Expanded Class 1A state basketball tournaments are here to stay

Jeremy Peters

Last month's expanded Class 1A state high school basketball tournaments, which grew by 30 games and one day of competition, was considered a success by the Alaska School Activities Association, which is likely to keep the new format.

The event hosted 16 boys teams and 16 girls teams in Anchorage for the first time, doubling in size to accommodate an increased number of Class 1A teams. Under new enrollment criteria for the 2012-13 season, the number of Class 1A schools grew about 50 percent to roughly 150 teams statewide.

The 32 teams required three venues, with first-round games at South High and West, and remaining games at Sullivan Arena and West. Bolstered by extra scorekeepers, officials and volunteers, action ran smoothly over four days.

"I would say it probably went a little better than expected," said ASAA state championships director Isaiah Vreeman. "There was potential for things to be out of whack."

The tournament is unlikely to revert to eight-team brackets any time soon, Vreeman said. Money is a factor that could potentially force the issue, if the financial burden becomes too great for ASAA or for school districts, which don't receive any aid from ASAA for transportation or lodging.

Travel costs increased because of the new format. An eight-team field used to start on a Monday and finish on a Wednesday, but the 16-team bracket required a Saturday start, requiring teams to be in Anchorage for five days instead of three.

The New Stuyahok boys team spent about $2,600 more on food, lodging and van rental than it would have under the old tournament format, coach Mickia Walcott said. The Southwest Region School District provided the travel money from an athletic fund set aside for teams that reach state tournaments, Walcott said.

Though crowds were thin during consolation play at West, combined attendance at South and West for the first day reached 2,600, a higher number than ASAA anticipated. Tickets sold for $5 for adults and $3 for students, which is the typical price for a regular-season game in Anchorage.

Because the Class 1A tournament action took place alongside the Class 2A tournament over the event's last three days, exact revenue is difficult to calculate, but Vreeman said estimates indicate the Class 1A event "basically broke even."

"I expected us to lose money," Vreeman said.

The tournament benefited from a generous Anchorage School District, which provided the South and West gyms at no cost, as well as help from staff members, such as janitorial crew. Numerous teachers donated time, rushing straight to the courts after school was out each day.

"Without ASD really helping and supporting the tournament, we couldn't run something this size," Vreeman said. "A special 'thank you' to the ASD, for sure."

The total number of volunteers exceeded 200, Vreeman said, and about 60 officials were needed, compared to roughly 40 officials last year. Both the Anchorage and Mat-Su officials organizations came through in a big way, Vreeman said, providing an affordable price and handling all the scheduling. For the entire week, including the Class 3A and 4A tournaments -- ASAA spent $30,000 on officials this year, compared to $23,000 last year, Vreeman said.

Feedback from participating teams was positive, Vreeman said, with all happy about expanding the tournament but some desiring first-round games to be played at Sullivan. It's a wish unlikely to be granted, Vreeman said, because the enormous size of the first round makes scheduling at Sullivan nearly impossible.

First-round losing teams could earn a spot in a consolation championship game at Sullivan by winning their next two consolation games at West, but not everyone agrees Sullivan provides the best atmosphere for a game.

"I liked the games at the school gym more, just because we get to hear our fans supporting the team more loudly and they sit behind us more closely," said Walcott, whose New Stuyahok team experienced all three of this season's venues.

The Eagles won a first-round game at South, lost in the next round at Sullivan, where they won a consolation game before closing with a win in a fourth-place game at West.


Reach Jeremy Peters at jpeters@adn.com or 257-4335.