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Tensions risk pushing CHSAA girls’ hoops leagues further apart

By Joseph Staszewski

Can’t they all just get along?

That might be the best way to describe the state of CHSAA girls’ basketball right now. The dioceses in recent years have appeared to be moving closer to finally creating a three-tier intersection league much like that of the boys, but the latest struggles with the Catholic state tournament might make peace between the Lannisters and Starks on “Game of Thrones” a more realistic occurrence.

No one is happy under the current state playoff format, which requires each of the four dioceses to send at least one representative to the Class AA, A and B tournaments. Forcing them to come together simply isn’t working, because teams are being asked to move up or drop down from the classification they play at during the regular season or traditionally have played at in the past.

“Let’s make the rule, whatever the rule is and abide by the rule,” Nazareth coach Ron Kelley said.

Brooklyn/Queens coaches are upset about the last-minute change that sends its post-season tournament winner to the “AA” tournament and rewards their fifth- and sixth-place finishers with a one-game playoff to go “A”.

The Archdiocese isn’t in love with the idea of forcing one of its teams that plays in an “A” league to compete in the “AA” tournament. Up in Buffalo, Cardinal O’Hara, which was a Class B team two years ago, will be the diocese’s “AA” representative after winning its regular-season title. Cardinal Spellman coach and Athletic Director Jane Morris said it was the Brooklyn/Queens league that pushed for the idea that each diocese send a team to the ‘AA’ tournament.

“Quite honestly it’s not fair,” Cardinal O’Hara Athletic Director Angelo Sciandra told the Buffalo News back in late January.

It is easy to see that the current system must be scrapped next season and league officials need to take another crack at this. In an ideal world, the Archdiocese (Bronx, Westchester and Staten Island) and Brooklyn/Queens would form an intersectional league and solve all the problems. With that seeming unlikely, the leagues may need to go back in order to move things forward.

As it was done prior to the formation of Catholic state tournaments seven years ago, teams would simply declare before the season the classification at which they would play. The state playoff format would then be determined, based on the number of teams in each classification, much like the New York State Association of Independent Schools Athletic Association does.

Here are two added rules.

You cannot play at a classification lower than your league, and you can only be moved down from “AA” to “A” with the approval of your league if a player suffers a season-ending injury that severely hampers your level of play before Feb. 1. Call it the Rosalyn Gold-Onwude rule, because the eventual Stanford standout had that happen to her at Archbishop Molloy.

This format, while not ideal, should limit complaints, because everyone gets to play at the level they want to. No team is being forced to play up or down and no coach will have to explain the playoff structure to their team more than once. The punchline of it, “It may change tomorrow,” goes away.

Either the CHSAA needs to get serious about truly bringing everyone together, or it must stop trying to slowly force it to happen. All it is doing is hurting the league’s credibility, hurting the girls and potentially widening the gap between the parties at be.

Can’t they all get along?

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