After Franklin won the Sea-King 3A District title, Jasen Thomas’ players started to celebrate.
Some started cheering, “We’re going to state!”
Then Thomas had to break the news. The Quakers were actually one game away from a trip to Tacoma and the true state tournament.
After a strong regular season, a Metro League title, a district championship and a 17-game winning winning streak, Franklin faces a one-game, winner-to-state, loser-out matchup against Camas at 6 p.m. Saturday at Bellevue College.
Whether it’s Franklin or the top-ranked Seattle Prep boys, fresh off a district-title win over former No. 1 Rainier Beach, every team that advanced to the regional round of the state playoffs faces the same scenario.
Win and you’re in. Lose and go home.
After last year’s “first-round showdown” was met with disappointment, the tournament was tweaked once again. Instead of a two-day regional round, everything comes down to one game. The boys play Friday. The girls Saturday.
Poll coaches from around the state and most of them will tell you they didn’t like last year’s format and this one isn’t much better. It diminishes the experience for half of the teams remaining — players won’t get to take the floor on the state’s biggest stage.
I understand why changes were made two years ago. I get that the WIAA’s sacred cash cow was looking a little thin. Attendance was down. Revenue was dipping. Something had to be done.
But one of the best things about the state tournament is getting to watch the best 16 teams in the state play at one site. This weekend, though, it is only possible to see four teams per site.
If something had to be changed, why not move to a 16-team single-elimination tournament? If one issue is poor attendance at consolation games — get rid of them.
There are problems with that model, too. There will be problems with any model. But the current format is the result of a decision based on dollars.
Like many high-school basketball fans across the state. I will watch as many games as I can the next two weeks. It is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of the athletes who have worked so hard to get to this point.
But I miss the old tournament. I miss getting to see the top 16 4A teams one week and the top 16 3A teams the week after. Playing in the Tacoma Dome when I was a junior at Steilacoom is something I’ll never forget.
I understand that something needed to be done. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.