MHSAA adding more teams to state playoffs

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 15, 2003

In an effort to get more teams in the playoffs, the MississippiHigh School Activities Association is expanding the format inbasketball, softball and baseball. It will follow similarguidelines to football which send the top four teams to theplayoffs.

Just a few years ago, the MHSAA state playoffs only sent the toptwo football teams out of each division to the playoffs. Some verygood third place teams were left out in the cold when the firstplayoff date arrived in November. By contrast, some not so goodfourth place teams wished they could have stayed home afterabsorbing a sound whipping from the first place team out of anotherdivision.

Many fourth place division teams had losing records. On a few,rare occasions, No. 4 did upset No. 1.

In basketball, upsets often happen in the semifinals. Pause andremember the Division 6-4A Basketball Tournament at Magnolia lastFebruary. Brookhaven and Raymond battled for the boys championshipbecause the Panthers upset powerful McComb and No. 7 Raymondknocked off No. 2 Lawrence County in the semifinals. In the girlsbracket, Terry stunned No. 1 Lawrence County and South Pikeeliminated Brookhaven.

McComb, led by All-State center Jackie Butler, had defeated thePanthers twice during the regular season. Tournament time is upsettime and the Tigers were toppled.

In the future, the top four teams will advance to the stateplayoffs. Naturally, No. 1 will play No. 4 and No. 2 will play No.3 from another division in the opening round. A consolation gamecould be played the same day as the division championship finals todetermine the No. 3 and No. 4 seeding.

Baseball plans the expanded playoff format. After Brookhaven andLawrence County finished 1-2 in the division race, Terry and McCombwere left out in the cold. Terry had zipped along to an 18-1 recordbefore the Bulldogs were ambushed by the Panthers and Cougars.

According to MHSAA District Seven secretary Michael Goff ofFranklin County, the baseball format is still under debate. Thereis no division tournament in baseball and probably doesn’t need tobe one.

Advancing to the playoffs, a best-of-three series, featuring theNo. 1 vs. No. 4 and No. 2 vs. No. 3, is almost a waste of time andmoney.

For example, Division 7-3A would probably find Franklin Countyand North Pike finishing 1-2 or vice versa. Either Wilkinson Countyor Amite County would finish 3-4 in baseball. Imagine the roadtrips in a best-of-three series.

Realistically, it would be best for the No. 1 and No. 2 teams tohost a first-round doubleheader because they deserve thereward/advantage. In the event of an upset, the third and decisivegame would be played at either the No. 3 or No. 4 locations.

Can you imagine Newton County driving all the way to Woodvillefor a playoff game?

Under the latest realignment, Crystal Springs is departingDivision 7-3A and Port Gibson is returning after a 2-year strugglein 6-4A.

The departure of Port Gibson and Raymond from 6-4A made room forJim Hill and Wingfield out of Jackson. Yes, football, basketball,track and baseball competition in 6-4A should be much improvedduring the next two years.

Softball teams will face similar opportunities. In some casesthere will be severe mismatches in the playoffs.

In case you missed it, Oak Grove beat Northwest Rankin 6-4 inthe third game of the best-of-three series for the Class 5A statebaseball championship. It was a tough series as the Warriors wontheir first 5A state title after winning six in four differentdecades under veteran head coach Harry Breland.

New Hope defeated Picayune in the third game for the Class 4Abaseball crown. Greene County captured the 3A title. Eupora beatSeminary for the 2A crown and Mize secured the 1A title.

In the Mississippi Private School Association, Jackson Prep isbattling Hillcrest Christian in the AAA finals. Oak Hill andPrairie View are in the AA finals. Heidelberg Christian andPorter’s Chapel of Vicksburg are in the A title series.

The Human Performance Center Mississippi Grand Prix arrives inBrookhaven on Saturday, May 24. In Brookhaven, it will be a roadrace, either 20 or 77 miles. Last year, 138 riders participated.The road race is sponsored by the Bank of Brookhaven and the Sundaycriterium in Natchez is sponsored by United Mississippi Bank.

The local course starts at Heuck’s Retreat Baptist Church,circles Lake Lincoln and ends at the same location. Last year itstarted at the Multi-Use Facility.

Local entry blanks are available at the Human Performance Centeron Highway 51 north or the Brookhaven Bicycle Shop in downtownBrookhaven. Registration and forms can be obtained atwww.natchezbicyclecenter.com/grandprix. Rookies are welcome to trythe 20-mile distance.