The Kennewick Lions boys basketball team celebrated an 89-84 win over Shadle Park on Tuesday night, a victory they thought earned them a state tournament berth for the second time since 1944.
Not so fast, according to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
The WIAA confirmed Wednesday that the first round of the 2012 boys and girls regional draws, with four teams playing at four different sites in each of the state's six classifications, are not considered part of the state tournament.
"It doesn't really change anything we want to accomplish or where we want to be right now," said Kennewick coach Bradyn Leyde. "Our goal, regardless, was to go to Tacoma anyway. We're just trying to manifest that goal."
In 2011, those same regional draws were considered part of the state tournament. That format, however, was widely criticized by many coaches and administrators, prompting the WIAA to make adjustments to the format in 2012.
"We put a lot of effort in making (regionals) part of the state tournament, but a lot of the member schools and coaches association felt those (should be considered) regionals and not state," said Conor Laffey, the WIAA Sports and Activities Information Manager. "So we listened. We made those strictly regional games that won't count toward statistics or a state berth."
There still was some confusion from coaches and athletic directors around the state, however, regarding the new regional format. The language on information sent out by the WIAA and listed on its website was misleading, according to Richland AD Mike Edwards.
"I think it's an unfortunate thing of semantics," said Edwards, who will oversee the boys and girls Richland regional on Friday and Saturday at Art Dawald Gym. "They sent me stuff that says regional basketball on the packets, but it also says state basketball on this one.
"It says regionals on a lot of what I have. My interpretation since it has 16 teams is it is considered a state event."
Another point of contention among coaches and administrators is the fact that the WIAA is still taking a part of the gate receipts from the regional contests despite the fact that they are not considered state games. Many coaches and administrators feel this not only robs programs a chance to say they made state, it takes money out of their pocket as well.
"The WIAA is taking, taking, taking, and they're not giving back to the kids," said Kamiakin boys coach Brian Meneely. "There's no guarantee we're going to make it. I just don't understand why (the WIAA) couldn't take 16. They're taking money and doing all that stuff. Just let 16 teams go over there and have a great experience."
The WIAA has adopted other formats in the past at the 4A tournament, switching between four-, eight-, and 12-team formats with a regional lead-in from 1964-1987. The 4A tournament has gone with 16 teams since 1988.
The 3A state tournament, which began in 1969, began as an eight-team tournament before switching to 16 in 1988. The 2A, 1A, 2B and 1B classifications have always been 16 team formats since their classifications began. The only exception was the 2B boys going to an 8-team state tournament in 1942.
"I guess from here on, until they figure out this classification thing and the tournament, we're just going to consider that state is when you go over the mountains," said Richland boys coach Earl Streufert, who was also under the impression that his team was headed to state Tuesday night after a 57-50 win over Gonzaga Prep.
"It's silly. They're talking about cost and saving money. Now they have the Tacoma Dome for three days instead of four. How much money are they saving?"
Craig Craker contributed to this story.