About to be more victims of district seeding system

Here we go again.

The trainwreck that is the District 4 seeding system is likely about to claim more victims. I rant about this every year and will continue to do so until the powers that be change things. For a refresher course, District 4 seeds playoff teams on only overall record and nothing else. They are like dinosaurs in the PIAA because they are the rare district that uses this totally unfair, outdated and foolish system. Year after year, it claims victims, bounces quality teams before they should be eliminated and has its best teams meeting before the championships and/or semifinals. Year after year nothing changes.

And that leads us here. No. 5 Lourdes, No. 7 Sullivan County, No. 8 St. John Neumann and No. 10 Millville all are ranked among the state’s top 10 Class A teams. Sadly, it appears Sullivan and Neumann will meet in the opening round. Think about that. Two of the state’s top 10 teams facing in the first round of districts. Not states … districts.

The reason why is Meadowbrook Christian (19-2) likely will be seeded either No. 1 or No. 2 next week because of its record. Nevermind that Sullivan County defeated Meadowbrook, 55-38, in December. Nevermind that Millville also defeated Meadowbrook.

Listen, this is nothing against Meadowbrook which is a strong, well-coached program that reached the 2015 district championship and which gave Sullivan a battle in last year’s quarterfinals. Every starter is back from that team and Meadowbrook is capable of winning the district tournament. This is not about the team. It is about its schedule. To compare Lourdes’, Sullivan’s or Neumann’s schedule to Meadowbrook’s would be laughable. For starters, Sullivan, Neumann and Millville play each other twice in the Mid-Penn conference. Lourdes plays District 4’s toughest Class A schedule and the Knights and Griffins test themselves well out of conference as well.

Meadowbrook has played 15 fellow Christian schools. That’s not its fault either. Meadowbrook competes in the Christian School’s ACAA field so it has to play those teams. At the same time, District 4 should not reward them for that. Why not just take Meadowbrook’s record against PIAA-affiliated schools the way it used to?

As good as Meadowbrook is, it almost certainly would not be 19-2, playing in the Mid-Penn or playing the non-conference schedules that the four other teams do. But this is the system District 4 has chosen and has refused to fix. That means one of its best teams, a state-ranked team, will be watching the majority of the postseason from the stands because of an archaic, illogical rule. Spoiler alert: This debacle of a system also will have the two best Class A girls teams this regular season (Sullivan and Lourdes) placed in the same bracket for the same reasons.

Every year we hear the same excuses about how District 4 is open to looking at alternatives. Every year nothing is fixed. No system will ever be perfect, but all the district has to do is look at every other Eastern Pennsylvania district. Districts 3, 11 and 2, for starters, all use power-based systems that can be easily duplicated and implemented. Debacles like those coming and those that have happened every year in this and other District 4 sports could then be avoided. Pick one or combine attributes from all three, District 4. Just do something because teams should no longer be punished for playing demanding schedules.

Using a power system, Meadowbrook likely would be seeded No. 5. Lourdes likely would be the top seed and the three Mid-Penn rivals would be battling for the Nos. 2-4 slots. The No. 4 team would still have a difficult first-round matchup because Meadowbrook is an excellent team, but at least that would be under a fair system.

And while we’re talking about being fair, the ludicrous tie-breaker system has to go as well. Head-to-head is the first tie-breaker as it should be, but the next one is league record. Not record for teams in the same league, but league record, period. Just like all schedules are not created equal, neither are leagues. The Heartland Conference is one of the deepest and toughest leagues in Central Pennsylvania. But nearly any time its boys and girls teams end up tied with an NTL team, the NTL team is all but guaranteed the higher seed. The NTL has strong teams like Wellsboro, Athens, Troy, North Penn-Mansfield and Wyalusing, but it has nowhere near the depth that the Heartland does. Common opponents should be the next tie-breaker. Common sense should be the next one.

Some might wonder who would run the power system or the tie-breaking system. That, too, can be an easy fix. Hire someone like stat guru Ed Weaver or Circle W Sports and they could handle both fronts. There should be no more excuses. District 4 has a hard enough time performing well at the state level. District 4 should be doing all it can to ensure its strongest teams advance by using a fair system based on common sense. Coaches have to pressure their athletic directors. Athletic directors have to pressure their administrations and all must pressure District 4. Do not let this basketball travesty continue.

Heck, why wait? The district has another week before the playoff pairings are released. Scrap the whole ridiculous process and let’s have a fair postseason for once. That sad thing is that will not happen. The sad thing is a state-caliber playoff matchup likely will take place in the first round of districts. The sad thing is this happens every year in both boys and girls sports.

The sad thing is that District 4 hardly seems to care.

TOURNAMENT TIME

The Heartland Conference and NTL Tournaments will be held this week, starting Thursday. HAC-I champion Central Mountain, HAC-II champion Danville and HAC-III champion Mount Carmel will be joined by wild card Loyalsock on Wednesday at Shikellamy. The championship will be the following night. Loyalsock captured last year’s championship, defeating Central Mountain in the semifinals and Central Columbia for the championship.

The NTL calls their tournament a “showcase” because some administrators are too worried about someone being called a tournament champion. Forget that. Let’s all it what it is. This is an NTL Tournament and the winner has every right to call itself the overall NTL champion. Wellsboro won the NTL-I title and hosts NTL-II runner-up Northeast Bradford on Thursday. NTL-II champion Wyalusing hosts NTL-I runner-up North Penn-Mansfield the following night in a potential District 4 Class AA playoff preview. The winners meet Saturday night at Mansfield University. Wellsboro defeated North Penn-Mansfield for last year’s championship.

PUTBACKS

Hughesville is playoff-bound again after beating Milton and Central Columbia last week. The defending District 4 Class AAA champions won six of seven games before losing the rematch against Central on Saturday and again could be the last team a higher-seeded squad wants to see in the postseason a year after winning districts as a No. 6 seed. Matt Myers scored 23 points in the 55-41 Central win and Taylor Mason recorded his 10th double-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists … Montgomery kept fighting throughout a winless campaign and that hard work paid off Saturday as it defeated Benton, 49-42, and won its first game. Steven Prince put together a big game and scored a career-high 22 points while Kalen Guyer added 14 … Speaking of Montgomery, if Muncy (14-6) defeats it tonight, the Indians will clinch District 4 Class AA’s top seed and a bye into the semifinals … Pete Sinibaldi and Tristin Weaver combined for 31 points in Saturday’s loss to Southern Columbia while point guard Dean Seman dealt a career-high 11 assists … Garrett David and Dylan Meyer form a strong inside duo and both recorded double-doubles as North Penn-Mansfield ended its regular season with a 65-54 win over Edison, New York. David delivered 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Meyer had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Brent Burleigh scored a career-high 17 points for the Tigers (14-8) who will be seeded No. 3 in the AA playoffs … Cowanesque Valley clinched a Class AA playoff berth when it defeated Canton, 62-47. Christian Kemp, Tyler Vargeson, Seth Huyler and Daniel Freeman all scored in double figures. CV will be seeded No. 5 and play at No. 4 Northeast Bradford in the quarterfinals.

Top 5 Boys Basketball Teams

1. Wellsboro (21-1)

Every season except one this decade, Wellsboro has hoisted an NTL championship banner and will do so again after capturing the Division I championship and finishing undefeated in league play. The Green Hornets have won 20 straight games and held off determined North Penn-Mansfield, 52-47 to finish a perfect league season. Despite its winning ways, Wellsboro had been struggling from the outside but it broke out in a big way that night, draining 10 3-pointers. Nic Ingerick connected on four of those and scored a career-high 17 points. Dalton Prough added four more 3-pointers and produced 18 points. Wellsboro is 19-0 with Prough in the lineup.

2. Montoursville (15-6)

The Warriors are playoff-bound for a third straight season and will host a District 4 Class AAAA quarterfinal. Montoursville will be the No. 2 seed and host the No. 7 team to be determined. It has been a dramatic three-year turnaround for a program that before 2016 had endured an eight-year playoff drought in non-open postseason formats. Montoursville beat Milton and Selinsgrove on the road last week, downing the Seals, 56-51 in a potential playoff preview. Montoursville’s strength is in its team play and balance as four players against Milton and three against Selinsgrove reached double figures. Luke Warnecke produced a career-high 16 points in the Milton victory when Montoursville hit 10 3-pointers. Sophomore forward Austin Loe delivered two 10-point games and has the potential to be one of the area’s premier post players.

3. Loyalsock (16-5)

It was an impressive bounceback week for the Lancers who defeated Jersey Shore, HAC-I champion Central Mountain and playoff-bound Athens by 46 combined points. The Lancers rediscovered their scoring punch, producing at least 67 points in all three games and defeating Central Mountain, 87-68. Five players scored in double figures that night and a day later four more did as long-time coach Ron Insinger won his 900th career game as boys coach. Combining his 74 girls wins, Insinger now has 974 career victories and is one of only two Pennsylvania coaches to ever reach 900 wins. Connor Watkins played well inside during those weekend victories, delivering 31 points and 14 rebounds.

4. Sullivan County (15-4)

The Griffins are one of the district’s hottest teams right now and it’s been an impressive season thus far for a team that lost three 2017 starters as well as starting guard Noah Brown, a team leader who suffered multiple concussions and was lost for the season. Sullivan has won six straight games and 12 of its last 13 while receiving strong contributions throughout the rotation. Alex Baumunk scored a career-high 26 points in Saturday’s 70-51 win against Muncy while Dylan Hottenstein also delivered a career-high 16 points. Sophomore Sam Carpenter has made huge strides in his first season starting and point guard John Saxe nearly recorded a triple-double Saturday, going for 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

5. Williamsport (10-9)

Traditionally, Williamsport is playing its best basketball at this time of year, but has lost three straight. The Millionaires hung tough with state title contender State College Friday but looked like a different team the following night in a 53-50 loss to Danville. Williamsport has a week to try and get things going again before trying to defend its District 2-4 Class AAAAAA championship.

“There was no energy, no enthusiasm, no passion (Saturday),” Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. “We’re going backwards. It’s very frustrating because you know the potential each individual has, but it’s just trying to get them to fulfill that potential that has been a challenge.”

Players of the week

Gerald Ross, Loyalsock and

Collin Jones, Central Mountain

Ross is having an excellent junior season and highlighted it Saturday when he reached 1,000 career points. Ross scored 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds in that win and is just the third Lancer to reach 1,000 points before his senior year. Ross averaged 25 points and four assists in three wins last week. Although Central Mountain lost twice last weekend, Jones still shined. The junior forward is having a big breakout season and scored 50 points in those games, while adding 14 rebounds and eight steals.

Game of the week

Millville at St. John Neumann

Since we do not know Wednesday’s HAC Tournament matchups yet, let’s go with Friday’s game which likely will determine the Mid-Penn champion. Millville holds a one-game lead on Neumann and Sullivan County after defeating the Knights Saturday. If Millville wins the title is all theirs. If Neumann wins, it can force a two-way tie. A Neumann win coupled with Sullivan wins in its last two games would create a three-way tie for the championship.

Masse may be reached at cmasse@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse.

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