3A schools eventually tire of the Public League or the same powers in 3A winning every year? Or are they just happy and content with winning the regional and sectional?

Does winning a regional title mean less to the schools that are winning them today? Probably not. They are loving and living it up just as the schools did a few years back in the two-class system. With that being the thought, however, why stop at four classes? Why not five or six classes? I just don't know what was so wrong with having a regional championship mean something and remaining a goal that was difficult to attain while keeping the special and historical Elite Eight concept alive?

In our society today success is only defined, I guess, by winning. That's sad.

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NORTH LAWNDALE HAS A WAR ON ITS HANDS FRIDAY NIGHT AGAINST
ST. JOE'S, THIS PROGRAM KNOWS HOW TO WIN SECTIONALS AND
SUPER-SECTIONALS, NORTH LAWNDALE MUST PLAY AN EXCELLENT
GAME, GENE PINGATORE WIPED OUT MARSHALL BY 20, ST. JOE'S
IS A WELL-OILED MACHINE, NLCP HAS TO HANDLE THE PRESSURE
AND PLAY THEIR GAME, THIS IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT THAN
CLASS 2A, NLCP MUST ASIDE ALL THE DRAMA IN THE COURTROOM
AND TRANSFER IT TO THE BASKETBALL COURT!
RIVERSIDE-BROOKFIELD WILL ROCK FRIDAY NIGHT!
SIMEON DEFEATS VOCATIONAL, IT IS ALWAYS VERY DIFFICULT
TO DEFEAT A TEAM THREE TIMES!
SIMEON AND HYDE PARK FRIDAY NIGHT AT HINSDALE CENTRAL!
BROOKS VS. HILLCREST FRIDAY NIGHT AT RICHARDS!
CAN CHRIS HEAD PULL THE RABBIT OUT OF THE HAT ONCE AGAIN!
WHITNEY YOUNG VS. DELASALLE FRIDAY NIGHT, CLASS 4A ACTION
YOU CAN CUT THE TENSION WITH A KNIFE!

Tell it like it is, Joe. I agree with every word.

But a few corrections, if you don't mind.

Simeon won the AA title in 2007, the last in the two-class format. It's Nauvoo-Colusa, not Calusa.

And Maroa-Forsyth wasn't state runner-up in Class A in 2007. It was the state champion.

How many recent boys AA title games had at least one 3A-sized team? Simeon in '07, Simeon and Peoria Richwoods in '06, Carbondale in '05, Peoria Central in 2003 and '04, Westinghouse and Springfield Lanphier in '02, Westinghouse again in '00, St. Joe's in 1999, Galesburg in '98 ... need I continue?

And let's not even talk about the girls tournament, where more small schools than you can shake a stick at won Class A titles and a ton of small AA schools made it to the Elite Eight.

This whole thing makes me sick.

Nick,
Thanks for the corrections and you are not the only one who is sick by this all.

I HAVE A SUGGESTION, HOW ABOUT MOVING THE SUPER-SECTIONAL
TO THURSDAY, YES THE DAY BEFORE THE SEMI-FINALS AND THEN
HAVE THE SEMI-FINALS, THEN THE CHAMPIONSHIP ON SATURDAY!
YOU SEE NOW WE HAVE THE ELITE 8 FORMAT IN PEORIA!
ONCE AGAIN MOVE THE SUPER-SECTIONAL FROM TUESDAY TO
THURSDAY, FRIDAY- SEMI-FINALS, SATURDAY THE CHAMPIONSHIP!
THIS IS HOW THEY DO IT IN NEBRASKA, BUT ONLY THEY PLAY
THE THIRD PLACE GAME AT A HIGH SCHOOL GYM, WE DON'T WANT
THAT TO HAPPEN, BUT I THINK WE WOULD ALL LOVE THE ELITE
8 TO RETURN TO PEORIA!
JUST TRYING TO HELP YOU GUYS GET OVER YOUR SICKNESS!
DON'T FORGET ILLINOIS IS THE ORIGINAL OWNER OF MARCH
MADNESS!

You bad-mouth Rochelle but fail to point out that they were the #3 seed in their regional and have sprung THREE upsets to get to the Sectional final. Isn't that what March Madness is all about?

DC44 .... Yes, that is my point. With four classes we see more suspect teams advancing in March. It's inevitable. Call them upsets if you will, based on seeds, but it's more about a watered down system. I'm happy for Rochelle, but the system is extremely flawed. In addition, the very idea of some 3A regionals (like the one Rochelle played in) being pre-determined well in advance vs. the sectional complex other teams are placed in is another example of the flawed system. How is it fair that some teams in the state get to know exactly who is in their regional weeks and weeks in advance while others don't know until the seeds are given?

DC,
Have you watched Rochelle play? They are AWFUL! They play in our conference and their losses were usually double digits or 20-plus points. Their regional was awful. Their sectional is awful. Why do you think they are where they are? Four classes!

ROCHELLE LOST TO GRAYSLAKE!
SO I GUESS YOU GUYS ARE HAPPY, I SAY CONGRATS TO ROCHELLE
HIGH SCHOOL, I HOPE YOU CONTINUE TO GET BETTER AND PROVE
ALL THE DOUBTER WRONG, MAKING IT TO A SECTIONAL
CHAMPIONSHIP IS A GREAT FEAT!
THIS IS WHY THEY CALL THE PLAY-OFFS THE SECOND SEASON!
I SAY THE 4 CLASS SYSTEM IS GREAT, MORE YOUNGSTERS ARE
PLAYING, MORE ARE WINNING, AND ISN'T IT GREAT TO SEE
SOME MORE NAMES IN THE MIX!
IT'S HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL FOR PETE'S SAKE!

Phil: Then why stop with four classes? Why not six or eight? I think all anyone is saying is why not have high goals and have it a little difficult to achieve them? Is it so bad for kids and people in general to fall short of goals and not win every time we try something?

Phil, that's not true. There are exactly the same number of schools and players winning regional and sectional titles as there always have been. It's just more of a quota system.

IlliniRick is right on the money.

WE DON'T NEED MORE CLASSES, WE JUST NEED TO TRY AND MAKE
YOU GUYS HAPPY, AND MAYBE YOUR TEAM'S AREN'T WINNING, I
DON'T KNOW, MAYBE YOU DON'T LIKE THESE YOUNGSTERS GETTING
MEDALS AROUND THEIR NECKS, MAYBE YOU WANT TO SEE THEM
INCARCERATED, I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE REALLY ASKING FOR,
BUT SINCE I AM NOT THAT DR. PHIL, I WILL JUST SAY THAT
IT IS GREAT TO SEE SO MANY PLAYER'S GETTING THE CHANCE TO
GO TO STATE, AND HAVE LIFE-TIME MEMORIES, I THINK THIS IS
WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT, ONE DAY THEY WILL GET OLDER, AND
HAVE GRANDCHILDREN, AND THEY CAN SAY HEY I PLAYED IN
PEORIA, AND MY TEAM WAS GREAT, AND WE TOOK FIRST OR THIRD
OR SECOND OR FOURTH, WHY DON'T WE TAKE A STEP BACK AND
ENJOY THE GAME MORE!
I AM NOT UPSET WITH YOU GUYS WHO ARE UNHAPPY WITH THE
FORMAT OF IHSA BASKETBALL, BUT I WISH YOU WOULD ENJOY
THE GAME MORE, STOP TRYING TO RE-INVENT THE WHEEL!
LEO LIONS ARE GOING DOWNSTATE, THAT SPECIAL SCHOOL ON
79TH STREET IS GOING TO PEORIA!
CONGRATS TO NOAH CANNON AND HIS FINE STAFF!

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on March 11, 2009 5:23 PM.

Sectional sneak peak was the previous entry in this blog.

Players, programs taking the next step is the next entry in this blog.

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