Group AA playoffs expanding to 16 teams in #8217;09

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 14, 2008

When the Franklin High School girls’ basketball team marched through the Group A playoffs this season, the team had the benefit of the playing competition that had been divided into two divisions of larger and smaller schools.

This year, Group AA teams will have that same advantage under a new basketball playoff system.

The Group AA schools, of which Southampton High School and Smithfield High School are a part, will be placed in either Division 3 or Division 4 when it comes time for the postseason.

With the new formula, Group AA will send 16 teams to the two regional tournaments instead of the eight teams that made it this year. The move will benefit the 11-team Bay Rivers District.

“This is the same as football right now,” said Smithfield athletic director Miles Blount. “Our district is large, so for us it’s a real good thing.”

In the BRD, smaller schools Bruton, New Kent, Poquoson, Southampton and Warhill will be designated Division 3. Grafton, Jamestown, Lafayette, Smithfield and Tabb will compete in Division 4.

Littleton Parker, athletic director at Southampton High School, said the new playoff format will level the playing field for smaller teams in the district.

“With basketball right now, you are competing against the larger schools with just one playoff. There are schools that are tremendously larger than what we have.

Lafayette and Jamestown, and Tabb, schools like that,” he said.

It has yet to be determined how many teams will make the postseason from the BRD for each classification. That still has to be hammered out. Unlike football, there will be no power rankings, so other than picking up a win,

there will not be a benefit to beating a larger school. Playoff spots will still be determined by straight up wins and losses.

“The districts will determine how they send people on,” Parker said.

“We haven’t completed how we are going to do that. We are working on that now,” Blount said.

Critics of the plan say increasing the number of playoff teams waters down the postseason field. In March, several teams reached the Group A Division 1 and Division 2 playoffs with sub-.500 records, including Mathews High School

(7-15), who played the Franklin boys in the first round (10-11 going into the postseason).

“If they get in and they shouldn’t be there, they won’t be there for long. They’ll get beat and go home,” said Blount.