DALLAS ‚?? Nearly two weeks of District 2 basketball championships came to a close Saturday.
District 2‚??s best high school basketball team, however, will be nowhere to be found in the three weeks of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament that gets underway Tuesday.
And, a fellow District 2 squad is not even responsible for the absence.
The two-time defending champion Scranton Knights fell in overtime to Williamsport, 65-62, Wednesday night in a game that highlighted the flawed seeding process that has long haunted the combined District 2-4 Class AAAA Tournament.
Other than the Lackawanna League Qualifying Tournament that has settled half of the Class AAA and AA spots over the past two years, won-loss records have long been the primary criteria for seeding in District 2 basketball tournament play, with special preference also given to division champions.
Williamsport‚??s status as the one outsider in the tournament (the Millionaires have the only AAAA basketball program in District 4 and need a place to try to earn their state tournament berth) and an independent that does not have a chance to win division titles does not work well in that system.
What becomes difficult for District 2 officials to face is that Williamsport‚??s record does not fairly compare to those of District 2 teams. The Millionaires travel the state in search of the best Class AAAA competition they can find while the league schedules for Lackawanna League and Wyoming Valley Conference teams include local games against small AAAA and some AAA teams.
Anyone with common sense and a basic understanding of northeastern Pennsylvania high school basketball was well aware long before Wednesday night that the two teams that were clearly the best in the District 2-4 Class AAAA boys‚?? tournament were in the same half of the bracket.
That should never be allowed to happen in a bracket where two semifinal winners reach the state tournament and the semifinal losers have their seasons end.
The only way to avoid the problem is for District 2 to devise a Class AAAA seeding system that actually gives the outside team, the Millionaires, the benefit of the doubt.
This year‚??s bracket followed the rules the district has in place.
Looking ahead, however, the district needs to consider a point system that recognizes size and strength of opponents similar to what is used in football or what WVC teams have adopted in Class AAA and AA the past two seasons.
Being fairer to Williamsport and awarding it a seed worthy of its combined record and strength of schedule is not only the right thing to do, it can also protect District 2‚??s best in the process.
Scranton‚??s reward for landing a top seed was in facing a team listed as a fourth seed that more accurately was a toss-up with the Knights for the first or second spot.
Since the PIAA imposed regional competition to combine districts in cases like District 4 Class AAAA basketball, District 2 has named its own champion when it did not have a team claim the tournament title.
When Williamsport took one of the two spots in the final, the other remaining District 2 team, Delaware Valley, automatically became the district champion.
Calling the Warriors champions over the Knights without Delaware Valley having to pull off the upset to prove it is just silly.
Scranton and Delaware Valley played together in Division 1 of the Lackawanna League this regular season. The Knights won all three meetings ‚?? by 21 and 3 in the league schedule and by 20 in a playoff for the all-season title.
When Williamsport landed in the wrong half of the bracket, those results became meaningless in determining the ‚??District 2 champion.‚?Ě
So, when it was all over Wednesday night, the Knights had to face more than having their state playoff dreams ended. They were not even champion of a group of teams they have dominated for the past three seasons.
After an impressive three-year run, Scranton‚??s boys‚?? basketball success was again somewhat under-appreciated.
The amazing accomplishment of the 2009-10 team, with Terry Turner leading the way and Malik Draper playing a role as sophomores, raised expectations but did not register to many for its degree of difficulty.
Scranton did everything it could to try to take one more step, including beefing up its non-league schedule and adjusting its style of play.
The Knights, who were state-ranked at times this season, climbed to the competitive level of the best large schools in the Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Lehigh Valley areas. Scranton won twice to reach the state quarterfinals in 2010, only to have the last two seasons end in overtime against quality opponents Lower Merion and Williamsport, in the first round of state play and before the state event ever started.
‚??I‚??m proud of our guys,‚?Ě Scranton coach Tony Battaglia said. ‚??We got ourselves to the level where we could compete with these teams.
‚??The run we made two years ago with them as sophomores was amazing. We had some senior leadership, we had Terry and we had Malik coming on. To win those two games was a great achievement.‚?Ě
Other than a Hazleton run a quarter-century ago, even being that competitive in defeat against the state‚??s best was out of reach to District 2 teams in Class AAAA.
‚??Turner, Draper and (Battaglia) are a big reason Scranton just jumped on to the map in AAAA basketball,‚?Ě Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. ‚??When you look at the talent they have; these guys can play.‚?Ě
It took a nasty combination of the tough draw in the bracket, a key injury, extreme foul trouble, tireless defensive pressure by Williamsport, time-keeping errors, and overtime to keep Scranton from having its chance to try one more time on the state level.
‚??It was great they were able to represent District 2 the way they have the last two years,‚?Ě Taylor said.
And, it‚??s a shame they don‚??t have a chance to do it one final time.