June 15th, 2008

MHS guard Cooke picks Mass. school
To attend Cushing Academy
The Dominion Post
Morgantown High guard Zach Cooke will continue his basketball career at Cushing Academy, a prep school in Ashburnham, Mass.
    Cooke helped lead the Mohigans to a 22-4 record and a trip to the state tournament semifinals this past season.
    He averaged 10 points per game, while shooting 57.5 percent from the field and 88 percent from the foul line.
    The Penguins, coached by Barry Connors, were a powerhouse in the 1990s in the New England Prep School basketball tournament, winning it in 1992, 1995 and 1996.
    As a prep school player, Cooke will keep his high school status for an additional year. If he signs with a college after that, he will have four years of eligibility.

Regional-rebound rule OK’d
Hoops losers get a second shot at state
Associated Press
CHARLESTON — Starting as early as next season, boys’ and girls’ basketball teams can lose a postseason game and still be crowned state champions.
    The Secondary School Activities Commission’s Board of Directors on Wednesday accepted the recommendations of a 19-member committee to reformulate the sectional and regional tournaments.
    The intention is that whenever two strong teams are in the same geographic area — as has happened several times — both would have the opportunity to make it to the eight-team state tournament.
    Charleston Catholic athletic director Bill Gillispie, who helped come up with the proposal, said it’s set up the same way as the current state high school volleyball tournament.
    Not only was sending the strongest field possible to the state tournament a big concern, but so was attendance.
    ‘‘It’s sad to say that a lot of it comes down to money and paying the bills,’’ Gillispie said Thursday. ‘‘You want to get people in the stands. The last four, five years in the first-round boys’ and girls’ basketball games, 80 percent of them have been 40-point games and consequently, nobody is going to watch a No. 1 team play a No. 8 team they know are going to beat by 40 points.
    ‘‘One is still going to play eight, but hopefully the eighth seed is going to be better than the eighth seed in the past.’’
    The number of regions will be reduced from eight to four with each region made up of two sections. Coaches in each section will seed teams within brackets.
    Even though there will be a sectional championship game, the champion and runner-up from each section will advance to a four-team regional.
    The sectional winners will host the runners-up from the other section, and those games’ winners will head to Charleston. There will be no regional championship game.
    The regional hosts will have to meet minimum seating requirements. If not, the home school must choose the next-closest site that qualifies.
    The changes are intended to start next year, but Gillispie said a lot has to be done before then, including deciding which teams will be grouped in which sectionals.
    ‘‘The SSAC is not sure they can get the technical work done,’’ he said. ‘‘They have to pick the directors for each region. The directors are going to have to go through some training.’’
    Since several schools are already moving up or down in a reclassification year, the timing of the postseason changes won’t be so extreme.
    ‘‘If we’re going to have a big change in basketball, let’s go ahead and do this now,’’ Gillispie said.
    Last year the board rejected a proposal by Ravenswood boys’ coach Mick Price to seed teams from top to bottom in the sectionals and reseed teams in the regionals. Travel was a concern for teams that would have had to head well outside their region.
    Price was on the committee that made the current recommendations.
    ‘‘The end result was a little bit of everything. It’s a start for doing something better,’’ Price said. ‘‘It will give a chance to get the eight best teams to the state tournament.
    ‘‘At least this way, two teams from a similar area of the state could possibly get to the state tournament. That’s why I cast my vote yes for it.”

Most area coaches, ADs like change
For the most part, area high school athletic directors and basketball coaches expected the postseason format to get tweaked.
    The West Virginia high school basketball sectional and regional format had long been a discussion point, so few were caught offguard by the decision made by the Secondary School Activities Commission’s Board of Directors. And most ADs and coaches seem to think the decision was a step in the right direction, one that will enhance the state tournament’s playing field each year.
    “We have had a lot of situations where two of the state’s best teams were in the same section, area or even town. It is absolutely silly you don’t allow both teams to get to Charleston because of one game,” MHS boys’ basketball coach Tom Yester said. “That’s what spawned this particular idea.”
    The board accepted a proposal to reduce the number of regions from eight to four, with each region made up of two sections.
    The sectional part of the tournament, however, will likely grow. Many consist of just two teams, such as the Morgantown and University section. Now, four or five teams in one section could become the norm. Crosstown rivals may no longer play in the first postseason game.
    The two sectional winners play the opposite sectional losers in the next round. The two semifinal winners from these bigger regionals will advance to the state tournament. Although teams may be forced to play an extra game to get to Charleston, a school could lose in the sectional round and still make the state tournament. The new system eliminates the regional title game.
    “Although I know there is great deal of work to be done to group the schools, it seems it is a step in the right direction,” University athletic director Jeff Bailey said. “It was bizarre to sometimes have three, four of the top teams in one region eliminating each other in the sectional or regional, while having other schools advance to the state tournament.”
    Morgantown High girls’ basketball coach Allan Collins was one of seven coaches on the 19-member committee who made the recommendation to the SSAC.
    “It’s not going to fix every problem, but it gives a team in a strong region an opportunity to advance,” Collins said. “It helps get the best teams to the state tournament and it keeps regional representation as much as we could.”
    Collins said he sees both sides of the argument. On one side, it gives a team in a strong region a chance to still make the state tournament with a postseason loss. At the same time, one school could beat another sectional foe three times (including the sectional championship) in one season, and still get knocked out in regional semifinals. Then, that threeloss school could upset the higher-seed in the other regional semifinal game and advance to Charleston.
    “That’s when I think you’d hear some grumbling,” Collins said.
    The new postseason format could begin as soon as this season, but how the schools will be grouped into these bigger regions is unclear.
    “It depends on where they relocate us,” said David Joyce, Clay-Battelle’s athletic director and former girls’ basketball coach. “If our first-round game puts us with some local area team, it could be interesting. You’re going to have to wait a year or two to get a feel for it. No one is going to be thrilled with either system.”
    Joyce said he thinks the competitiveness in the state tournament should improve, but it could also come at a price.
    “For fans who go to Charleston just to watch basketball, I think that will set up better play,” he said. Under the old system, most parts of the state were guaranteed to be represented by a team, but now, “you are going to lose out on some of the local flavor.”
    Yester and Bailey agreed the positives seem to outweigh the negatives.
    “It’s not going to penalize two very good teams from the same area,” Yester said.
    “It’s a move in the right direction to make the state tournament what it should be,” Bailey added.
    Preston boys’ basketball coach Barry Sanders said he would be curious to see what region the Knights will be in, as well as what other schools will combine with the Eastern Panhandle’s teams.
    “I think it’s good. It will be fun, something new,” Sanders said. “We’ve played in nine regional championships, so we would have been somewhere more times than we have been.”
    In the end, C-B boys’ basketball coach Frank Skubis said, the state champion will still have to beat the state’s best. “In my mind, it doesn’t matter too much where it’s at. We’ll have to take some time and see how it’s going, and see how it shakes out.”