WIAA reverses course, says regional games count as state

March 28, 2014 

Lions Shadle Park

February 22, 2014 - Kennewick's Mitchel Mueller is fouled by Shadle Park's George Pilimai during their Class 3A District 5/8 semifinal Friday night in Kennewick. The Lions lost to the Highlanders 63-60.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Thanks to a recent clarification by the state activities association, the Kennewick boys basketball team has doubled the number of state berths in school history.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association recently clarified that the so-called regional basketball games will count as state tournament berths.

In the four years since the state dropped from a 16-team state tournament at traditional sites to an eight-team bracket, the regional games were not counted as state berths.

"The (WIAA) handbook said it is still considered state because that is where the allocations are decided," said Conor Laffey, the WIAA's sports and activities information director. "The office will continue to refer to those as regionals, but those will be a state berth opportunity. All the students that lose will get a state participation certificate."

Kennewick, which previously had only qualified for state in 1944 and 1989, now can add state berths for 2012 and 2014.

"It’s been a strange experience,” Kennewick coach Bradyn Leyde said. “In 2012 they did send us our state certificates and we got them again this year. It is nice that they kind of have that label for it now and what it is. It definitely seems to be the state tournament, just not in Tacoma.”

Laffey will be mailing out state participation certificates to all players who lost regional games the last four years that had not previously received them.

"It is a great accomplishment for our kids and where we have been,” Leyde said. “A kid like Mitch Mueller gets to say he was on two of them. When you have only been in 1944 and 1989, that is a pretty big gap. Now we have a kid that participated in two state tournaments.

“We were still a little short of our ultimate goal, but it is great for our kids to represent the community.”

While the games will count as a state berth, similar to how the first few rounds of the football playoffs count as state games even though they are played at random sites, the statistics from the regional games will not count in the record books.

The regional games will still be single-elimination games played at neutral sites throughout the state, but for historical purposes they will count as a state berth.

The original ruling to not count them as state berths came out of conversations with the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association.

WIBCA president Nalin Sood said the organization had no comment about the matter when reached by email Friday.

The WIBCA has blasted the regional playoffs in the past, including in an open letter to the WIAA released March 1.

That letter stated in part, "The argument that Regionals is somehow a ‘state’ experience rings hollow: a single-elimination evening game in a local high school gym pales in comparison to the promise and excitement of the Big Tournament in Spokane, Yakima, or Tacoma."

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