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Local coaches would trade more travel for better playoff system

Rob Winner —
DeKalb's Madelyne Johnson (23) is calle for fouling Huntley's Bethany Zornow while struggling for possession of a ball in the second quarter during the Class 4A Belvidere North Regional semifinal in Belvidere, Ill., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013.
Rob Winner — DeKalb's Madelyne Johnson (23) is calle for fouling Huntley's Bethany Zornow while struggling for possession of a ball in the second quarter during the Class 4A Belvidere North Regional semifinal in Belvidere, Ill., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013.

DeKalb girls basketball coach Chris Davenport said he thinks his team is one of the top four teams in this season’s Class 4A Crystal Lake South Sectional.

However, the best team in the sectional might be 17-3 Huntley, and the Red Raiders and Barbs (16-7) both will be in the Rockford Jefferson Regional, meaning at least one of the two strong teams will be headed for an early postseason exit.

Last season, the teams were paired, as well. DeKalb entered the Class 4A Belvidere North Regional with a 23-4 record; Huntley was 21-6.

The regional’s coaches, who fill out a seeding ballot online, actually put 21-7 Belvidere North as the top seed in the regional, forcing DeKalb and Huntley to meet in the regional semifinals. The Red Raiders won, 50-46, ending the Barbs’ postseason after only one game. Huntley went on to take fourth place in the state.

Before the IHSA expanded from two to four classes in 2007-08, top teams rarely faced each other that early in the postseason – each Class AA sectional complex was seeded, with the best teams being spread out. Class A did the same, with some sectionals split into sub-sectionals.

The top four teams in the complex would be grouped into different regionals, as would seeds five through eight. The rest of the teams would be sent to a regional with the closest location.

When the IHSA went to four classes, some of the sectionals became predetermined regionals because of the inevitable travel increase with teams, especially smaller schools, being more spread out.

Davenport doesn’t mind travelling farther if he has to, and said he would like to see the IHSA start seeding teams by sectional again.

“We wouldn’t have been in the same regional [with Huntley],” Davenport said. “I think a lot of basketball people in the sectional (last year) would agree that we were one of the top teams in the sectional going in.”

DeKalb boys coach Dave Rohlman, who took over the program before the 2005-06 season, has been part of both predetermined regionals and seeded sectionals. This season, as was the case last year, the Barbs travel to Rockford.

Rohlman said former Rockford Boylan coach Steve Goers, who won 28 regional championships with the Titans from 1980 to 2011, advocated for a change away from predetermined regionals before retiring in 2011. Three traditionally strong teams in the Rockford area – Boylan, Auburn and Rockton Hononegah, normally have been grouped in the same regional since the switch to four classes.

Rohlman shares the same sentiment as Davenport when it comes to seeding by sectional to create more balance.

“I’ve talked to other coaches who don’t like this, and we’ve been in [predetermined regionals] the past few years,” Rohlman said. “And then they go into other parts of the state, and say these are the 16 to 18 teams in the sectional, and they’re going to rank them in the sectional.”

The only sectionals still seeded today are located near Chicago, where there is a larger group of schools in a closer proximity.

This season the only Class 4A girls basketball sectionals that have predetermined regionals are Crystal Lake South and Edwardsville. The Crystal Lake South Sectional includes DeKalb, teams from the McHenry County and the Rockford area, while Edwardsville has teams in the Metro East area of St. Louis all the way north to places such as Minooka, Ottawa and the Quad Cities.

In 3A, which has more downstate schools, only three of the sectionals are seeded – Chicago Solorio Academy, Glenbard South and Norridge Ridgewood. None of the 1A and 2A sectionals is seeded on the girls or boys side.

IHSA girls basketball administrator Beth Sauser said that if coaches have a request for a change in seeding, their school’s official representative (usually the principal or athletic director) could reach out to the IHSA’s Board of Directors.

“If enough principals do it,” Sauser said, “than the board would discuss and respond appropriately.”

Travel-wise, this year’s Class 3A Belvidere Sectional, which includes Genoa-Kingston, Kaneland and Sycamore, stretches from Rockford all the way east to Woodstock and down to Aurora.

If the sectional were seeded, a team such as Rockford Lutheran, which was sent to the Freeport Regional, could be playing its first games all the way south at Aurora Central Catholic or Plano. Sycamore will make the 40-minute drive to Plano, along with Kaneland, Rochelle and Sandwich.

Spartans coach Brett Goff, whose team is 14-5, wouldn’t be against heading all the way north to Freeport or Richmond-Burton (the other regional site) if it meant getting a more accurate postseason bracket. One point Goff mentioned was the possibility of playing new teams in seeded sectionals, rather than its Northern Illinois Big 12 East rivals, whom the Spartans will have played twice this season.

“I don’t mind the travel,” Goff said. “Come that part of the year, I don’t think anybody does.”

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