By: Luke Drase
For the most part, the IHSA has a very strict schedule when it comes to Sectional assignments.
Regional and Sectional sites are awarded before the season has even begun, Sectional or Sub-Sectional assignments are posted shortly thereafter, and seeds and scheduling are decided upon with about two weeks left in the regular season.
In rare cases, these Sectional assignments can be altered midseason if there is a sudden imbalance in the amount of teams in each Sectional.
This past week, one of these circumstances presented itself as number four Proviso East was required to move from the Proviso West Sectional to the Maine East Sectional, while number three Benet filled the vacant slot at Proviso West.
According to an IHSA director, the change occurred to due to multiple teams withdrawing from the IHSA State Series (playoffs).
The full email response reads:
“This is not the first, nor will it be the last time this occurs in a Sectional or Sub-Sectional. Over the past week we have had a least five teams withdraw from the girls basketball state series. These withdrawals create imbalance in the numbers, which can create postseason byes or add/subtract a round of play from a Regional. We do our best to maintain a balance in the number of teams assigned to each Sectional or Sub-Sectional before the seed meetings occur. Any adjustments are always by geography, not by ranking or record, etc., While we don’t necessarily like to make these changes, our policy has been that we will make them as long as they occur prior to seeding.”
Logistically, the change is justified.
Even after the addition of Proviso East, the Maine East sectional still has the least amount of participating teams in class 4A with 20, which is two less teams than Fremd, the sectional the winner of Maine East will face off against in Super-Sectionals.
In regards to an administrator’s perspective, there is not too much worry about in regards to the change.
According to Maine East athletic director Steve Schanz: “It doesn’t really affect the way we run a Sectional, it probably has more of an impact on regionals. Either way, when running an IHSA event, you work with the teams they give you. As a Sectional host, I just have to deal with four Regional Champions.”
From a competitive standpoint however, it’s a completely different story. The addition of a perennial top-10 team like Proviso East throws the Sectional for a loop, from seeding to scouting.
“It makes this Sectional that much tougher to navigate through,” said Loyola head coach Jeremy Schoenecker. “Most of the teams in our Sectional do not play them in the regular season so seeding becomes an issue as well. With the addition of Proviso East, I believe it is the toughest Sectional in the state.”
“I scouted Proviso East five times, it seems like a waste now,” added Montini head coach Jason Nichols. “I am sure the IHSA had their reasons, but people are going to wonder why they’re moving top teams like Benet and Proviso East. It looks odd, it lends itself to some criticism and there is some head scratching going on.”
But perhaps the biggest issue with this switch is the lack of communication between the IHSA and its member schools.
In many cases, coaches like Nichols, Maine West’s Kim deMarigny and Evanston’s Brittanny Johnson were unaware the change even took place, despite checking assignments as recently as last week.
Nichols said: “I wouldn’t have even known about it and mapped out my scouting calendar had it not been for another coach calling me on Sunday morning.”
Whatever the case may be, with seeding meetings scheduled to take place next week it is unlikely that any more changes will take place.
Whether teams like it or not, the old adage “You have to beat somebody to win a championship” remains as true as ever, as Proviso East will likely be a serious contender to make a run downstate.