The Road To The Big Dance Is Uncertain

Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Confusion exists around the state, even among coaches, on what it will take for high school basketball teams to earn berths into season-ending section and division (state) tournaments.

The uncertainty exists partly because just two years ago, before sections and divisions replaced regions and conferences, the selection process was relatively simple.

In the 3A conference, each of the four regions held year-end tournaments and the top-three finishers were seeded into the 16-team state tournament.

To those 12 qualifiers, four others were added based on power points.

Before power points, the process was even simpler, as the top four teams from each of the regions advanced.

But when the Arizona Interscholastic Association conducted a reconfiguration in 2009-10, the postseason selection process was altered partly because sections and divisions became much larger than were regions and conferences.

This school year, Payson High is a member of Division III, Section III in both boys and girls basketball.

To qualify for the section tournament, the PHS teams must finish among the top eight in the power point rankings.

If the power point rankings compiled on Jan. 7 were used to seed teams into the S-III tournament, scheduled to begin Feb. 5 in Surprise, the boys basketball team would be left out.

That’s because, the Horns are sitting No. 10 of the 17 teams in S-III.

There are however, 10 games remaining in the regular season, which gives the Horns plenty of time to pile up more power points and move up to a top-eight slot in the rankings.

The Lady Longhorns, however, would qualify for the section tournament because they currently are ranked No. 7 of 17 teams.

Once the section tournament tips off, it will consist of three rounds of single elimination play and the results will be used to help seed teams into the D-III state tournament set to begin Feb. 13 and conclude Feb. 23 at sites to be determined.

Las year, the state tournaments were held at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley and Jobbing.com Arena in Glendale.

The 2013 tournament format features a 24-team bracket with 12 teams — the top four from each of the three section tournaments — qualifying.

Those teams are being labeled “Automatics.”

The final 12 slots in the bracket will be filled based on power point rankings.

Which means, to have a legitimate shot of reaching the D-III tournament without finishing among the top-four in the three sectional tournaments, teams should be clutching at least top-24 power point rankings.

Once again, the boys team could be left out because they are ranked No. 33 of the 58 teams in D-III.

The boys however, could move up considerably when the results of Payson’s 79-69 win over Snowflake are posted on Jan. 14.

The PHS girls team could conceivably slip into state without a top-four sectional tournament showing because they are currently ranked No. 20 of the 56 schools in D-III.

However, for both Payson High teams to qualify for high school’s version of the “Big Dance,” the most secure route is to earn a berth into the S-III tournament, then finish in the top four and be handed an automatic berth.

For the state tournament, the top-eight seeded teams receive first-round byes. The tournament will be contested in five rounds of single elimination play.

While the postseason qualifying process may seem a bit hazy to some, the bottom line is simple — win as many regular season games as possible and pile up the power points.

From there, play well in the section tournament and qualify for state as an automatic.

Looking back

In last year’s girls basketball tournament, power point seedings, for the most part, proved accurate as top-ranked Page played its way to the state title.

The two-through-six seeds however were eliminated during the first four rounds as No. 7 Winslow advanced to the championship finale only to fall 46-38 to Page.

In the 2012 boys D-III state tournament, No. 2 seeded Gilbert Christian overwhelmed No. 4 Thatcher for the state title.

The No. 1 (Holbrook) and No. 3 (Snowflake) seeds were ousted in the semifinals.

The power point rankings, however, proved dead-on accurate as the final four featured the top foursome of teams.

Neither PHS basketball team qualified for the 2012 state tournament either as an automatic or on power points.

That, however, could change if first-year athletic director Don Heizer’s prophecies are on target.

Prior to the opening of the season on Nov. 15, 2012 Heizer predicted success saying, “We are going to surprise some people this year with the quality of play the community is going to see.”

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