There's going to be a curious quirk in the 1A girls' basketball bracket this week - and at least two teams aren't too pleased.
It seems odd that Rich (16-2) and Bryce Valley (17-4), the two teams that played for last year's championship, are meeting again - only this time in the first round. Why would two teams that went undefeated in region play end up paired on the tournament's first day?
Welcome to the topsy-turvy results of the Region 20 tournament. It's the only region tournament still being played, and it results in reseeding the brackets. So for example, if Bryce Valley loses games to Piute and Milford in the region tournament, its 12-0 region record is invalid - it gets a No. 4 seed.
"It giveth and it taketh away," Mustangs coach Tyson Brinkerhoff said. "It basically puts your body of work out the window. I feel that the 12 games you play earlier should have more meaning, but maybe that's just sour grapes from the coach that lost the No. 1 spot."
Of course, the tournament gave last year, when Bryce Valley hijacked the top seed itself and rode the weaker half of the bracket all the way to the championship game. Brinkerhoff acknowledged the system has worked to his advantage about as much as it has crossed him.
And then, there's the fans to consider. Brinkerhoff said the tournament always makes a good gate for the region, helping fund its activities. And folks travel a long way to see their teams play.
"It is fun, and it is a tradition, but coaches have mixed feelings about it," he said. "Some of them love it, and say it gets us ready for the state tournament atmosphere. But you can have your season tipped upside-down and other coaches can also come scout us."
At least Bryce Valley is subject to the tournament's whims by choice - Rich didn't ask to face arguably Region 20's toughest team in the first round. The title-defending Rebels knew they would be in the championship conversation again, but now, if they can't beat the Mustangs on Wednesday, the best they can hope for is 7th place.
Coach Scott Ferguson said he was disappointed by how the bracket has turned out, but he hasn't let the turns of fate make him spiteful. Besides, history is on his side - the Rebels beat three Region 20 teams last year on their way to the title.
"You hold your breath every year, but there's always upsets," Ferguson said. "It loaded our side of the bracket last year, and it loaded it again this year. We reminisced about last year a bit, and I told them we still have to win four games, one at a time. A tough game makes you ready on the first day."
Of course, why the tournament still exists is still a bit of a head-scratcher to Ferguson, and probably a few other coaches around 1A.
"I know the fans love it, and it's a region decision," he said. "You would've thought they'd gotten rid of it by now, though."
— Kyle Goon
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